The Little Slip Dress

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This is the dress that everyone is slipping into in summer – to make a statement. Zanele Kumalo unpacks the little slip dress.

You probably have the LBD ready for any cocktail or special occasion, and a shirt dress to take you from desk to dinner, but none are as versatile as a slip dress.

Admittedly, it is not the most travel-friendly item to pack, especially when it imade of silk or satin, but there are ways around it, like sandwiching it between layers of a softknit cardigan and cotton T-shirts in your suitcase.  

Purple slip dress

Versatile Styling 

When it comes to styling what is sometimes also called the camisole dress, there are no fabrics that don’t look great against it, including leather, wool, and fake fur, or accessories that won’t bring out the best in it, like sneakers, boots, sandals or heels.

Wear it over a T-shirt or mesh top if you want to show less skin, or even over pants or a skirt to add some volume.

Layer it with kimono or kaftan made of a similar fabric for more textural drama when it gets cooler.  

From Inner-To Outerwear 

Sensual and sexy in any colour or length, the real incarnation has been as an undergarment or night-time sleepwear, but many trends ago, it was pushed from inner- to outerwear.

And we love that the slip dress gets to see the light of day especially when temperatures start to rise, and you need an item that is simple, light, and cool.

Since the 90s, designers like Alexander Wang, Mmuso Maxwell, and Hannah Lavery have all reincarnated the slip dress, along with 25-year-old Thebe Magugu, who most recently won the 2019 LVMH Prize for his womenswear.

Becoming the first South African to win the accolade, he is an expert not only in layering fabrics, but using garments to, as Design Indaba says, “carry subtle political messages”

black slip dress

Political Messages 

Like his Gender Studies SS18 range, of which he said in an interview with PROTOChic, “I was not inspired by, but rather wanted to comment on the expectations placed on women in current-day South Africa.

We have one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, but it is still quite subtly [and sometimes not so subtly] sexist, with unchecked misogyny that tries to erase women – whether socio-politically or just through cold-blooded murder… now more than ever, women REALLY need one another because from all the things that are happening in today’s time, there is clearly a raging war on them.”  

His camisole dress forms a part of that collection.  

It is particularly poignant as we march peacefully against gender-based violence, and women fight for the freedom to dress exactly as we want. 

Words by Zanele Kumalo 

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