Intriguing times. Three different television starlets wore vintage Ossie Clark to the National Television Awards last night. All three were wrap dresses, all variations on Ossie’s signature design. I find it intriguing because the wrap dress is by no means Ossie’s only style, and none of them featured a Celia Birtwell print: Jenna Coleman and Kelly Brook both wore black crepe and Rachel Wilde wore iridescent satin. The similarities between the three ladies and the three dresses enable us to view Ossie’s designs through very different eyes at the same time.
Both Brook and Wilde were deemed, by the tabloids at least, to have suffered ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ and their beautiful dresses garnered them places on ‘worst dressed’ lists. Indeed, the hysteria – a curious mix of lasciviousness and prim puritanism – surrounding Brook’s very visible nipples was bordering on the sinister. For why on earth, one wonders, is a 40-year-old dress causing such ripples of disapproval? In a world where you can – quite frankly – see Kelly Brook’s nipples any time you want by googling her Playboy shoot, and other starlets are wearing skimpier, shorter and more see-through outfits on any night of the year, why is a bit of moss crepe causing such a brouhaha?
It says something about the design genius of Ossie, and of his understanding of sensuality, that an artfully revealing floor length dress (covering all the flesh except a triangle of cleavage and an occasional flash of leg) is somehow being seen as incredibly rude and almost nude. It also says something deeply unpleasant about the unnecessarily bright flash bulbs of the modern press photographer, doesn’t it? Moss crepe is only transparent when you fire a bright light through it, and the bulbs of the Sixties and Seventies would never have caused such an effect. I think it’s pretty much obvious that such wardrobe malfunctions are a creation of the press; Brook’s nipples would not have been visible in person or on the television cameras.
Of course, Ms. Brook is famous for her curves and not exactly averse to a bit of publicity – whatever the cause may be. I’m not saying she did this deliberately from the start, but even if her stylist gently pointed out that there might (just might) be a bit of an issue, then she may well have shrugged it off as nothing to worry about. Which is fine and dandy.
In fact, without realising it, she was really fulfilling Ossie’s original intent. He didn’t like people wearing underwear with his clothes. He designed so that the breasts are supported by the garment itself, and he felt that underwear ruined the line. I don’t think he planned for flashbulbs, but I imagine he would have been delighted by the outrage his designs continue to cause.
Personally, I think the best dressed of the night – never mind the best Ossie – was Jenna Coleman. I don’t know how she underpinned her Ossie, but there are no nipples and no knickers involved. I also think that the way you style your hair and make-up, and the way you hold yourself makes a big difference; Coleman wins on all fronts. It might not be outrageous, rude or shocking, but ultimately I think Ossie would have been the most happy to see this gorgeous, talented young lady wearing his dress in a supremely sophisticated way. Similar dresses, very different styles…