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Article: The Midi Dress

The Midi Dress
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The Midi Dress

Well, the Autumn is well and truly within our sights and since this time last year, hemlines have been fluctuating up and down, from microscopic minis that would get Grandma 'tut tut'-ing, to toe-tickling maxis.

Autumn/Winter 2011 is somewhere in between and a little more weather appropriate with the revival of the mid-length dress, fresh from the forties and fifties. This season is all about femininity and grace and, as contemporary designer, Jonathan Saunders points out, length adds a certain elegance that you don't necessarily get from a short, flirty skirt.

The 'midi dress' vertically extends the silhouette, lengthening the legs, creating that demure refinement so synonymous with the classic designs of the vintage era. The 1940s and 50s aesthetic is centric in design influence this season bringing the ambiance of American TV series, Mad Men, set in this bygone era, into three-dimensions on a number of prolific runways.

Banana Republic sniffed out this mania with tremendous haste and collaborated with Mad Men costume designer, Janice Bryant to create a line, inspired by the on-set wardrobe. The collection went on sale earlier this month and features tight tailoring, silk neckties and high-rise waistlines; elements of design that are pivotal in achieving the vintage look, as well as the all-important mid-length skirt.

"Happy Birthday Coco Chanel". Coco Chanel took the midi under her pearl-bedecked wing and transformed mourning garb into a staple classic, immortalised by the stylishly simple shifts and sheaths born in the 1920s and carried through the succeeding eras. Hemlines were just below the knee, a third of the way down the calf, exemplifying the unparalled elegance of Chanel designs. 

(From left to right: Coco Chanel, Julianne Moore, Marcia Cross, Vera Farmiga) Julianne Moore, Marcia Cross and Vera Farmiga are amongst the red carpet frequenters who have donned designs that marry an undeniable emulation of the Chanel sophistication with a flattering mid-length hemline. Julianne toys with tailoring and Marcia sports a trend-savvy lace trim while Vera gives her LBD a unique quirk with a flared skirt. The velvet fabric and accented hem bring Vera's retro-inspired ensemble up to date with contemporary styles, fashionably bridging the gap between then and now.

Amber boasts an adorable 1950s prom dress style LBD, demonstrating the benefits of keeping the upper portions uncomplicated and stylishly basic so as to enhance the illusion of height and streamline the silhouette even further. Dita wears her usual avant-garde garb with enviable style; the high-rise, nipped in waist and lengthy skirt sculpt a chiseled physique so sought after during the 1940s and 50s.

 (From left to right: Amber Heard, Dita Von Teese, Emma Stone, Zooey Deschanel) Emma Stone showcased this luscious, Tom Ford lace number at a film premiere recently, looking every bit the Hollywood starlet with her femme fatale figure and Veronica Lake curls. The classic image can only be accredited to the just-below- the-knee midi LBD with accented hips and waist tie. Zooey chose a Moschino design for her recent red carpet appearance, teasing paparazzi with a modest, calf-kissing hem broken up by a flirtatious split seam. Zooey is renowned for her quirky sense of style and the monochrome, ruffle motif of the latest Moschino collection is an ideal way to modernise a retro style. Moschino are most definitely not alone in the love for a midi-ruffle combination as Marc Jacobs models fiercely march down the runway sporting heavily embellished, mid-length designs. The usual onslaught of knobbly knees that have been stalking the catwalks this Summer were nowhere to be seen as fuller, more lengthy dresses dominate.

 (Marc Jacobs: Autumn/Winter 2011) Each of the sixty-two designs that compose this seasonal collection are extremely conscious of the female form, synching and clinging to all the right places, moulding complementary, ladylike curves still with a sense of stylish aggression. Structure and clean-cut lines are paramount in creating this polka dot-laden line, embodying the harmonious mixture of forties softness and the independent matriarch of today. We can't help but notice the homage to Alexander McQueen's design work which draws great inspiration from the corsetry and structural lines of the Victorian age. Fashion during this era was focused around synching and forcing the body into an archetypal silhouette and the nipped waists and ruffle collars in the Marc Jacobs collection are reminiscent of this. Miu Miu are also bringing back the golden years for Autumn and Winter with their mid-length extravaganza of floral embellished designs. This collection has a charming sense of antique style, almost as though we could blow the dust from the creases and breathe in the comforting scent of vintage clothing.

 (Miu Miu: Autumn/Winter 2011) We first saw Miu Miu A/W 11 last month on "Art Nouveau in Fashion" Diane Kruger at an event hosted by the acclaimed design house and have been in lust with it ever since. Accessorising with a faux fur bolero and a clasped clutch puts the finishes touches to the perfect vintage midi look. French designer, Roland Mouret, has been seduced by the midi, explaining how 'it is like a perfume; if you see a woman in a midi skirt or dress, she leaves behind a trace of colour'. Stella McCartney evidently concurs as her current collection flaunts a range of mid-length styles, adored by many celebrities including Glee star, >Diana Agron and old favourite, Kate Winslet.

 (Stella McCartney: Autumn/Winter 2011) The collection flaunts Stella's signature, masculine-inspired tailoring while establishing ultra-feminine dresses that simply ooze femininity and sex appeal. The line showcases the versatility of the midi dress with architectural, structured designs juxtaposed against loose fitting, sheer gowns with billowing sleeves. The mid-length trend can be translated into the figure-hugging pencil skirt or the more forgiving style such as Stella's floaty creations. With the wide range of mid-length styles on offer to you this season you are bound to feel a little confused but the first step is to establish the style that will compliment your personal shape. Your natural silhouette is the ideal foundation to build on and picking the right midi dress can work wonders for your physique. If you are lucky enough to be able to brush noses with skyscraping supermodels then the daring ankle grazer will suit you to a tee but if you are on the shorter side or want a less dramatic look, then just below the knee is made for you. Whatever your shape or preferred style, heels are a must when styling the midi to tone and shape your exposed calves. However, if the 1940s and 50s aren't your cup of tea at all then kick back with a brew and swat up on how various other momentous fashion eras are being resurrected in our editorial article on the then look to out impressive collection of designers and dresses to find your timeless classic.

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