Forget everything you thought you knew about eveningwear – the dress codes your mother once insisted on simply no longer apply. What once would have raised eyebrows – think a mid-length dress at a formal event, or wearing black to a wedding – is now wholeheartedly embraced (just don’t think you can get away with wearing white – that’s still the bride’s domain).
“What was considered black tie is now irrelevant really,” remarks Australian fashion designer Rachel Gilbert. “Everyone’s got their sense of individual style, which has changed how we think of eveningwear across the globe.”
Gilbert would know – after launching her namesake eveningwear label in 2007, she’s been perfectly placed to watch the category kick up its heels and switch to party mode. It’s a shift she’s excited about, she tells style influencer Jasmin Howell in our FIAT 500 Fashion Files (watch their interview above). “Everyone’s going more casual and black tie can now be a cocktail dress,” she says. “It’s about interpreting your sense of style and what eveningwear means to you.”
In acknowledgement of this shift, Rachel Gilbert now spans everything from full-throttle glamour (think floor-length silk dresses dripping with embellishment) to breezy casualwear (in the form of crisp cotton twill day dresses). “It’s great to be able to try new shapes and fabrics,” Gilbert admits. “As an eveningwear designer I never thought I’d be working with cotton, but it’s been really interesting and a lot of fun.”
Take the brand’s spring/summer ’18 collection, worn by both Gilbert and Howell in the above video. From bold hues like canary yellow (as worn by Howell) and rich berry to latte and fresh white, it’s the kind of clothing that will have you wishing the weekend was already here.
“I think spring/summer makes you want to go out and dance,” says Gilbert with a smile. It’s this energetic spirit that imbues all her designs that makes them so coveted by party girls and celebrities alike. Nicole Kidman, Kim Kardashian and Karlie Kloss have all dressed in Rachel Gilbert on the red carpet, but it’s saying something that none of those names represent the designer’s proudest celebrity dressing moment.
“The most memorable A-lister I’ve dressed would be Crown Princess Mary of Denmark,” Gilbert divulges. “That woman is gorgeous, she’s confident, she’s sophisticated – she’s just a dream.”
Despite her foray into day dressing, the kind of eveningwear that makes a woman weak at the knees will always be at the heart of Rachel Gilbert’s label. “Embellishment and eveningwear is our trademark,” she says, pulling out one of her favourite ever gowns, a silvery shift glittering with glass beads and finished with masses of pastel purple feathers.
“I designed this for a collection a couple of years ago,” she tells Howell. “You know when a woman finds her wedding dress and knows it’s the one? This came out of the box from the factory and I had that same feeling – it’s just so ethereal but elegant and it embodies the Rachel Gilbert woman.”
After dark dressing may be loosening up, but we’d jump at the opportunity to wear a gown as good as this any day of the week.