All photos by Erin Leydon.
In a world where most girls like to throw on something, anything, black, I live for color. I have always loved and been drawn to color for as long as I can remember. When that color is on a floating, silk chiffon caftan dress from one of my very favorite vintage designers like Hanae Mori, then I am over the moon and in heaven. I seem to endlessly pull Hanae Mori dresses for events and when I want to really make a statement. Her bright, colorful dresses always have a place in my current stable of favorites and for good reason. They are like wearing art and yet they are so easy to wear it borderlines on the ridiculous. I have written about her before here and just wore another of her pieces for my column recently (you can see and read that one here), so will not go into great detail about her as a designer today. Instead, I would rather talk about wearing color and how it makes you feel.
A lot of girls are terrified of color. Especially color on a vintage piece because more often than not, you are getting a bright, bold print besides just color. Oh the sudden complexity that creates for so many girls! All of the sudden you have a "what shoe do I wear" dilemma and "how much jewellery will work with all that color and print?" and "what do I do for make-up now?". I hear this so often I can recite the "problems" with my eyes shut and with no thought at all. (Answers: neutral or bright, none or minimal and neutral works best. In other words all those questions have one easy answer - just keep everything else in line or neutral.)
More important then the so-called "problems" is the ease that a colorful dress provides. Yes I did say ease. You see, when you throw on a dress like this, everything else is easy because the dress (and you in it) become the center stage. You literally step into your dress, throw on a pair of shoes and slap on some lipstick and you are good to go. I cannot tell you how many girls I have converted to this style of dressing. All I have to do is get them into a dress like this that very first time and ignore their pleas to wear something a little less bright.... "Are you sure I can pull this off? Is it too bright? Yeah but are you really sure?" ... and then push them out the door. The never-ending compliments that flow their way the rest of the night does the rest. A girl who walks in wearing something bright like this commands attention. She looks (and feels) confident. In a sea of little black dresses or a room full of jean clad "cool girls", a bright silk caftan dress that has the added bonus of being vintage and therefore something no one there has seen before, is like a magnet of fabulousity.
The other bonus to wearing a dress like this is how flattering it can be. Some girls are lucky to be very thin through the waist and middle and this silhouette works with ease on them. That is a given. However, for us girls that are built a little different and your waist or hips are something that might not suit every dress, these caftan cut pieces are a god send. They just flow over your body and kind of float past any spots you think are "trouble areas". There is no endless feeling of being constricted all night long or feeling like you have to tug and pull things into place all night. It's freeing. And I also know that a lot of girls choose black because they think it makes the look skinnier. And sometimes it does. But I would hazard to say that a bright colorful dress with the right lines and made of the right fabric makes you look even better. There is a beauty in drawing attention to self perceived "flaws". A few weeks ago I spoke after a screening of The Women from 1939. Costume Designer, Adrian did all the costumes for that film and one of his chief strengths is that he took the "flaws" of the actresses he was entrusted with and emphasized them until they became assets. Joan Crawford's strong shoulder silhouette that she became famous for is a great example. She had naturally broad shoulders so rather then try to hide them as previous costume designers did he made them the focus and the "flaw" disappeared under a new cover of high glamour.
That is exactly what color will do. It turns everything into high glamour and makes everything underneath an assets rather then a flaw. Black has its place and we all need to own a few great little black dresses, but every once in a while give color a whirl will you?
Just don't blame me if you get addicted to it too.
Love the 1970s Hanae Mori dress I am wearing? Find it in the shop here