December 4, 2012

Winter Must Have: The Trompe L’oeil Effect Dress

The winter season is the time when we let ourselves indulge in some ”culinary sins” – an extra plate of the delicious food at the Christmas table, an extra slice of cake or a few extra pieces of candy stolen from the box under the Christmas tree – which makes it clear that now, more than ever, we need to wear something that will make us look good.

Using a technique popularised in the sixties by artists Bridget Riley and Arnold Schmidt, who used to play with visual perspectives in order to create the impression of vibrating light, to better showcase their work, fashion houses such as 3.1 Philip Lim, Balmain or Mary Katrantzou, have cleverly designed their collections for this season around the alluring trompe-l’œil effect, to offer the illusion of a perfect silhouette.

With the help of strategic placement of prints and various embellishments and appliqués over the surface of the fabric, designers are capable of creating a deceptive optical perception, which flatters the feminine figure in a way that few other techniques can.

Mary Katranztou, whose Fall/ Winter 2012 collection abounds in sculptural silhouettes that offer the impression of a super-svelte waist in contrast with the oversize shoulders and exaggerated hips, mentions: ”It’s essential for me that my clothes are flattering on the body. Pulling in the waist with a strategically placed image of a watch, or widening shoulders by placing a typewriter on the collarbone, became integral to my thinking of how everyday objects can be used to subvert that context and empower a woman.”

The house of Balmain, on the other hand, employs a different technique in order to accentuate the form of the female body. For the Fall/Winter 2012 season, designer Olivier Rousteing used the power of geometry to create the impression of a wasp’s waist. The 90-degree angles at the shoulders, ribs, waist, and hips, form a four-point visual system which, doubled by the illusion of even more imaginary lines, created with the help of various appliqués, such as an abundance of pearls, trick the eye into seeing a perfect silhouette.


Designer Philip Lim, however, stands at the opposite pole, using simplicity as a tool to create the perfect hourglass figure in his minimalist Fall/Winter 2012 collection. Inspired by the femininity and power of comic book heroines, the collection boasts a series of clothes with panels in contrasting colours, which bring a svelte silhouette into the foreground, pushing any unnecessary bulk into the darkness of the background. The designer admits: ”Comic books, by their very nature, use shadows and coloring to create illusions, and that’s what I wanted to do with this collection to some extent.”

Now, while I wouldn’t advise you to eat each and every box of chocolates that you receive for Christmas until there’s nothing left of it, you should rest assured that in the eventuality that you do, there are gorgeous designer pieces out there that flatter every silhouette.

Photos courtesy of:,,,