If you’ve ever seen the movie The Devil Wears Prada you certainly remember the speech by Meryl Streep ( aka Miranda Priestly ) where she demonstrates how even fashion flunky Anne Hathaway’s character’s closet has been affected the by fashion industry without even realizing it. But if you don’t remeber:
Miranda Priestly: This… stuff’? Oh. Okay. I see. You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select… I don’t know… that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise. It’s not lapis. It’s actually cerulean. And you’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent… wasn’t it who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.
Well the very fun-read of a book Fifty Dresses that Changed the World by the Design Museum, in my opinion, sort of elaborates on Priestly’s speech. The book takes you chronologically through 50 iconic dresses that changed the fashion industry including Marilyn Monroe’s iconic dress from The Seven Year Itch, Krystal Carrington’s dress from Dynasty and Cher’s memorable Oscar dress by Bob Mackie. All of the dresses in this book changed the fashion industry in both subtle and explosive ways, which got me thinking about how they have made their way to my own closet.
1. The New Look By Christian Dior
The look: Dior’s “new look” was launched in 1947, post WW II. The look radiated optimism after the war and featured a full-skirt, waspy waists and soft shoulders to capture an ultra-feminine look.
Big Change: Set precedent of by Dior selling exclusive rights to individual designers which allowed the look to be worn world-wide.
My Closet: Purchased at Urban Outfitters, this dress has a full skirt and soft shoulders just like the dresses of the New Look. The tight waist gives the wearer a similar silhouette.
2. The Chanel Suit
The Look: Introduced in the 1930’s, Coco Chanel’s suit allowed women to be elegant, comfortable and mean business all at the same time, for the first time.
Impact: Chanel established a look for women that is the equivalent of the three-button suit for men.
My Closet: Although my blazers are not Chanel( cannot afford!!), without the innovation of Chanel’s business look for women we might still be wearing dresses to work everyday. Wearing blazers makes me feel confident and professional.
3. Breakfast at Tiffany’s LBD
The Look: In 1961 Audrey Hepburn wore a black dress by Givenchy in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Images of Hepburn in this dress are iconic and demonstrate a vulnerability mixed with confidence. We all know wearing our favorite LBD makes us feel confident but not too “loud”. I have quite a few for that very reason.
Impact: Need I explain? Well theres the obvious recreation of the dress in every style, and of course the iconic image of the film and the actress. However, in Audrey’s case Givenchy, who believed Audrey’s style was that of “a delicate creature”, gave her a new sense of urbane sensuality.
My Closet: I have a LOT of little black dresses, but I chose to feature this one because although the cut, style, material etc. are very different from Audrey’s dress it goes to show how style can evolve. I bought this dress in a very strange little boutique in NYC ( cannot remember the name). But always gives me confidence and makes me feel hot!
4. Twiggy in Bill Gibb for premier of The Boyfriend
The Look: Bill Gibb was known for capturing the fashion of the hippie movement. He is said to “have captured the romance of the hippie movement, combining the romance of mediaevalism with a syncretic mix of shape, texture and colour plundered with kaleidoscopic diversity of cultures”. He used patterns, pleats and folds to cover the body.
Impact: Recently, a new interest in his dresses has revived his unique style.
My Closet: This is a dress from Lucky Brand that I got a few years ago. The dress reminded me instantly of Twiggy’s because of the multiple layers, the pleated skirt and “hippie” influence.
5. Zandra Rhodes Painted Chiffon Dress
The Look: British designer, Rhodes, created a unique look that worked off a wide variety of influences: ethnic, romantic, historic, theatrical etc. The flowy sleevs and plunging necklines gave her dresses a “dreamy femininity”.
Impact: Innovative garmet structure ( I dont’ know enough about garmet structure to comment, but I’ll take the books word for it haha)
My Closet: This dress from Urban Outfitters mimics the “dreamy femininity” of Rhodes dresses. Also the patterns remind me of the painted patterns on Rhodes’ chiffon gowns.