The Genteel
April 17, 2021


Alexander Wang, Commes des Garcons, Damir Doma, Burberry, Resort 2014. Source:

Resort 2014 and S/S 2014 collections have flooded the fashion-scape in a sea of white. With colour-blocking and heavy patterns dominating 2012 and 2013 collections, the white wave is a refreshing palate cleanser. From Damir Doma (Resort 2014 and S/S 2014) to Chanel (Cruise 2014), designers left long-lasting impressions with their clean, crisp shades of white.

Sharon Stone as Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct. Source:
Sharon Stone as Catherine Tramell
in Basic Instinct (1992).

In Milan, Roberto Cavalli's whites appeared in the form of India-inspired dresses, loose-cotton trousers, moto-jackets and fringed-clutches. In New York, Alexander Wang showcased voluminous white-on-white ensembles which were given structure and roundness through opulent pleats and darts. In Singapore, Chanel presented white in heavy tweeds, light silks, subtle white lace and even white latex overlays, and of course, pearls. While in London, Burberry Prorsum showed all-white trench coats, peep-toe wedge booties, see-through crochet dresses, and softly tailored blazers.

A "colour" that is often linked to femininity, 2014 collections are pushing the boundaries of the stereotype; blinding white-on-white ensembles made a frequent appearance in S/S 2014 menswear collections. From the oh-so-cool white suits of Dolce & Gabbana, to the heavily layered whites of Comme des Garçons, designers not only boasted their versatility, but that of the colour white as well.

Untainted and untouched, white possesses no pigment. In Western culture, white evokes romance, innocence and virginity. Both prestigious and ceremonial, it's the colour of peace and holiness. White is sweet-natured, lulling us into a hypnotic state of calmness and offers possibilities - a blank canvas, if you will - to create with it or upon it.

But there's also something mischievous about white. To illustrate this point, I turn to F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, The Great Gatsby. Daisy, the love-obsession of Gatsby, is constantly associated and surrounded by white - her skin, her vehicle, her outfits, even her childhood is described as "beautiful white".

Related: In Gatsby Style.

In the novel, Fitzgerald cleverly uses white to cloak the impurity and corruption of his characters. Beneath a delicate surface, Daisy is a careless and destructive character. And when Gatsby meets with Daisy for the first time in five years, he strategically wears a white suit (much like those seen in Dolce & Gabbana Summer 2014), to make a wholesome impression whilst covering up his tainted life.

I think the allure of an all-white outfit lies in the obvious - it's literally a blank slate.

The sterility and emptiness of white at times creates an unusual ambiance - it can evoke naughtier associations and images, like of The Virgin Suicides (1999) rather than of The Virgin Mary. And in the American erotic thriller Basic Instinct (1992), the seductive and dangerous Catherine Tramell (played by Sharon Stone) wears a white turtleneck dress, white coat, and white slingback heels in one of most provocative and memorable scenes in cinematic history.

Although black is widely favoured in the fashion industry as the colour of understatement, mischief and of a certain je ne sais quoi, its dominance in the fashion-scape as of late, has made it feel too safe. On the other hand, there's a certain risk in wearing all white: it's so impractical and non-standard, that it becomes statement-making.

Market Editor of The Wall Street Journal Magazine, Preetma Singh, agrees and elaborates to The Genteel: "I think the allure of an all-white outfit lies in the obvious - it's literally a blank slate. It can be pure and innocent or clinical and a bit weird; fresh and inviting or sterile and cold; full of goodness or the absence of anything. An all-white look can even produce all those connotations at once given the right context, and that is a level of expression that is completely empowering."

And so, from the overpowering presence of chic black, punctuated with trendy colour-blocking, emerges blinding white with all of its romanticism and strangeness packing a fashion-forward punch for 2014.



Sign up to receive a weekly dispatch from The Genteel.

About Us

The Genteel unearths the forces shaping global fashion and design through the lens of business, culture, society and best kept secrets. 

More about us

Our Contributors

A worldwide collective of contributors currently form The Genteel. On a daily basis our team dispatches thought-provoking and insightful articles from the streets of Oslo, Toronto, Beirut, Moscow, United Arab Emirates, Seoul and beyond.