How to wear...the red dress
The flame-coloured hue is trending for festive party season, and will be even bigger in 2020,according to trend forecasts. Meadhbh McGrath makes the case for the scarlet woman
Around this time each year, the same colours come into reliable rotation again and again: gold, green, silver, midnight blue, black and, of course, red. They're the most festive shades in the palette and, this year, red has been especially prominent.
On the high street, red velvet, satin and sequinned dresses have been a sell-out success, while the dramatic red tulle gown with high-low hem was the standout from Giambattista Valli's collaboration with H&M last month, and is now listed on eBay for more than €500.
There was no shortage of dazzling red dresses on the catwalks either. For autumn-winter, Erdem presented a vast ruffled lace gown in vivid scarlet over a pair of knee-high boots and rich, romantic red floral gowns and cape-dresses with lace tights, another of this season's emerging trends.
Rodarte offered up a bright, bold lace prom dress with a playful bow at the waist, as well as puff-sleeved sequins with matching red tights. And at Ralph Lauren, a parade of sharp tuxedos and black formalwear was interrupted by Bella Hadid sauntering through in a show-stopping ruby gown.
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With its plunging neckline and shimmering sequins, it was the ultimate in diva dressing, and it later appeared on the red carpet on Olivia Wilde at the recent Governors Awards.
Such a gown illustrates beautifully the power of a winning red dress. Done right, it delivers pure, unadulterated glamour, and commands attention.
The colour company Pantone has predicted a particularly vibrant shade of red called Flame Scarlet will dominate fashion in 2020, but it has already made a big impression over the last couple of years. Tonal red was trending thanks to Victoria Beckham in autumn 2017 and 2018, while red was unusually popular this summer, usurping the pastels typically favoured in the warmer months.
What's driving our scarlet fever? Some critics have suggested it's a reflection of society itself plunging into the red since the election of US President Donald Trump, Brexit, #MeToo and protests over the climate crisis. Our red clothes are, in that case, art imitating life, acting as a call to action in a turbulent time.
Others propose it's a symptom of the social media age, and our desire to be seen in an Instagram feed oversaturated with content. There's no colour that demands we take notice quite like red, and even on the red carpet, it ensures its wearer is seen.
Lily Aldridge's Brandon Maxwell dress is classic and elegant, and in a more muted colour, it may not have proved quite so memorable. But the bright red hue, complemented by her lipstick and pedicure, is immediately eye-catching.
You don't need to go floor-length to make a statement, though - see Allison Janney in a Sally LaPointe midi dress. This is flawless festive partywear: it's seasonally appropriate, it's sparkly and it offers a comfortable level of coverage, guaranteeing you make your mark without sticking out like a sore thumb.
The great thing about the red dress is that you can wear any shape or silhouette you like. Want to go full va-va-voom? Try a one-shoulder, figure-hugging number like Vivienne O'Connor's aptly named 'Monroe' dress. Fancy something a bit more covered up? A wrap dress will pack just as much of a punch, thanks to its vibrant hue, or go for an open-back, like Ted Baker's crossover dress - back cutouts tend to be the most flattering. Whatever style, we'll all be seeing red this season.