The Provocative Woman

Posted by Laura
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Crystals and pearls cover a white silk evening dress—the sleeves, loosened; the décolletage, a deliberate provocation. By Monte-Sano and Pruzan.



In lieu of resolutions, this year I am taking advice from a 1963 Harper's Bazaar editorial on "the provocative woman." Year after year of setting the same resolutions (which I've continually failed at), it seems far more interesting to concentrate my focus on being a woman who "prefers to arouse, to tantalize, to challenge—in a word, to provoke (interest, admiration; in some quarters, even a flash of pardonable envy)" while swanning around glamorous evening dresses. While I always try to dress up my best, in the current uncertain times it seems especially important to be as elegant as possible while also being as provocative as possible. Provocative in the sexy way they describe here, but also as an activist and as a woman.

Unsurprisingly, the clothes and coiffures are immaculate. These are the type of gowns that really should be worn on the red carpet again—chic and flattering yet the very opposite of boring. Luckily, Shrimpton Couture has many similar early Sixties evening dresses by many of the same designers—Norell, Jean Louis, Blass, Sarmi—allowing both me and any of you (and any red carpet stylists out there) the opportunity to turn 2017 into the year of the "provocative woman."


Editorial by Melvin Sokolsky for Harper's Bazaar, November 1963.

The provocative woman has a natural talent for stirring up excitement wherever she goes. Whether she is only twenty (or twice or three times twenty), her superb self-assurance erases the necessity always—and only—to please. Instead, she prefers to arouse, to tantalize, to challenge—in a word, to provoke (interest, admiration; in some quarters, even a flash of pardonable envy). The provocative woman has an infallible, very personal instinct for fashion that guides her eye and her hand as much as any given page in Harper's Bazaar. (In fact, the deliberate cultivation of such taste is one our secret weapons.) She wears a fabled, floor-sweeping wrap of chinchilla almost as negligently as her cashmere bathrobe. She never underestimates the impact of simplicity. Retiring, her nightdress is long again, white as a young girl's confirmation dress—and about as innocent as Circe. Reading in bed, she devours out inquiry into the art of René Magritte, enjoying the aesthetic paradox as much as she enjoys her own. Names-in-the-theatre news like Corsaro, Frank; Carlino, Lewis John; Dewhurst, Colleen; Plummer, Christopher flip off her tongue as fluently as water. Her conversation, consequently—as well as her point of view—is as peppery, as piquant, as passionate about ideas and people as the provocative woman herself.  



New girl in town—young, alive, provocative; rounded, soft, fresh. Her deliciousness, made more so by our timely revival of a memorable event, the tinted photograph. Brown crepe with white—fluid shape born to cling, set within the draped folds of a deep-sleeved demi-jacket. By Bill Blass for Maurice Rentner. Lilly Daché necklace. Kidskin gloves by Aris. David Evins shoes.



Ribbon pink silk gabardine, delectably inclined from a curved shoulder, curving into a deep V-neckline that dips almost to the Empire waist. The skirt, opened and trumpeting. The stole, flagrantly flung to trail behind, bound in white mink. By Talmack. Schreiner earrings. Delman pumps.



Mimosa yellow chiffon, rippling and floating to a thousand breezes, the bias-draped bodice drawn into a halter above an Empire waist by bands of yellow satin. Dress and matching stole by Sarmi.



Black organdie feathers, proud as a cockatoo's crest, framing the bold décolletage of a tight black satin bodice above a bittersweet velvet skirt. By Jean Louis. Vendôme earrings.



Bright green satin, vivid as the plumage of a hummingbird, sweeping sumptuously from a discreet black satin bodice with a lowering waistline in back, a saucy bow lifting boldly in front. By Norman Norell. Black gloves by Kislav.



Champagne lace—shot, like a glorious, fanciful fishnet, with threads of silver and gold—sinuously following and covering the figure, revealing a lovely long neckline to glow in the soft evening light. More wrapping: the stole, bordered in deep brown sable. By Sophie of Saks Fifth Avenue. Miriam Haskell earrings. The satin pumps, by Christian Dior.

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