Recent events back in blighty (especially this and this) have left me pondering the myth of the glorious empire on which the sun never sets, searching to pinpoint a moment when Britain really was great and not just a barely-united landmass with short man syndrome.
Alas, all I could come up with – the only untarnished tale of greatness in our chequered past – has to be the story of Torvill and Dean, who gave up their day jobs as a clerk and a policeman to carry us all to figure skating glory in the 1984 Olympics.
However, Torvill and Dean actually have nothing to do with this week’s Fashion Barometer, because believe it or not, they are the only figure skaters in the history of the UNIVERSE to apparently have never worn illusion netting – unless they were just really, really good at illusion netting too. So good it’s invisible to the human eye.
Well, we all know what the real empire on which the sun never sets is these days, and that is home to figure skater and BIG illusion netting fan Johnny Weir.
The recent rise of illusion netting in non-skating-related clothing is a funny thing: when badly done it can smack of bridal wear or have something of the cheap and nasty New Look circa 1994 about it.
The simple tank design as in this Jason Wu for Target dress seems to be the most popular modern version of the illusion neckline, and a style I’m not overly keen on. I want my illusion netting to work a bit harder, not just sit there like a lazy lump of chopped-about stocking.
Another facet to the illusion debate is the sleek, lunch in the Hamptons look, as worn with what I remember to be alarming frequency on amazing/terrible TV show Revenge.
Now you’ll have to watch it all and bow to the power of Emily Thorne! It’s SATC with less wit and more violence, and based on The Count of Monte Cristo! What more could you ask? If you’re asking for “tight clothes” right now, you’ve got that too. They wear cocktail dresses so tight it’s a wonder they can get enough air down for the hissing of threats.
The style has taken its place next to the indefatigable strapless bodice in the ranks of common wedding dresses, for which I am sure Kate Middleton is to blame. Her dress had something of the illusion neckline about it.
Both Gertie’s blog and Colette Patterns have mentioned designer Peggy Hunt’s amazing work with illusion necklines. This Flickr photo set of her designs, put together by her granddaughter, is a fantastic place to see the couture possibilities of the illusion neckline.
A selection of illusions, modern and vintage, for sources see Polyvore
My jury’s still out on the illusion neckline. I like the kind which uses the netting to create a feature with the addition of beading or appliqué, or uses a heavier fabric – even lace, like Kate. Whatever your stance on the matter, the illusion neckline seems to have got a toehold in the fashion ladder once again, enough so that making jokes about figure skating seem a trifle immature. Sorry. Toehold? Triple toe loop? I’M SO SORRY. CAN’T… STOP.
Colette’s Macaron would be a good jumping-off point into the world of illusion, though any blouse or dress pattern can be hacked to add a sheer section. American Apparel (this is not a moral endorsement) has some very tight illusion-neckline dresses on their website, and also some surprisingly medium-sized models. Did I blink and miss something?
The mother of all illusion necklines has to be Marilyn’s in Some Like it Hot. She wears two similar dresses in the film, one pale and one black. In the pale one you actually can’t even tell whether she’s wearing a dress or just some glitter on her nips. That’s one hell of an illusion. If only Britain had given the world Monroe’s sparkly nips, I would have a substantial reason to be proud of my homeland.