Rule: Don’t let the dress wear you

In Uncategorized on February 22, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Diane Kruger in Gucci

In the Bible there was Moses and the Ten Commandments. In fashion there was Diana Vreeland.

One of the most referenced commandments of the legendary American Vogue editor, who died in 1989, is this: you should always take one thing off before you leave the house.

She also said ‘Elegance is refusal’ which is another way of putting the same thing and I think one of the most elegant things anyone has ever said.

What it all boils down to is knowing when to stop. An outfit is not improved by constantly adding another little nicky/nacky, mixy/matchy, Gucci/Acne element. In fact each extra one you add takes it down another notch.

The problem with the Gucci dress that Diane Kruger is wearing here, is that she hasn’t got anything to take off. There’s very fine gold chain on her right hand, but that wouldn’t be enough.

The stylist has been savvy enough not even to add a pair of earrings to the ensemble, and the essential shoes and bag melt in as extensions of it. The hair is an object lesson in elegant simplicity.

Which leads to only one conclusion: the dress itself has too much going on. The dress is overdressed.

This is the kind of ‘piece’ (that’s a very fashion thing to say, it’s never a dress, it’s a ‘piece’) that designers dream up for fashion shows. This would have looked great on a catwalk. Frocks like this get used in newspapers and blog posts (like here…).

So it’s a perfectly justified bit of high fashion glory, but for the runway moment you would never put it on a model of Kruger’s style and build. It needs a glamazon, like Naomi Campbell in her prime.

On a woman as finely boned as Ms Kruger, even with her reasonably generous height (1.70 according to Google), the dress is wearing her.

Take, by contrast another look sported by the same woman in the same week at the Paris couture shows last month.

Diane Kruger in Chanel.

This flesh pink chiffon Chanel couture dress is lavishly, almost outrageously, embellished with huge coloured crystals, but the balance of them is so perfect and the background of the chiffon so quiet, the dress doesn’t take over from its wearer. Rather it makes Ms Kruger’s heaven-sent bone structure leap out at you.

Once again, the clever stylist has limited the add ons to one gorgeous jewelled bracelet, on top of the shoes and bag. The hair and the make up are exquisitely discreet (loving that nude lip…). The star of this picture is the person, not the dress.

This rule applies even more strongly to we mortals than it does to a ravishing model-turned-actress. Particularly those of us, like me, who are wanting in the height department.

This is why the long skirts for day wear which are a hot trend for next season will not be figuring in my life. I would resemble not so much a von Trapp dressed in curtains, as the actual curtain.

The same goes for the oversized floral prints which have been with us for a while. I peep out of them like a startled bush baby.

There was a reason Diana Vreeland wore a lot of plain black sweaters and white shirts.

There is a new Rules every Thursday in the Essential Style section of the Sydney Morning Herald and in M magazine with the Sunday Age.

  1. Last week Hello magazine featured Marina Hanbury’s wedding pics (taken outside Chelsea Registry Office in London).

    Marina’s wearing an undoubtably expensive silk jacket and skirt, but oh boy is the outfit is wearing her!

    She’s matched it with black stilettos (ouch!) and a sequin headband (a la Paris Hilton).

  2. Great article Maggie! Fabulous to have you back : )

  3. I agree the Gucci dress is OTT. But to me, the colour of the Chanel garment is drab and dreary, and does nothing for her. Also it looks as though it’s not properly fitted to her figure.

    • Hmmmm, I can see your points, but for me the overall look is fabulous. She has such a fine-boned face, the subtle colour of the dress suits it. Keep your thoughts coming – I love hearing what other people think x

  4. I believe that Ms Kruger doesn’t have a stylist, she goes it alone, which if true, is pretty impressive in todays world.
    I tried to wear a fabulous gown once, but the gown took over and wore me. It made me stand awkwardly, feel self-conscious, it even stiffened my posture and made me feel altogether unlike myself. After a couple of hours I relaxed into it and we evened up and came to a truce. One can always spot the people who don’t wear fabulous gownage often because they come across like myself, as described above. Those who are fortunate enough to wear glamour-gowns all the time don’t really suffer from this problem as they are much more comfortable with it.
    So in summation of my annoyingly long (and possibly self-indulgent) comment, I would say that Dianne Krugers gown is too busy but she looks comfortable in it so I wouldn’t class it as “wearing her”.

  5. I err on the side of understatement – rarely wearing earrings and a necklace; it’s one or the other. However, I think Ms Kruger would appear more in charge of the dress if she were to add a gold band to her upper arm. A toned done Cleopatra style band if you will. The dress would look less alone and more a part of a look.

    • I agree. A flash of warmth would lift it. I’m with you on the understatement but find a lot of red carpet looks are too underaccessorised at the moment – see my column about that in SMH/Age M mag and on here next Wed…

  6. Maggie, the Oscars, the dresses…are you going to give an assessment? Really interested to know whether you liked Cate Blanchett’s dress? Scarlett Johansson? How beautiful is Natalie Portman?!

    • My new girl crush on Anne Hathaway has blinded me to all others… Wasn’t able to watch the bloody Oscars properly (FURIOUS!) but will study red carpet and make my verdict xxx

  7. Hi Maggie

    I am so glad you are still writing. I feel a sense of world ennui when I read the Herald and your column is no longer there. I have learnt so much about fashion from you. Scarf tying, bobby socks and heels!

    A query – I have always thought the quote you attribute to Diana Vreeland is actually a Coco Chanel quote? Did Diana appropriate it?

  8. ” Always take one thing off before you leave the house” could be wrong. Only just got the message. Are you going to Paris this year?

    • I was there earlier this month. I think it takes real skill to accessorise as Iris Apfel does – she’s a one off – but Madame Lee has got the more restrained version down pat.

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