Gracefully draped gowns, including one-shoulder versions, are elegant mainstays of evening and red carpet fashion, and a reliably flattering favorite of such celebrities as Jennifer Lopez. She has received her share of criticism for overly favoring this style, but it’s hard to argue against the inherent loveliness of this look.
[Jennifer Lopez at the 2004 Golden Globes]
This summer, a number of designers gave created daywear versions of the so-called Grecian gown, seen in short, floaty dresses and tops, as featured in the July 2008 issue of Glamour magazine. “Look like a Greek goddess” in floaty dresses and gladiator flats, urges the magazine, and it is easy to understand that the look this summer has the potential to take on the attributes of a costume.
What runs the risk of taking the look from elegance to costume is the accessories. The gladiator sandals being heavily marketed to women this spring are a great example of a trend that can bring an elegant style into the realm of costume.
[Yves Saint Laurent gladiator sandals from bluefly.com]
Gladiator sandals are a style of footwear named for the leather sandals worn by Roman gladiators. (Notice that those sandals were neither Greek in origin nor worn by women, but I digress.) Gladiator sandals have center straps that run along the top of the feet and multiple straps connecting those straps to the soles. Many styles also have straps around the ankle and, in some cases, extending up around the leg, all fastened with buckles. The sandals are usually flat, meant to be worn with an expanse of bare legs, not slacks. Combining these sandals with a short draped dress or top makes the look reminiscent of Romans wearing togas (once again borrowing a men’s style and confusing ancient Greece with Rome).
Another accessory heightening the focus on ancient design is coin jewelry, an example of which is shown alongside the draped dresses in Glamour. Wearing coin jewelry presents somewhat less risk of making a Grecian style draped dress look costumey than do gladiator sandals because the style of jewelry is classic, a perennial favorite. Coin jewelry is much like animal print fabrics, and comes back into vogue regularly after a season or two of being out of the limelight. In contrast, gladiator sandals are a trend likely to be running out of steam after this season.
While coin jewelry suits the draped style of dresses and tops, not all jewelry fares as well. One of the selections pictured in Glamour is a draped white dress by Lanvin (pictured), over which are looped a number of long, oversized chain necklaces. The necklaces are of a courser level of refinement than the dress, and the huge chains obscure the gentle draping of the dress. Perhaps the stylist was trying to ensure that the dress didn’t go into the realm of costume, but the clash of design elements favors neither the dress nor the jewelry.