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Fashion's big cover-up? Modest dressing on the rise as the death knell tolls on the naked look


Barely there: Bella Hadid

Barely there: Bella Hadid

Covered up: Gwyneth Paltrow

Covered up: Gwyneth Paltrow




Barely there: Bella Hadid

When Bella Hadid stepped on to the red carpet at last year's Cannes film festival, a star was born. The model exhibited her left leg (and a whole lot more besides) to the world in a plainly dangerous Alexandre Vauthier gown.

Slit down to here and up to there, heads didn't so much turn as snap, as she instantly, er, aroused a chorus of 'who is that?'.

Last month, Hadid attempted to repeat that internet-crashing moment in Cannes not once, but twice: the first, with a pale pink imitation of last year's Vauthier design, and the second, a crystal-covered Ralph & Russo 'dress'. Both looks landed with a thud. Perhaps we've all become unduly familiar with the intricacies of Bella's pelvic bone, but the naked look is starting to ring desperately ubiquitous to us.

Is the death knell tolling for the naked dress? Unlikely - but it's no coincidence that modest dressing is on the rise, as A-listers are increasingly eschewing thigh-high slits and eye-watering cleavage in favour of long sleeves, midi hems and high necklines.

Sienna Miller (rarely seen without a pair of denim hotpants or a flimsy mini dress in her boho days) recently said she prefers "do not fancy me clothes": "The less flesh I can possibly show, the better." Of course, she's not alone. On the red carpet, our own Ruth Negga set a new standard for awards season dressing with her modest (but never conservative) gowns - her Oscars dress was a perfect example, as she stole the show enveloped in red Valentino.

The past few weeks have seen the floral dress - a perennial summer staple - reimagined for 2017 with a high neckline and a hemline that brushes the floor. The maxi silhouette may sound frumpy and frou-frou, but it's surprisingly wearable - see Gwyneth Paltrow in elegant Vilshenko at her 'In Goop Health' summit.

Perhaps most indicative of the changing tide is Rihanna, a hugely influential fashion force. The pop star practically invented the naked dress when she donned an unforgettably provocative Adam Selman gown to accept her Style Icon award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2014. Since then, we've been treated to a parade of barely-there evening wear - a look the Kardashian-Jenner clan have high-jacked as their stock in trade.

But in recent months, Rihanna has favoured dramatically oversized suits and luxe interpretations of the Canadian tuxedo, along with classic floor-length ball gowns and shawls at Cannes. Picking up the award for 'Shoe of the Year' in November, she was almost entirely covered up in a long velvet skirt by Vetements, long-sleeved top and elbow-length gloves.

The industry is taking note. At Celine's spring-summer show, Phoebe Philo sent models down the runway in long-sleeved midis and boxy tailored suits. The buzzy designer Demna Gvasalia offered super-oversized silhouettes with almost no skin showing at Vetements and Balenciaga. Balmain, the label known for its second-skin creations and beloved by Kim and co, has increasingly been catering to its growing customer base in the Middle East with high necks and ankle-skimming hemlines.

What has sent us reaching for those extra acres of fabric? Is it an antidote to the 'undress for success' fashion philosophy of the Kardashians? Or perhaps, in a time where the news headlines offer a daily horrorshow, we are all looking for the comfort of a cocoon-like silhouette?

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In any case, it looks like this season's fashion has us well and truly covered.

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