The photograph at left is used on the subscription cover of Harper’s Bazaar, but why mar it with the masthead or the headlines….
The counterintuitive black dress on black background, the no-makeup makeup and a wavy, just-undid-my-chignon hairstyle make this the simplest cover to come along in a long time. The appeal is in the subtlety: the almost-sheerness of the dress’s top and sleeves hint at the skin underneath. A gold Burberry Prorsum belt encircles the waist.
The strange mix of demureness (the long sleeves, the length of the skirt, the fall-back black colour, and does that belt allude to a chastity belt what with its material and lock-like clasp?) and sexuality (the symmetry of the skirt slit and plunge of the neckline create literal arrows to the woman’s sex, the fabric of the top hugs the the curves, and does that belt allude to corsetry and creating the illusion of the perfect waist to hip ratio? ) makes this dress more alluring than its more exhibitionist counterparts.
But it’s not just the dress is it? It’s the story. That black background creates endless narrative possibilities. Perhaps she’s decided to wear this dress to work, daring someone to read sex into the modest length of the long-sleeved frock. Perhaps she’s just taken down her hair midday from the tightness of a professional updo or she’s combed it out from the night before and worn it defiantly mussed-up to balance out how done-up she feels in her dress.
She may be out for the night and wanting to louche-up her sophisticated dress with rock-n’-roll hair or the opposite may be true; she wants to dress-up the party scene with an incongruous robe.
The dress is almost too sexy, almost too demure and begs to be taken out of context and put into every context. It’s simple, easy, black. And yet, it’s overworked with its silk gossamer sleeves that want to read romantic or sexy and its stretch wool jersey that speak to utilitarianism and durability. It’s two dresses, too many ideas, too complicated.
Or it’s the dress to take you from day to night, the dress that allows for endless iterations of you, the dress that plays up the facet of your whim. It’s the dress that allows you to play with expected modes of being and allows you to fuzz the line of clichés.
And we haven’t even seen the shoes.