Modern Romance by Gail O'Neill

By Gail O’Neill, Style Editor

Celebrating the polonaise ~ the classically, elegant evening gown silhouette designed in the late 1800’s that has managed to endure and seduce fashion’s finest  right up to the present wedding gown collections.

Charles Frederick Worth was the founder of Paris haute couture whose aesthetic perfectly suited the conspicuous consumption of France’s Second Empire, the rein of Britain’s Queen Victoria and America’s Gilded Age. Credited with popularizing the cage crinoline (think hoop skirts), the half crinoline (which shifted the skirt’s fullness to the back), and inventing the first bustle; Worth’s gift for innovation was balanced by his genius for incorporating elements of historic dress into modern design.

Charles Frederick Worth, Evening Dress, 1887
The House of Worth Evening Dress, 1892

The House of Worth’s polonaise (a bodice and overskirt, made in one piece and worn over a separate skirt) was a modified version of an eighteenth-century style worn by Marie Antoinette. Couturiers including Christian Dior, Pierre Balmain and Yves Saint Laurent evolved the look in the 1950’s, but the hyper-feminized silhouette–which made a woman’s waist appear smaller and her derrière more rounded–was left unaltered.

Pierre Balmain, 1953

Halle Berry in Elie Saab, 2002

Elie Saab revived the classic when he dressed Halle Berry for the Academy Awards in 2002, but Hubert de Givenchy’s interpretation of the sheath dress coupled with an overskirt remains the most iconic thanks to the ball gown he designed for Audrey Hepburn in the 1954 film “Sabrina.”

Audrey Hepburn in “Sabrina”, Hubert de Givenchy, 1954

Granted, most of us will never win an Oscar, star in a Cinderella tale of a chauffer’s daughter who wins the heart of her prince charming (if you have never seen “Sabrina,” add it to your Netflix queue today!), nor have the opportunity to wear an old-fashioned ball gown — but with Romona Keveza’s 2013 collection, any bride can experience the thrill of modern romance minus the fussy embellishments of yesteryear!

Romona Keveza

Romona Keveza, 2013

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