Sunday, 31 May 2009
Pale and interesting...
Hope everyone is outside in the sunshine -- if the sun is shining wherever you are, which it is here. Two summer dresses (above) from Christopher Kane at net-a-porter; as pale as the rose petals on the lawn in my back garden, and ivory clouds in the sky...
Here's today's Closet Thinker:
If black is the strongest of colours in the palette of fashion, then nudes are altogether more muted, yet strangely difficult to wear. Actually, I feel slightly uneasy with the label itself – it’s shorthand for a spectrum of flesh-tones that span the palest of pink, apricot, beige and ivory, as if skin colour never varies from that. But in fact, these are shades that tend to look better against darker skins, for they can make white faces seem pallid and washed-out.
Still, designers have decided that pale flesh-coloured clothes are a good idea this summer, as is evident at Chloe, Lanvin, Christopher Kane, and Marios Schwab, amongst others. I like the look of them on the pages of a magazine – at best, they’re evocative of a gentle 1930s Englishness, as sweet as a young girl’s blush – but experience has taught me to avoid them, because they turn my skin liverish or tiredly yellow. And even if you do manage to find a flattering shade, it demands an element of rigorous high-maintenance, the self-control of Victoria Beckham in her flounced nude Alaia dress, worn as if to prove the polished sheen of her skin and tautness of her body, the tightly fitted bodice an indication of her sculpted torso beneath.
A more forgiving way to wear nudes requires the use of black by way of contrast, to separate and define, so that skin and material don’t merge into a frumpy lumpish mass. This is a trick that Kate Moss is good at (not that she would ever look lumpy herself), both in her collections for Topshop and her party frock of choice several years ago, a much-copied Dior dress that featured a black lace bodice over nude chiffon.
Christopher Kane has taken a similar approach in his autumn 2009 collection, which uses graphic black ribbon appliqués to intersect sheer nude organza skirts and dresses. Nevertheless, that a great many customers are happy to wear all-over nude tones is clear from the fact that Kane’s summer range of cream and blush-coloured silk dresses has already sold out several times over on net-a-porter.
These are frocks that cost in excess of £2500 each – thereby representing a naked exhibition of wealth, and possibly providing a frisson to the apparently innocent allure of pale chiffon – but there are less expensive alternatives available. My favourite in a British summer is a short cream trench coat from Banana Republic: lined and waterproof, of course, in case of dark rain-clouds or an overcast sky that chills flesh from hues of peachiness to blue.