Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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A Study in White


When Snow White was given her ubiquitous name due to her pearlescent complexion, it was meant to highlight how her pale skin made her “the fairest in all the land.” Her pure complexion caused the evil and vain Queen to try and kill Snow White, and gave her a sweetness that allowed for the huntsman, seven dwarfs, and prince to be beguiled by her flawless beauty.

The inherent femininity and innocence of white is the hue de la mode for designers this spring and summer. Lately, the cacophony of color, cut, layers, and print combine to create loud, almost overbearing outfits that look best photographed by street style photographers with over saturated lens filters. The intensity of the hues makes for a great statement, but the outsized colors have the industry nostalgic for something simpler, yet no less bold.

Valentino spring 2013 rtw

The LWD (or little white dress) is like a breath of fresh air in a sea of Technicolor exhibitionism. What makes a white outfit so unique is the very lack of color and design — elements meant to grab one’s attention. But what differentiates white from other neutrals like black, tan, and brown is that it is luminous and bright, almost mimicking the effects of neon without the color-clashing eyesore.

However, white, as a sartorial pick, has not always been so chaste and unblemished. In recent years, the head-to-toe white look conjured up images of flamboyantly tacky “white parties,” bad prom dresses, and the stereotypical virginal wedding. White for evening or daily wear seemed cheesy, bordering on the ridiculous.

But the monochrome palette has proven to be the perfect backdrop to the minimalist trend. In trying to scrape away the excess and going back to the fundamentals, one is left with a purity that is in line with the achromatic hue. White is strict and unyielding, and is an inherently unforgiving color. Unlike the murky qualities of black or the magnanimous chaos of wild prints, the starkness of white exposes and embellishes the simplest of deviations. A single blemish, and the whole outfit can be ruined.

While the fear of a stain may hold some back from jumping onto this trend, the high-maintenance of the color is actually one of its selling points. The ability to keep a garment free of spots adds to a woman’s fragility and womanliness because it evokes the image of a woman of leisure who does not need to get her so-called “hands dirty” with the sweat and grime of hard labor.

Celine spring 2013 rtw

Because white can evoke a soft or a hard feminine aura, designers played with these connotations through their use of fabric and cut. For some, white was used to evoke an airy romanticism with intricate broderie anglaise and gauzy, finely webbed sheer silk. Simone Rocha’s chaste schoolgirl was given a subversive sexiness with openwork crochet while Valentino’s cutout brocade and Chantilly lace dresses felt aristocratic even as they were delicate.

For others, white’s tough rigidity appealed in its ability to enhance a minimalist aesthetic. With its simple hue, oversize cuts and architectural pleating are thrust into the spotlight. At Prada, Miuccia’s obsession with Japanese origami was the inspiration behind a precisely folded and tailored duchesse satin dress with flower applique. And Celine’s Philo combined stiff crepes and languid satins to create a perfectly put-together yet deliciously disheveled vibe.

Thankfully, white is no longer solely relegated to cheap jersey fabric or layers of tulle. The more modern, yet still dainty iteration of this season’s milky garments are so perfect, even admirer’s of Snow White’s exquisite complexion would agree.

This article was sourced from


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