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Behind the Dress: Harper

Harper is a strapless mermaid gown that features one of my keynotes for the spring collection: the cinched waist, which speaks to youth, the young maiden, and of course my delicate ballerina muse. While I was putting together this collection, I found myself very captivated by the famous ballerinas of Edgar Degas: they’re the embodiment of lightness and grace and the feminine, and they’re still a powerful touchstone for those qualities.

With Harper, I’ve also taken the bustier, which is a part of the traditional language of bridal, and given it a completely new interpretation. Here, a double bustier peeks over from the outer layer of the bodice, which becomes an over-bustier, and invents a new texture, a new layer, that frames the upper body in a quite modern way. I’ve also elaborated on the bodice with a trapunto stitch, a kind of top-stitching, that creates a very nice embroidered texture: there’s an ornamental feel there, like you might find on a much more old-fashioned gown, so it takes on an intriguing modern edge here.

But what’s really important about this dress is the beauty and detail in the seaming. With the angular details on the bodice framing the neckline, and then along the back, and then the mitered piecework on the hip, there’s just a wonderful amount of tailoring going on here, all the way around. Mitering is a technique that brings together two angled pieces, almost like strips, so that they sit one on top of the other and fit together in a very structured way. The foundation of this dress is faille, which is rigid and sculpted. And so with the final over-layer, which is tissue organza, you add billowy, diaphanous beauty.

Finally, the back view. We have a very poetic bustle with a cascading, degradé, or two-tone, pattern of laser-cut blossoms. The subtle gradation of the blossoms gives it such gorgeous depth: so much moving, contrasting color. This is a gown with a lot of drama and tension, between the structure and the billowing, flowing: it’s a truly passionate affair.

I think of Degas’s young women, who still have so much to show us about our ideals for the “one-woman show” that a modern bride is going to star in. On this occasion, she’s becoming the prima ballerina of her own pageant.

Browse the Spring 2012 Bridal Collection

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