Object of Current Desire: A Low Back, Long Sleeve Dress

Object of Current Desire: A Low Back, Long Sleeve Dress

It dawned on me recently that I've been vastly underestimating the value of the sartorial real estate that is my back.  As summer gives way to fall, I've been fantasizing about a long sleeve, or 3/4 sleeve, dress with a low scoop back. One that, say, reveals the top half of my back, while anatomically balancing out this exposure with covered arms. I'm envisioning a tea length or slightly longer than tea length dress. One that feels like a classic I could wear season after season (at this change of seasons) and not soon grow tired of.

Let's delve into some inspiration, shall we?

First up, Marilyn Monroe looking, well, the picture speaks for itself.

 Marilyn Monroe by Bert Stern, 1962

Marilyn Monroe by Bert Stern, 1962

What I love here is the perfectly calibrated subtlety with which this look works. The dress is black and the sleeves and skirt don't appear too form-fitting or revealing. Her hair is swept back. Message: demure. In fact, from the front, you'd have no hint of what awaits you when she turns around. And then she turns around and you take in that back and the message is instantly: dramatic. It's the drama in it which I am so drawn to when I get dressed. Mastering the art of dress as equivalent to developing an intuitive understanding of what makes a moment, and a sense of the appeal of the unexpected. 

 Marilyn Monroe by Bert Stern, 1962

Marilyn Monroe by Bert Stern, 1962

Next up, inspiration from the dress Carrie Bradshaw wore in her Parisian rendezvous with her lover's old lover. Seems to me as good an occasion as any for a dress that expresses an intuitive understanding of drama, no? Anyway, there are clear parallels in this look to Marilyn's: a black dress, swept-back hair, subtle bodice and sleeves, and a back that makes the whole look memorable.  

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Lest you think that such a dress might limit your options in the styling department, here are a few instances that prove there's still plenty of room for creativity with this silhouette.

Here, for example, is a scoop back, short sleeved dress accessorized with opera length gloves. If the sleeves were to come off the shoulder ever so slightly, the addition of the gloves could be so remarkable. 

 A 1950s Jacques Fath dress

A 1950s Jacques Fath dress

 Actress Frances Langford, Paramount Pictures press photograph circa 1930s

Actress Frances Langford, Paramount Pictures press photograph circa 1930s

If it's an exaggerated low back you're after, consider using your newly exposed canvas for some smart accessorization as Diana, Princess of Wales, did with a long pearl necklace artfully tied at the back. It's likely the case that the deeper the cut in the back, the harder it will be to wear the dress ubiquitously, but this cut certainly has its merits. 

 Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing Catherine Walker in 1985

Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing Catherine Walker in 1985

I can think of so many ways to have fun with the back. Pin brooches on around the edges! Wrap a light silk scarf or piece of chiffon fabric and letting it drape down the back! Wear a lace top underneath the dress so that the back appears to be a panel of lace! Now if only I could find the dress!

 

Feature image: Madame Thadée Natanson by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1895 via The Met.

 

Best of New York Fashion Week Spring 2018

Best of New York Fashion Week Spring 2018

One Year of One Who Dresses

One Year of One Who Dresses