Want to look fabulous? Then watch your back...
ONE of my teenage sartorial quirks was to wear my V-necked sweaters backwards. In my defence, it was the 1980s and V-backed sweaters were a thing. As long as the label was not stitched so as to reveal a tell-tale rectangular outline, a back-to-front twizzle could endow any outfit with attitude.
In truth, fashion has long had a fascination with the view from behind. When I worked at Harper’s Bazaar US in 2002, the title relaunched with a double cover featuring Gisele Bundchen in a dazzling-fromall-angles red dress.
It was shot from the front and the back respectively and emblazoned with the cover line: Fashion’s Back!
We knew backs were, well, back at last year’s Met Ball, the annual fashion extravaganza hosted by American Vogue editor Anna Wintour. The shoulder blades of the most powerful women in fashion were on display.
It is a look that will carry through to both the Iftas tonight and next month’s Oscars celebrations — whatever the weather or feminist dress codes.
BUT an appealing back view doesn’t have to actually show your back or shoulders at all. It’s frequently down to the simplest of details.
A simple pleat pattern, collar or gathered shoulder can be all the detailing you need.
Exposed zips are a good shortcut to a chic rear view, too. That was the idea behind the long rose-gold zippers snaking from the nape of the neck right down to the hem in Victoria Beckham’s first collection — dresses that looked as good from the back as the front.
That exposed zipper detail has remained on trend, giving polish to clothes on the High Street. I love the Chartwell navy top by Libby London with its brass zipper (€163, libbylondon.com) and Cos’s pretty zip-back printed shift (€89, cosstores.com). And Boden’s Marisa Ottoman dress (€61, boden.co.uk) is a workwear classic.
Roksanda Ilincic is another designer who favours exposed zippers down the spine of her beautiful evening gowns, a touch that imbues her frocks with strength; backbone!
There’s something distinctly regal and quietly powerful about a dramatic back. Eccle- siastical garments often have ornately embellished backs, to command the gaze of all as they make their procession up the aisle.
The same can be said of brides (and bridesmaids!). Who can forget those covered buttons cascading down Pippa Middleton’s McQueen gown at her sister Kate’s royal wedding?
At this time of year, you’re looking for back appeal that doesn’t give you the chills. The Lowden tie-back jumpsuit at Finery (was €145, now €105, finerylondon.com) would look chic (and feel cosy) with a cream roll-neck underneath.
As ever, if one thing is daring keep everything else demure. So, with a tie-back, I’d look for midi-length skirts or trousers.
I’ve been eyeing up a floorsweeping number by No.1 Jenny Packham at Debenhams (from €216, debenhams.ie). There are two styles I like — one strappier with a more traditional bodice, or the subtler option with a boat neckline and fabulous lace V back, which is the one I’ll be buying. And the one that will grab attention wherever you are in the room.
SARAH BAILEY is Executive Brand Editor at Porter magazine.
Style: Heather Graham