Time for a Greek philosophy

By Jan Shure, March 4, 2010
Taupe dress, £175, James Lakeland

Taupe dress, £175, James Lakeland

It started, appropriately enough, with the Greek-born designer Sophia Kokosalaki. Then a slew of stellar designers, including Alber Elbaz at Lanvin, Jill Sander, Dries van Noten, Christopher Bailey at Burberry Prorsum and Donna Karan, were captivated by the way draped fabric flowed around the body, flattering curves, lengthening the torso and endowing androgynous bodies with the curves nature had neglected to give them. And so draping began to pop up on catwalks in New York, Paris, Milan and London.

If you want the perfect garment to make the transition from winter to spring, almost any draped garment is the way to go. Partly, this is because the fabrics that drape best — silk jerseys and their cotton and polyester cousins — have enough weight to look appropriate even when we are still scraping ice off the car in the morning. You can wear a draped dress — even a sleeveless one — right now with a boyfriend blazer, opaques and ankle boots. And draping will still look great when the temperature rises; just ditch the tights and add a pair of shoe-boots, or any of the summer variants, gladiators or peep-toe or cutaway boots.

Draping is truly versatile. Wear a draped dress for a working day with statement jewellery and a glossy tote, and then for an evening out switch to sky-high sandals and a clutch. For holiday or a weekend away, draping packs like a dream, but it can be worn for sightseeing with canvas plimsolls and then glammed up with ritzy accessories for evenings.

As well as dresses, there are gorgeous draped tops around which look very on-trend with a straight skirt or skinny trousers and, of course, draped harem trousers, which are a harder look to pull. You need to be strict: team the harems with a narrow, streamlined vest or shirt and a tailored blazer.

For a big occasion, a series of draped pieces for spring at Lanvin include a ravishing strapless gown in cobalt blue, finished with a knot and an orange silk dress with softly draping bodice and draped back. At Yves St Laurent, there is a fabulously grown-up twist-and-drape silk jersey V-neck dress in violet, while the precociously talented Alexander Wang has done a stunning black draped skirt. Jill Sander has some sublime, long draped tops — sleeveless and short sleeved — while Rick Owens Lilies (his collection of basic pieces) features delicately droopy draped tops.

James Lakeland, who has been doing draping for several seasons, has used soft silk jersey for a short-sleeve dress with drop-waist and a loop of draping fabric at the front, and for a long-sleeve, scoop neck dress with clever vertical draping from neck to hem.

And there is no shortage of draping on the high street, either. All Saints, the chain which refuses to follow the cookie-cutter high-street trends, has also been doing draping for at least six seasons. Last season they added a Leyla top — equally flattering on the body, and the perfect length to wear with skinny jeans or a narrow pencil skirt. They have carried the draping through to a slew of other tops, skirts and dresses, including a couture-lookalike maxi dress with corseted bodice, made in a high-tech Japanese fabric which gives a seriously sensuous drape.

French Connection has a gorgeous strappy dress that manages to merge Grecian-style draping with a hint of body-con at £50, while Reiss has done a cleverly structured dress with cross-over bodice which features draping above and below a set-in waistband.

Oasis has gone for draping in a big way, using it for the skirt of a scoop neck dress with fitted bodice; for a one-shoulder party dress in jade; and for a stylish silky dress in nude with softly draping cowl neckline.

Marks & Spencer’s Limited Collection has a draped dress imbued with a slightly “tribal” feel in a mustardy yellow, while New Look has something sleeker, with long sleeves and draping on the skirt.

Accessorize has a pretty, strappy black dress for high summer, with all its folds below the waist, while Jane Norman has a bracelet-sleeve grey dress with fitted bodice and generous draping around the skirt. Topshop has done draping with a simple tunic with drape sides and an asymmetric wrap dress in a mix of fabrics — black and a funky shark print.

Wallis has done it, too, with a long, cap-sleeve drapey top and a very well-cut, scoop-neckline khaki dress embellished with Grecian inspired twisting and draping.

If you want to add just a touch of draping, there are pretty skirts which can be teamed with skinny tops or vests. Reiss has a sweet, curvey draped skirt in blue-and-white stripes which is perfect for high summer, while Matalan has created a very effective, ahem, tribute to the Alexander Wang draped skirt (at £14). House of Fraser has a pretty draped skirt in nude at £30 for those who don’t want to splash out on the Burberry Prorsum version.

If you want to take the drapey harem trouser route, Topshop has a great pair at £45 in a tobacco brown cotton jersey, while River Island has a slightly less exaggerated shape in an animal print at £29.99.

Last updated: 2:36pm, March 4 2010