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Stylistically speaking, there’s perhaps no more enduring form than the swooping, asymmetrical shape of the stola and palla, the garments worn by women in ancient Rome (meant to symbolize their married status) and, most famously, by the Statue of Liberty. Figure-enhancing garb that conveniently drapes in all the right places, these historic costumes have been redrawn countless times to the same dazzling effect – this season in the form of gorgeous cocktail wear.

“Draping,” says Toronto stylist Nadia Pizzimenti, who worked on the shoot on these pages, “can be strategically used to highlight the best features on your body as well as hide the often troublesome parts. Adding asymmetrical points to the draping creates shape and movement, making the dress do all the work for you.”

In the early part of the 20th century, designers such as Madeleine Vionnet, Madame Grès and Mariano Fortuny realized the power of pleating, how gathered fabric could be crafted to appear lavish yet refined. Ruching, a technique used on wiggle dresses in the 1950s, has remained popular thanks to Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz, who has used the design element in several collections, giving a sexy twist to the ubiquitous shift-dress shape. For spring/summer 2014, Alberta Ferretti, Joseph Altuzarra, Donna Karan and Clare Waight Keller at Chloé played with handkerchief hemlines, gathering and asymmetrical detailing to create an ethereal array of summer frocks.

For their part, the Canadian design duo Kirk Pickersgill and Stephen Wong of Greta Constantine have built a mini-empire on these kinds of details. Season after season, their signature toga-like jersey pieces and gauzy gowns with intermission hemlines offer fresh takes on the style. “We’ve always found there to be a timeless femininity to draping,” the duo notes.

Speaking of the pastel-pink dress worn by stage actor Sarena Parmar for this feature, they call attention to the “trompe l’oeil rear capelet” that cascades down the back of the dress. “From every angle, this dress appears different, further drawing in and alluring the eye of the beholder.” It’s like a wearable set piece.

As Greta Constantine’s array of versions suggests, the key to the longevity of this style has been its adaptability. This season’s models, including knee-grazing silks, knotted jerseys and sinuous light wools, are especially rich, offering something for every age, body type and occasion, whether it’s an evening in the city or an out-of-town wedding (many of these numbers are lightweight and travel well).

By adding just a few finishing touches – metal jewellery and a colourful clutch, say – you’ll be ready to step into the spotlight with minimal effort. And the reviews are sure to be raves.

Photos by Javier Lovera for The Globe and Mail

River stance

Jenny Young’s first season at the festival has seen her dive into an eclectic range of roles, from several characters in Alice Through The Looking-Glass to an eccentric monarch in Christina, The Girl King. Noting how pervasive the history and tradition of theatre is in Stratford, the actor has been especially inspired by her surroundings. “The entire [city] feels like it’s geared toward having an experience that satisfies the needs of both an ardent theatregoer as well as the dabbler in live performance.”

BCBG dress, $229 at BCBG (www.bcbg.com). Hermès bangles $445 each, scarf, $990, shoes, $1,300 at Hermès (www.hermes.com). Orciani belt, $395 at George C (www.georgec.ca). Shot on location in Stratford’s riverside Shakespearean Gardens.

Into the Blue

A graduate of Stratford’s Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre, Jennifer Mogbock marks her triumphant return to the region with roles in three plays: King John, Mother Courage and Antony and Cleopatra. “I came to Stratford for the first time in 2009 and, since then, my biggest goal was to be an actor at the festival,” she says. “Here I am five years later, making my debut and accomplishing one of my biggest dreams.”

Helmut Lang dress, $455 at Holt Renfrew (www.holtrenfrew.com). Carole Tanenbaum Vintage Collection necklace, $650 through www.caroletanenbaum.com. Paula Mendoza ring, $190 through www.paulamendoza.com. Shot on location at Balzac’s Coffee Roasters in Stratford (www.balzacs.com).

Fold standard

Like many actors at Stratford, Sarena Parmar inhabits the roles of various characters this season (she plays Rose in Alice Through The Looking-Glass and appears in Antony and Cleopatra). It’s a feature of the festival she particularly enjoys. “You can see an actor play the mother of a future king in the afternoon and a street-smart canteen woman in the evening,” she says. “There’s something exciting about that to me – that the audience can watch us transform for them.”

Greta Constantine dress, $815 through www.gretaconstantine.com. Marni earrings, $370 at Holt Renfrew (www.holtrenfrew.com). Paula Mendoza rings, $175 each through www.paulamendoza.com. Shot on location at Confederation Park in Stratford.

Flare for the dramatic

A passion for musical theatre and training from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet is proving especially handy this season for Natalie Moore, who appears in the Stratford Festival’s current production of Crazy For You. The “dream-come-true” opportunity has given the Ottawa-born actor, singer and dancer the chance to soak in local ambiance, from the Ontario city’s “beautiful parks and gardens” to its food (her favourite spot is Mercer Hall Restaurant, where she likes to dine with her cast mates).

Sportmax dress, $975 at Sportmax boutiques (www.sportmax.com). Lanvin necklace, $1,300, Celine cuff, $995 at Holt Renfrew (www.holtrenfrew.com). Bionda Castana shoes, $690 at Hudson’s Bay (www.thebay.com). Shot on location backstage at the Stratford Festival Theatre (www.stratfordfestival.ca).

A grand entrance

Of the two Shakespearean productions Maev Beaty appears in this season (she plays Goneril in King Lear and Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night’s Dream), it’s the tragedy that has special meaning to her. Beaty met her husband in a production of the play 17 years ago and this year, “on the opening day, our 10-month-old daughter, Esmé, took her first steps on her own,” she says.

Lanvin dress, $1,995 at Holt Renfrew (www.holtrenfrew.com). Anndra Neen bangle, $310 through www.anndraneen.com. Manolo Blahnik shoes, $825 at Davids Footwear (www.davidsfootwear.com). Carole Tanenbaum Vintage Collection earrings, $550 through www.caroletanenbaum.com. Shot on location at 51 Avon St., a 150-year-old park-side home near downtown Stratford (www.homeandcompany.ca).

Falling short

“In 1996, I attended my very first play at the Stratford Festival, a production of Alice Through The Looking-Glass,” says Ijeoma Emesowum. “I remember sitting in the theatre, completely in awe.” Eighteen years later, Emesowum is making her Stratford debut with roles in both Alice Through The Looking-Glass and Hay Fever.

Vionnet dress, $1,234, Lisa Corbo rings, $150 to $250 at George C (www.georgec.ca). Carole Tanenbaum Vintage Collection necklace, $500 through www.caroletanenbaum.com. Diane von Furstenberg purse, $345, Miu Miu shoes, $895 at TNT (www.tntfashion.ca). Shot on location in the lobby of Stratford’s new boutique hotel, The Bruce.

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