Angela Mollard: How COVID killed off the little black dress
Angela Mollard: How COVID killed off the little black dress

How COVID killed off the little black dress

Last weekend I bought some new trainers. Having hovered over the usual black (goes with everything) and discounted the chic white (gets too grubby), I spotted a pair in pink.

Not peach.

Not rose.

Not even bubblegum.

Nope my new trainers are so shockingly, eye-wateringly neon that my feet will be capable of illuminating whole streets and I'll be able to take up running in the dark.

More to the point, as I laced them up I realised that despite all the grief and disruption it's caused, we can be grateful to coronavirus for one thing. It has singularly killed off the biggest and most entrenched fashion trend of all time: black.

Look around - no one is wearing it, not even the Victorians who layer the depressing hue as if their only social activity is cauldron stirring which, granted, for a fair chunk of 2020 it probably was.

Rather, in these grim times when a lockdown is only one hastily arranged press conference away, it's become a public service, akin to mask-wearing, to dress cheerily. Having had our freedoms curtailed it's made it incumbent on all of us to perk up the collective mood whenever we step out.

More people are wearing less black due to COVID, Angela Mollard believes.
More people are wearing less black due to COVID, Angela Mollard believes.

For too long we've revered black as the tone which reportedly makes us look slimmer, sexier and more sophisticated. But in recent years it's become a lazy cliche, a safe and boring choice by women who lack chutzpah and imagination.

Constantly opting for black - however much it might melt away kilos - was a sign you'd given up, both on yourself and on any sense that a chameleon approach to clothes has an enlivening effect on others.

Not now. Colourful clothes are an antidote to the gloom and uncertainty of the days that lie ahead.

If you can't visit India or Vietnam or Mexico, losing yourself in a market or ambling away an afternoon amid ice cream-toned adobe architecture, then the least you can do is draw from their intoxicating colour palettes and add a bit of pep to your step.

Of course, Queenslanders have always had a thing for fuchsia shot through with meter maid gold, but the COVID colour palette is a little more refined.

Think Crayola-hued dresses, coloured denim, fabulous puffed-sleeve blouses in candy tones and bright clean red as a new neutral.

Even better, this new look is not catwalk or red carpet inspired. It hasn't dribbled down from the elites to the high street in that hierarchical manner which makes you feel the whole fashion industry is sneering from above as it tries to empty your pockets.

 

Rather, the cleaving to colour is deliciously democratic, an exuberant response to the pickle we currently find ourselves in, and an act of resilience and self-determination to cheer ourselves up.

If the zest for colour, pattern and print is driven by anything other than good will, it's television which has been the influencer, ladling out all manner of luscious costumery in the absence of theatre and cinema.

The Featherington girls in Netflix's Bridgerton may not have been the most compelling characters but, my gosh, their dresses in every shade from teal to daffodil to mandarin were pure peacockery.

Nicole Kidman's outfits in The Undoing were similarly lust-worthy while Lily Collins in Emily In Paris was a showcase of everything bright and bonkers that we've come to expect from Sex And The City stylist Patricia Field.

Early pictures from the forthcoming Netflix show, Inventing Anna, charting the real-life jet-set con artist Anna Delvey, is all scarlet handbags and vivid lilac suiting.

Lily Collins brings some colour to the Netflix series Emily in Paris. Picture: Stephanie Branchu/Netflix
Lily Collins brings some colour to the Netflix series Emily in Paris. Picture: Stephanie Branchu/Netflix

The fact that this wholesale return to colour comes exactly a century after Coco Chanel invented the "little black dress" has a pleasing synchronicity.

Featuring the designer's LBD on its cover in 1926, Vogue heralded the look as a new fashion horizon that faced into, rather than away from, the times.

With black the colour of mourning following the human losses in WWI and the Spanish flu, many designers turned to colour but Chanel had a knack for subverting the expected.

Accessorising with a rope of pearls, a cloche hat or an oversized fake camellia, she took black from the servants' quarters and made it the most defining look of the past 100 years.

It's no surprise that the pandemic has pushed black into the back of the wardrobe. With limited entertainment we have to amuse ourselves which is why businesswomen and Instagram influencers such as Trinny Woodall and Mia Freedman are dictating the mood with riotous colour and rule-breaking mix and match.

Even struck down with COVID, Woodall went live to her 850,000 followers in cornflower blue.

Social media, for too long conscripted for Kardashian-prompted posing and pouting, was made for this current kaleidoscope.

Of course, colour is not for everyone. But if you can't go head-to-toe at least top 'n' tail. Anyone know where I can get a neon face mask?

angelamollard@gmail.com; twitter.com/angelamollard

 

ANGELA LOVES...

TV

Perhaps it's the timing or perhaps it's the superb storytelling but SBS's World On Fire is exactly the television we need right now to remind us of the genuine civilisation-threatening event that was World War II. History and the inherent fear has rarely been so expertly recreated.

 

FLOWERING GUMS

The streets around my neighbourhood are peppered with flowering gums which, surely, are the

most heart-bursting blooms around.

The iridescent pink and red also attract the bees which gives a sense that at least some things are right with the world.

 

LADY GREY TEA

The perfect summer brew. I've even made shortbread to accompany my arvo cuppa.

Originally published as How COVID killed off the little black dress


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