Masterfully Modest





By Michelle Crowe



Lauren Bacall was a huge collector of Norman Norell’s work.


A really delightful recent surprise is the array of lovely modest dresses spotted on red carpets and at chic luncheons. Long sleeves, high necklines and all, each of these frocks lets the beauty of the wearer shine through.

Everyone who chooses a more covered-up style instantly becomes more charming, more mysterious and prettier. It’s an incredibly refreshing change from years when it’s a challenge to find anything other than a sleeveless dress even in the deep freeze of February.


Rodarte Spring 2018.


There’s nothing severe or schoolmarm-ish here either with lace and sometimes sheerness adding interest in places.

More fabric gives clever designers more real estate upon which to play. This means lots of gorgeous embroidery and other embellishments.


Host Truman Capote and guest of honor Katharine Graham at the Black and White Ball, 1966. Washington Post photo.


Certainly the mood of the moment, which is more focused on women’s achievements and less on superficial matters is an influence here.

The work of American masters like Norman Norell and our patron saint of Style Endures, Edith Head, can also be glimpsed in these show-stopping styles. Norell in particular is having a moment. His work is the subject of an exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and a new book from Rizzoli, “Norell: Master of American Fashion” by Jeffrey Banks.


Nicole Kidman at the Critic’s Choice Awards.


The shy master is also noted as an influence in “American Runway: 75 Years of Fashion and The Front Row” by Beth Moore, who serves as fashion and beauty director of The Hollywood Reporter.


Giambattista Valli Couture Spring 2018.


It’s a nice moment all around. Divine dresses in which to go out and gorgeous fashion history books in which to lose ourselves when we stay home.