There’s nothing pretty about the state of affairs right now. Except for perhaps the new in section of Zara.
There you will find pie-crust collars and puff sleeves, pintuck frills and petal pink wallpaper florals. These may be tumultuous, politically-charged, pandemic-impending times, but as far as our wardrobes are concerned, things couldn’t be lovelier.
This is, of course, no coincidence. When the going gets tough, the ruffles get going, so it’s no surprise that we’ve reached peak prettification. After all, life seems so much sweeter when you’re wearing a big blouson-sleeve periwinkle print smock dress.
Among the pick of the bunch are London-based brand Yolke. Founded by friends Anna Williamson and Ella Ringner in 2013 as a dreamy sleepwear brand, Yolke has recently woken up to ready-to-wear with its new ethically-minded collection serving as an homage to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic series, Little House on the Prairie.
It launches today, but the collection has already proven so popular that the brand has sold half of its stock on pre-orders alone. The two most popular styles are also the most feminine in the form of its floor-sweeping, button-front and silk-georgette frilled empire line Valentina dress, both in linen with a foxglove print and in organic viscose peppered with bright meadow florals.
“Dressing up was a big part of my childhood — I was never far from a box full of hand-me-downs from mother, aunts and grandmother,” says Ringner, who describes herself as “a magpie when it comes to vintage printed cottons and anything with a ruffle”. She tells me this collection has been a few years in the making — “because we had to wait for the right time”. That time, she believes, is now. “For so long femininity has been associated with gender roles that today we largely see as outdated, but women are forging new relationships with their own interpretation of what it means to be feminine. The roles are being reset, women are forging new paths — femininity is empowered.”
Fittingly, the brand has chosen to celebrate its new launch with a collaboration with creative agency Female Narratives with a campaign shot by photographer India Hartford-Davis on Hampstead Heath starring founders Tijana Tamburic and Franzi Klein.
Certainly, it’s no surprise that it is female designers that are leading this trend. Central Saint Martins’ alumni Louise Markey — founder of namesake label LF Markey — has recently introduced new line Meadows which is devoted to this idyllic aesthetic. Fusing historical influences with a modern attitude, high-necks, puff-sleeves and bluebell embroidery are all key to Meadows’ vision which is in residence at a Redchurch Street pop-up until the end of the month.
Sleeper — a brand founded by friends and former fashion editors Kate Zubarieva and Asya Varetsa and led by a largely female workforce — is also a pioneer of this look, no more so than with its current spring/summer collection which is brimming with gingham picnic checks, smocked ruffle sleeves and lace up corset waistlines.
Similarly Reformation, the cult brand by LA native Yael Aflalo, has also adopted a millennial Little Women mindset for its newest launch which takes vintage Laura Ashley-esque prints and a period accurate silhouette and translates it into series of fresh and youthful dresses with the addition of shorter hemlines or thigh-high splits.
Cecilie Bahnsen, Susie Cave’s label The Vampire’s Wife, and Simone Rocha are also well worth seeking out if you have a bit more cash to splash.
A pretty dress won’t fix all of life’s problems — but it can’t make them worse either.