Strictly Fabulous; Does a More Beautiful Piece of Clothing Exist Than the Ballgown? the Victoria and Albert Museum in London Has Collected 60 of Britain's Finest for a New Exhibition That Opened on Saturday. WM's Claire Rees Spoke to Designer Julien Macdonald about Our Fascination with "The Ultimate, Dream Dress"

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), May 22, 2012 | Go to article overview

Strictly Fabulous; Does a More Beautiful Piece of Clothing Exist Than the Ballgown? the Victoria and Albert Museum in London Has Collected 60 of Britain's Finest for a New Exhibition That Opened on Saturday. WM's Claire Rees Spoke to Designer Julien Macdonald about Our Fascination with "The Ultimate, Dream Dress"


THERE'S a poem by Scottish poet Liz Lochhead called Everybody's Mother.

It features the line: "Everybody's mother was a perfumed presence with pearls, remote white shoulders, when she bent over in her ball dress to kiss you in your crib."

In fairytale books, our mothers brushed their hair at ivory dressing tables in billows of taffeta and gems before the most glamorous parties, as they did in the black and white films.

And fashion designer Julien Macdonald agrees it's this inherited fantasy ideal that makes the ballgown the ultimate aspiration dress.

"It's every little girl's dream, to own a ballgown," he told WM.

"Everyone read Cinderella, who went to the ball, and everyone went wow when she walked in, and she got her prince. And she was a cleaner!

"Girls grow up with that." Julien has a long lace gown in the V&A exhibition, which runs until January next year, and he's dressed everyone from Heidi Klum to Paris Hilton in their own show-stopping versions of the 'wow' garment that should look like the most expensive item of clothing you've ever owned.

The museum's exhibition, which showcases British historic gowns dating back to the 1950s, includes a Norman Hartnell design for the late Queen Mother and Princess Diana's Elvis Dress by Catherine Walker, as well as a taffeta dress by Elizabeth and David Emanuel worn by Joan Collins.

Julien, who has just finished shooting the look book for his bespoke collection (due to show at London Fashion Week this September) said: "People associate the ballgown with Hollywood and glamour, it's an aspirational item of clothing.

"They see Angelina Jolie at the Oscars and imagine being transformed by the most expensive dresses in the world."

Paris Hilton wore his sweetheart lemon yellow dress to one of Elton John's famous White Tie and Tiara balls, and begged Julien to let her keep it, proving even those who already have the riches still covet the perfect princess gown. "Paris said it was her dream dress and that when she gets married, that's the kind of dress she wants," he said.

"These dream gowns are worn by celebrities but for many women, the only chance they have to have that ballgown moment is on their wedding day.

"That's where the fascination for these huge meringue wedding dresses comes from." Julien's own favourite ballgowns are the "iconic, fantasy" dresses worn by Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina (our front cover), but "Lady Gaga wears what is the modern ballgown.

"These crazy outfits she puts on have the same wow effect."

The Merthyr Tydfil-born designer is about to appear back on TV screens in the new series of Britain and Ireland's Next Top Model, which starts on Sky Living next month - the opening episode features Julien and his co-judges, "delightful" star of MTV's The City, Whitney Port, and "drop-dead-gorgeous" male model Tyson Beckford, in Dubai. …

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Strictly Fabulous; Does a More Beautiful Piece of Clothing Exist Than the Ballgown? the Victoria and Albert Museum in London Has Collected 60 of Britain's Finest for a New Exhibition That Opened on Saturday. WM's Claire Rees Spoke to Designer Julien Macdonald about Our Fascination with "The Ultimate, Dream Dress"
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