Dolce & Gabbana dress part of great period in fashion history

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Dolce & Gabbana dress part of great period in fashion history

This dress was designed by fashion icons Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana.

J.E. sends me a gorgeous black cotton structured Dolce & Gabbana dress, found in 2003 at a thrift store, with trademark excellent construction.

The waist features “stays” of old-fashioned bone, in the iconic corset waist shape.

J.E. asks, “What is a high style designer dress like this worth?”

Dolce & Gabbana is a premier style line, and the company has been designing and making wonderful clothing for 20-plus years. I have a suspicion that J.E.’s dress is not off the rack because there is a handwritten tab in the lining and the full names of the two designers are spelled out.

Italian designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, who met in a Milan Club in 1982, are no strangers to tangles with the press. 

In 2018, they encountered a scandal. To celebrate their show in China, they posted a feature in 2018 on Instagram of an Asian model eating Italian food with chopsticks, and social media came down hard on them.

Pundits have written about the disconnect between what the world thought of D & G couture in the 1990s (disruption and scandal), and what the new woke world of the 2020s thinks of couture and how to express it in visual imagery. 

D & G canceled the Chinese fashion show, and detractors demanded that Dolce and Gabbana disclose workplace conditions and become transparent with their labor issues. Accountability? And who then decides?

Throughout the 1990s, any press about a designer fashion brand was good press. The great icons of the disruption days were the bad boys who would dress models in almost anything outré: Galliano, Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen and Karl Lagerfeld (the latter celebrated at the MET this month). Mr. Dolce and Mr. Gabbana have lost business from the Instagram posting, yet former press scandals brought them business.

For example, there were tje risqué 1992 line called Gangster Chic, and Madonna’s 1500 corset-based, sexy costumes, designed for her shows in the 1990s. 

The dress’ waist features “stays” of old-fashioned bone, in the iconic corset waist shape.

As of 2021, Dolce & Gabbana are in the public’s good graces again, having designed a fabulous gown for a make-up entrepreneur of color for the Met Gala. Her gown was a huge hit as an anti-racist statement. We can see that some of the young ones of the English royal family wore Dolce & Gabbana to mourn Queen Elizabeth II’s death. The young Lady Louise Windsor wore the designers’ black dress to the funeral.

The story of Mr. Dolce and Mr. Gabbana is an 1980-90s chain of successes: from their Milanese first show in 1985, called “Donna Verre” (“Real Women”), so named because the pair had no money for models and asked neighborhood women to model. And they begged their families for money to buy fabric.

Then their breakthrough show made them famous — “The Leopard” in 1990, in which they found their artistic voice. By 1990, with this look, referencing the Italian films of the 1940s and with glomus sexy  garments based on films such as “The Leopard,” directed by Luchino Visconti, they began to export garments to U.S. and Japan. And they made $500 million in 1990, less than 10 years after their first show.

Two influences are echoed in J.E.’s dress: one the corset, and two the 1940-50 elegant and form-fitting hourglass shape. 

In the mid-1990s the famous fashion designer Rubenstein called their “slip dress,” named the “Sicilian Dress,” one of the 100 most iconic dresses in history as it referenced 1940-50 Italian cinema stars filmed in their undergarments — slinking in form fitting “slips,” as those worn by Sophia Loren.

D & G are famed for influencing art forms and allowing “other” art forms to influence them. They have been on the forefront of technology to do so — showing their runway in 1993 on the internet only, appearing twice in roles in the movies, designing a video for Duran Duran in the 1990s.

In the 2000s they dressed stars for international tours: Madonna, Missy Elliott, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Kylie Minogue. They were the first to design for plus-size women and the first to show two men kissing in an ad for their men’s collection. 

In 2021, they created a nine-piece runway show of a collection only offered as NFTs. Some of the “garments” designed were “Glass Suit,” and “Impossible Tiara.” And the show sold for $5.7million.

Thus, with the shape of the dress and the built in corset, J.S. has a piece of art by a high fashion design team that owned the 1990s and early 2000s. The value of the dress at an online seller such as the Real Real is $2,000.

Dr. Elizabeth Stewart’s “Ask the Gold Digger” column appears Saturdays in the News-Press.

Written after her father’s COVID-19 diagnosis, Dr. Stewart’s book “My Darlin’ Quarantine: Intimate Connections Created in Chaos” is a humorous collection of five “what-if” short stories that end in personal triumphs over present-day constrictions. It’s available at Chaucer’s in Santa Barbara.

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