Silver has always had a bit of an inferiority complex. What do winners get? A gold medal. What does second place get? A decidedly less impressive silver one. And yet, this metal once held prime of place, its pale hue associated with the moon and the bones of the gods of Ancient Egypt. Today, the bright-eyed metallic is quick to look cheesy – picture Jane Fonda’s Barbarella and any number of foil-encrusted Halloween costumes and you get the idea. So it is safe to say silver has an identity crisis. It is both aspirational (you’re born with a silver spoon in your mouth if you’re lucky; silver linings bring good tidings) or a sign of decay (unlike gold, silver tarnishes) and deception (crossing someone’s palm with silver). Yet despite this psychological complex, silver has endured throughout the centuries as a color to be worn with audacity and irreverence in equal measure.
Originally printed in the December 2018 issue of Vogue Arabia
It’s always been an eye-catching choice, with the Old Hollywood stars deploying silver lamé gowns with devastating effect, all wasp-waists and exaggerated shoulders, the metal slinking off their frames. Ida Lupino – one of the first actresses to also become a director and producer – once donned a silver leather trench coat in the 1940s, decades before Calvin Klein 205W39NYC sent its version down the Fall 18 runway. Pierre Balmain gave his signature cinched-in bombshell look a visionary gleam in silver leopard print in the 1950s, a daring look echoed by Givenchy and Christopher Kane today.
At this time of year, celebratory dressing takes center stage, with events and parties galore. And what could be more merry than a burnished silver gown glinting and gleaming in the light? Get yours made made bespoke, or look to Alberta Ferretti and Erdem for grown-up sparkle. “There’s a fine line between what shines bright and what looks like a disco ball,” says designer Dima Ayad. “For a bespoke party outfit, choose the type of shine that suits your body. Stretchy shimmer fabrics work well for curvy figures, while more embellished looks suit a slimmer silhouette.” Stephanie Costello, co-founder of bespoke luxury dress label Stello, agrees. “Arab women are having a transcendent moment, with a love for sparkle. The most requested look is a silver metallic finish. It brings glamour and makes every woman feel like a superstar.”
Space-age influences have been taking one giant leap for fashion for a few seasons now. Remember when Karl Lagerfeld blasted off an actual rocket in the middle of the Grand Palais in Paris at the Chanel FW17 show, with models wrapped in silver quilted space blankets, wearing matching tights, boots, and dresses?
It’s easy to see why the metal has never lost its shine. Gold’s second-place sister is perhaps the most futuristic color in the spectrum. Emma Boutros, founder and creative director of Beirut-based Poise Design, associates silver with a sleek, industrial, modern look. “It’s simultaneously ornate, graceful, and elegant. It’s not as flashy as gold, but as precious.” This season’s silver has grown up, with a shine for every style. Olivier Rousteing dressed up his Balmain army in oversized holographic suits, Dior showed voluminous hi-vis jackets, while Givenchy’s flapper-inspired fringe dresses were updated with slouchy white boots – a party look that harkens to the past while being resolutely futuristic.
If you want to press fast-forward on your evening look, think more Gigi Hadid in bespoke Tommy Hilfiger at the 2016 Met Ball, less Elizabeth Hurley in Austin Powers. The look should be streamlined yet eye-catching. Keep the silhouette easy and a bit loose, to avoid straying into 2001: A Space Odyssey territory. Silver and white is clean, silver and black is straightforward, or add deep jewel tones – Giorgio Armani paired gunmetal silver coats with a fitted black shoulder cape and burgundy boots. Not ready to go full silver? Start with a shoe. Shiny shoes have always been a sign of refinement and a silver loafer is shorthand for the future, while anchoring a look in today.
Silver has that mercurial quality of injecting ostensibly boring pieces with a jolt of energy. Something seemingly utilitarian and old-fashioned – a midi-length pleated skirt, a knitted sweater – instantly achieves a dynamic, full-speed-ahead feel when rendered in silver. Pairing it with basics like a plain white tee gives your look a lift, while it retreats into neutral territory when worn with loud prints or brash primary colors. Be careful of the shape and overall appearance, though – if you glance in the mirror and see an astronaut, tone it down with a touch of black or white, or a contrasting texture.
Silver has all the qualities of gray, while being fun, playful, and lively. It symbolizes a sleek, future-proof style; glamorous and graceful at every turn. As we head into 2019 after the Sturm und Drang of this year, a bit more shine and glamour is hardly a bad thing.