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Monday Muse: Atelier Versace Takes on the ’50s

Versace Couture Fall 2014

For the past few seasons, Donatella Versace has taken inspiration from the likes of Grace Jones and Lady Gaga for her couture collection, Atelier Versace. But for fall, she decided to steer clear of the personalities and the performance costumes and instead, bring the focus on the roots of couture itself: the 1950s. Maybe it was the Met’s Charles James exhibit or the Mus©e Galliera’s newest show, Les Ann©es 50, La Mode en France 1947-1957 that softened Donatella’s collection, but even through the traditional shapes and technical mastery, the Versace DNA still managed to come out strong.

The classic ’50s cat eye at Atelier Versace

The roots of haute couture can be traced back to the 1700s, but most fashion historians mark the 1950s as the heyday of true couture. Before rail and air travel became the norm, women from all over Europe would trek to Paris to have private fittings at couture houses (often requiring more than one visit), where they would choose their own colors, fabrications and more based on each designer’s creations. The decade was marked by a few signatures, such as Christian Dior’s wasp-waisted New Look, the full-skirted gowns that came from houses such as Balmain and Poiret and the easy, draped bias dresses that made labels such as Gres and Vionnet famous. But it was technical skill above all else that made couture what it was.

The clothes were hand made, hand embroidered and were often made of the best fabrics sourced from around the world, which is just part of why couture had such cach©.

Jennifer Lopez in Atelier Versace

Today, couture is more about show than anything else, though most fashion houses are reporting record sales in their couture departments (Versace included). Donatella Versace shows her Atelier Versace collections in Paris right alongside the houses who made their names back in the ’50s, so it’s no surprise that this latest collection showed off the House of Versace’s technical knowhow just as much as it showed off Donatella’s signature sex appeal. The collection was filled with the rounded shoulders of the New Look, full skirts and prim and proper skirt suits that were slashed through with sheer panels and embroidered with jet beads. And if the technicalities of a tailored coat weren’t enough, Donatella summoned her atelier to create looks that were half hotpants and half trousers, a feat that combined the opposing talents of tailoring and draping (Jennifer Lopez sat front row in one of the half-pant looks).

Gold buckles and cutouts were also a big part of the collection, which added more than just a hint of ’80s Mugler to the Midcentury mix, but that was where Donatella let her personality shine through. While she didn’t cite musicians and rock stars as her muses this season, they’ll probably be the ones we’ll see wearing looks such as the crystal-laden bodysuit and ballgown or the strappy midi looks. And the fringe gowns? Let’s just count down the days until we see Queen Bey wearing one, because they seemed custom made for a true diva.