Bairbre Power: Lessons in style
Bairbre Power continues the quest for one-off looks in the kingdom of Kerry
If there's one dress that has registered with our style subconscious in recent years, it's the Victoria Beckham, figure-flattering, body-skimming frock. Roland Mouret's iconic 'Galaxy' dress, with its square neckline, skinny belt and peaked, short sleeves, ignited our curiosity with bum-skimming dresses.
Coming, as it did, just seasons before our lust for 'Mad Men', it caused a sensation.
In fairness to Mrs B, she has developed a very effective 'block' or template which has become instantly recognisable, outlining the body's contours with razor-sharp precision. Each season, VB tweaks her frocks -- different colours, necklines and a signature zip which shouts spinal architecture and leaves no one in any doubt that this dress cost four figures.
But how many women can scrape together a four-figure sum to acquire a dress with 1950s glamour which vibrates with sexuality?
The latter is something that Marilyn Monroe knew lots about. She understood the power of clothes as she wore them and was the inspiration for a made-to-fit, second-skin dress which was a huge hit last summer when florist Ann Marie O'Leary from Dingle wore it to the Galway Races and won Best Dressed Lady.
The cream, streamlined, fuss-free dress (see page 28), which was partly based on an old 'Vogue' pattern, sparked comment because it was the complete antithesis of Celtic Tiger gaudiness and it also underlined how fashion contradictions work to your benefit.
On paper, the sum total of high neck, long sleeves and below-the-knee hemline sounds a tad safe and, dare I say, boring. But on the body, tailored cover-up can be as sexy as hell. It's about a body-con structure (without the bandage effect á la Hervé Léger) crossed with sophistication; flirty femininity but with a heritage of ladylike chic.
The classic cream dress registered with me but, judging on the day, I didn't get a chance to chase down the lady with the tailoring genius. However, all that changed when I saw The Dress Mark II in a lace version at Kerry Fashion Weekend (KFW).
When Karyn Moriarty was voted Designer of the Year 2011, I decided to explore her approach to 'real women' tailoring. To achieve a perfect, couture fit for her clients, Tralee- based Moriarty makes a toile or mock-up garment in muslin, factoring in the woman's exact proportions and measurements.
Clearly, this technique provides a great fit to the body, but there are crucial lines to watch, such as the distance between bust- waist-hip. Key darts create a second-skin feel and a good tip from Moriarty is that a central seam can help create a curvy silhouette for even the most stick-thin of women.
As globalisation sweeps the world, the self-preservation gene kicks in and we are constantly hunting for ways to look different, and for clothes that complement our body shape and offer solace for any figure hang-ups. And let's not forget the need to find clothes that reflect our personality, as opposed to slavishly following high-street trends.
As a vintage fiend, I was delighted to uncover the talents of Tralee-based, French-born designer Delphine Grandjouan, a former KFW Designer of the Year. Grandjouan has an uncanny knack with lace and I adore her feminine aesthetic and the way she sculpts and drapes with luxurious fabrics, such as triple-weight silk satin and silk tulle.
For Grandjouan, there are two key inspirations: dance and drama, as expressed in the freedom of the 1920s and the glamour of the 1950s.
Her black, backless bustle dress featured here throbs with a seductive quality. Lacy and strappy with a cowl neckline, it has it all. For those blue in the face trying to find a dress for a very special occasion, this one comes with a price tag of €1,250.
I'm not surprised to hear that many of the women she dresses as brides return for one of her LBDs. A commission will take one or two fittings, and Grandjouan reworks her collection of little black dresses for each individual customer, taking private appointments both in Kerry and Dublin.
Another name to watch, especially if you are in the mood for a stand-out-in-the-crowd hat, is Carol Kennelly. The racing season is upon us and the young mum turned her midas touch for winning Best Dressed Lady prizes at the races to creating her own millinery business, desiging Ann Marie's winning hat for Galway.
Kennelly, like Coco Chanel, is heavily into pearls. The encrusted headpieces sit jauntily on the forehead, plain like a 'Juliet' cape or decorated with netting, bows or feathers attached, with prices starting at €295.
At 32, Matt Doody from Cahersiveen is clearly the young man to watch and his delicious, powerful use of shimmering fabrics has made him a red-carpet favourite with the glitterati. Still, it's back to his native Kerry he goes for inspiration and to pick up awards.
This year, Doody was presented with a special merit award at KFW. Amy Huberman is already a fan and her gown for the 2011 IFTAs -- a bodice and double-layered full skirt in biscuit chiffon over stone silk -- was undoubtedly the frock of the night.
Trained at the Grafton Academy like Moriarity, Doody has displayed strong entrepreneurial spirit. He was one of the energetic founders of Bow, the fabulous shop in Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, and this year he opened his own store at unit 3 in the Centre.
Photographer: Ivan Begala, www.ivanbegala.com
Hair: Stephen Cronin
Make-up: Kathryn O'Neill, www.kerrymakeupartist.com
Model: Jenny Lagerqvist
LBDs from €950