Charlotte Balbier

lookbook: a lot of front

August 2nd, 2017 | Laura McDonagh

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For our latest lookbook post, we’re taking lead from gossip mags’ favourite and reigning Brides Up North gym inspiration Pippa Middleton – seriously though, I would swap one of my legs for those biceps. Sigh.

Prior to the wedding of the year, fashion commentators consulted their crystal balls and clamoured to predict the style the Duchess’ little sister would go for – arguably it was all a bit more, well, interesting than the 2011 debate about Kate’s dress decisions because so much (length, sleeves, modest front) is set in stone for a Royal bride. Pippa however, could freestyle it a little – and so she did, surprising the world’s media with her unexpectedly classic Giles Deacon princess gown.

We’ve already fully dissected the new Mrs James Matthews’ bridal style in a Get The Look special, but today we’re zooming in on one of the key details of her stunning frock: namely, the high-neck. We’ve been thinking: what inspiration is out there (other than the £40,000 bespoke designer option, obvs) for a girl who wants a lot of front in her frock?

Main feature images from Julie Vino

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Well, first up is Ersa Atelier, with their to-die-for designs from Bucharest. Sisters Gabriela and Cristina make much artful use of the high-neck in their most recent collections and the results are just – well, see for yourself. Serena with its delicate beaded and detailed sleeved top and plain waisted frothy skirt gives the impression of separates and pulls off the almost impossible feat of being both regal and ‘fashiony’. Pea is at the opposite end of the formality spectrum and is everything its short ‘n’ sweet appellation suggests, with its dropped waist and simple crochet-style fabric. Celie, with its glorious Art Deco-style scallops, speaks of another era, and its high-neck almost looks like a little lace collar – statement and simplicity all at once. If you’re a fan of the high-neck, this collection demands closer inspection.

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Jesus Peiro’s current collection also embraces high-necks but takes the look in a slightly different direction. Dresses 7019 and 7002 – the first a halter-neck with a draped sash and large bow at the waist, the second a breathtakingly simple origami-style bodice with subtly slashed neckline and full-on princess skirt – are almost sculptural in design and certainly current rather than classic in feel. Dress 7074 is more conventional – delicate lace overlay and elbow-length sleeves balanced by a mermaid flare – but no less attention-grabbing. The Nanda Devi collection heads for more ethereal territory, so if a Midsummer Night’s Dream-slash-fairytale vibe is your bag, JP’s website is definitely worth a trawl: drifting skirts, pretty lace crop tops and full-length lace sleeves abound. Dreamy bridal design brilliance.

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You might be forgiven for thinking that ‘high-necked’ as a descriptor automatically aligns itself with ‘modest’ or even ‘prudish’, and that a high-necked dress is definitely a distant cousin of ‘modern bride’ and even further removed from ‘sexy bride’. Allow us to dispel all misconceptions with Julie Vino’s daring Napoli, Roma and Venice collections. Here we see the modesty of the high neck neutered with plunging backs, daring sheer panels, Swarovski and exposed shoulders – what on earth would Ms Middleton think?

And finally, in more situations than I’d like to admit I find myself asking the question “what would Vera Wang do?” and, in the case of designing a wedding gown for her Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 collections, the answer seems to have frequently been “put a high-neck on it”. Thank you, Vera, for showing us the way with the halter-neck wonderfulness of the Galilea, the all-over lace glamour of the Cecile and the wow-factor of Clemence’s peasant gown perfection. Inspiration overload.

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