Style & Then Some

The eternal feminine: Valentino Spring/Summer 2012

I was such a big fan of Valentino‘s Autumn/Winter 2011 collection that the other day I was considering doing something that only die-hard fashion obsessives do: watch a live video of the Spring/Summer 2012 show in Paris. In the end, I didn’t have time, but when I got around to catching up on what I’d missed, I was not disappointed.

The hems might have gone up and down, and the pops of bright pastel throughout the show might have been thoroughly modern, but the billowy sleeves, intricate embellishment, high neck lines and elegantly nipped in waists were very late Edwardian. It reminded me of the costumes of Downton Abbey, when fashion teetered on the brink of the loose waistlines of the 1920s and it was all about masterful drapery.

The barely-there sandals made it look like the models were walking barefoot, ready to run through a field on a summer’s day with their hair in elegantly dishevelled crowns of plaits (and we know how I feel about those). The lace, the sheer, flowing fabrics – it was all so pretty and just very… well, sweet. As Lisa Armstrong put it, it was full of old school charm. What I love so much about the Valentino dresses is that they look like pieces of unselfconscious art, effortless in their understated beauty. They look like the kind of dresses you would want to pass down to your children and to their children, for each generation to tenderly unwrap from the tissue paper and wear to Gatsby-esque parties, where “men and girls [come and go] like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars,” and the band plays “yellow cocktail music” as the “lights grow brighter [and] the earth lurches away from the sun.”

Whether it’s just shy of the 1920s, or full blown Charleston-dancing, flapper style dropped waistline, there’s no doubt that the big trend for women’s silhouettes this year is a loose and yet feminine shape. These soft fabrics suggest, but never give it all away.


About Sophie Caldecott

Writer | Founder of

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