What goes around comes around. Except like when it is always around.
For me that would be any dress that calls up mid-60s-70s Yves St. Laurent. Not just the dress I am writing about today… there are sprinkles of Yves in every collection we have ever done dating back to 2010. A safari lace-up style in 2012 and again in 2019. The knit ponte fabric that felt so new in 1968 (Courreges! Tang! Space travel!) is one we use again and again in our line. Most importantly in the Faye slip-on pant… game changer. Last season we made a tricotine pant suit and a matching dress (the Esme) that look like today but the inspiration is pure YSL. I can see now in hindsight just how much impact his designs and translations of classic silhouettes have had on me over the years… and like so many things that you realize when you get old, it is a delight to see the thread connecting it all.
Naïve to Yves (!), my mother used to stitch up pantsuits and shift dresses for herself and my sister and me. She would never have identified the influence as YSL — there was not a fashion magazine to be found in our house — but she had such great taste that she intuitively knew exactly which Butterick or Simplicity pattern to go for at the sewing store. The first dress I ever made on my own was a puff-sleeved peasant style for a school dance when I was 14. SO YSL. (Well, to be fair it might have been a bit of a Frankenstein. Laura Ashley meets YSL. Yikes.)
One of the best fashion books that I own is hardly a book at all. It is a YSL-themed coloring and activity book that I bought for my shop back in 2013. I thought it would be fun for kids waiting around in the store while their mothers shopped. Turns out it was the most fun for ME. The sketches were almost a trigger — just looking at them resurfaced so many memories of that era. I could FEEL the sponginess of the fabric on the pink shift dress that I had when I was 7. (True to my mother, she didn’t quite finish it perfectly, so I could also feel the scratchy edge of the decorative tape around the bodice. I inherited that same tendency for sloppiness at the end. I get too excited NOT to rush to finish! It looks good enough! I need to wear it now!) But the book is a total treasure trove. Full of color and original sketches and funny snappy lines. LONG LIVE THE CONTEMPORARY WOMAN!
But back to the dress. THE dress. The dress that keeps popping up on our line. In our house, we actually call it the Target dress because that’s where the first version came from. I bought it back in 2007, long before I had a line of my own. It wasn’t in the cool section, either... I mean, the label said MERONA. Far cry from YSL. But I spotted the familiar silhouette and threw two of them in the cart with the Tide and paper towels. It was in cheap-ish cotton sateen (it probably cost 15.99) and perfect in shape and usefulness for a houseful of girls. 15 years later, I think every single daughter has worn that one dress at least a dozen times each. Funerals, bar mitzvahs, soccer banquets, national honor society awards. But I’m getting off track here. The point is… big romantic sleeves and a cinched waist will take you a long way. Even if it’s from Target.
Which brings me to the Elora. Since I opened my shop, a version of this dress has been on my line always… but this is the most sophisticated version yet. Same DNA... but different. It has the puffed sleeves and notched neck and waist tie that I love. But the hemline is rounded and longer than in years past with side slits. The fabric is this waffle-knit crepe that we loved enough to use for an entire capsule. (12 pieces! Pants… jacket… skirt… top…) It is wool that is lightweight enough for all but the hottest days of high summer… but heavy enough to have a drape and a swish when you move. Without the belt it has kind of an elevated-caftan look. With minimal flat sandals and big gold hoops in your ear, it goes ultra-minimal… with high heels you are the most understated woman at the cocktail party. Next fall, you could wear it with boots and look very YSL Ballet Russes. (I went down a rabbit hole watching this video… the music is crazy and the headpieces are crazier.) Year-round style. The wide belt I like to tie tightly – more like a karate or obi style vs. a big floppy bow.
♫ Sophisticated Lady ♫
The dress comes in navy – typically the color I go for. But it also comes in this deep olive green that is so nuanced and unexpected that i had to pivot from my usual. Like a lot of things that I tell you that you can’t live without… this is not the most fun thing to buy. It doesn’t WOW you on the hanger or even in your own closet. But if you listen to the smart, stylish women on the sales floor and let them hang it in your dressing room… I am willing to bet that you will not be disappointed. It makes me feel grown-up… like I earned the right to wear it, actually. For me It is like a palate cleanser to the sweetness of all the frilly, ruffled stuff that is so in right now. I love that too, but this is a woman’s dress.
When I asked Lan, to describe it through her FIT-trained lens (as opposed to my own education from a coloring book) these were her words: “Effortless. Not forced. We try to create drama, but with ease. This one is great for so many body types… especially for a woman with a fuller bust, the neck is SO flattering. And the fullness of the sleeves frame your face in a beautiful way.”
Talk about a trigger – who doesn’t want to be framed in a beautiful way?