Mermaid Bliss: SON Vintage's Pillow Dress

Spring into bling

Post-pandemic life is a party


This article is taken from the May 2022 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

Mlearned friend, writer, wit and raconteur, Harry Mount, boasts several axioms regarding matters sartorial. Chief among these is that his clothes should be “retired” to the family holiday home in Wales. Cue Haz strolling about Pembroke with a raffish, vagabond air reminiscent of Zoolander’s “Derelicte” collection, itself a tribute to “Haute Homeless”, Galliano’s Spring/Summer 2000 couture creations for Dior, complete with tin cups, J&B bottles and consumptive slap.

The Mountian motto that concerns us here is that which can be applied to party dressing. Namely, that nothing good can come of a black tie event, the scent of doom lying heavy in the air.

He’s right, of course. But, also: FFS. We’ve had — what? — two, three, ten years of lockdown sweatpantery, meaning the desire to dress UP is strong. Party tits were back at the Oscars, “decolletarse” has been deemed a thing, glitz, glitter and metallics — traditionally packed away on 1 January — are making spring bling more ubiquitous than florals. “Gilded Glamour” is the theme for May’s Met Gala. To be sure, pained event dressing is ghastly. However, post-pandemic party dressing is about life as a party, resplendence with insouciance, sequins by day.

Time was, I barely sported princess shoes at all

I’ve just spent a week in Paris and nothing makes me want to top myself more than its womenfolk’s excruciating good-taste uniform of big coats, cool trainers, plus a violently expensive bag, as showcased on the Instagram account, Parisiennes in Paris. Live a little, bitches. Or, as my toddler niece once put it: “Hannah wears princess shoes every day.”

Like all fetishes, this can be traced back to infancy. Time was, I barely sported princess shoes at all. Where my younger sister was granted an array of party gowns and both gold and silver dancing sandals, I was permitted merely one, on the basis that I refused to go to parties, not liking other children, or, indeed, people.

The adorable Big Green Dress

This was a tragedy I have been overcompensating for ever since. Witness the early 2000s, which I largely spent nose pressed up against Lanvin’s window, sighing over Alber Elbaz’s sumptuous, jewel-toned cocktail frocks. More recently, I have devoted years to stalking an emerald Yves Saint Laurent puffball three sizes too small.

For a rental fillip, head to or and hire something giddying to allay quotidian gloom. On the former, my pick includes a fuchsia Hervé Léger, ruffle-hem, bandage dress (from £7 a day), a yellow-gold Vampire’s Wife kaftan (from £44 a day, and, yes, it’s half my size, but, I did say “kaftan”), and a marshmallow-hued Sorcha O’Raghallaigh crystal wig (from £32).

If you’re buying, slapper-chic stalwart Karen Millen has confections modelled by Nineties’ super Helena Christensen, “influenced by the bold spirit, yet cultivated nonchalance” of fin de siècle hedonism. Its Beaded Fringe Woven Mini Dress (£349, moves fabulously.

Warehouse also boasts a fair bit of bling. Although how this hangs IRL is a moot point as it looks more than a little rum on some of its models and one wants this stuff to be loved and to last.

Better to seek out coruscating slow-fashion star SON Vintage London, an innovative, eco-friendly, vintage-restoration label with a penchant for fabulous fabrics, heritage highs, and cunning craftspersonship. Quoth co-founders Trudie Ball and Sue Poole:

The planet doesn’t need more new stuff. Our clothing history is rich, meaning we don’t need to start from scratch every time. Our edits are small, the process unhurried, originality key. We honour the integrity of the original design, while bringing each piece bang up-to-date, inspiring delight in the wearer and onlooker alike.

Think prom dresses reworked as jumpsuits, gowns reborn as maximalist minis, joyous touches by way of matching cuffs, bows and headbands, and more flounces than a Sondheim sing-along. I adore Big Green (£400,, a voluminous, emerald brocade show-stopper, sensational on the small-framed. The Scarab (£300) is an incredible, electric-blue halter frock with a deep v-back conjuring the silver brilliance of the scene-stealer currently dominating Balenciaga’s Rue Saint-Honoré flagship. Meanwhile, the Pillow Dress (£400) is pure mermaid bliss.

For the gaiety of nations, I purchased I Fink In Love You Two (£200), an exquisitely simple navy column dress with fuck-off, sequinned, chevron, 3/4 balloon sleeves in bolts of blue and silver. I would wear it, equally insouciantly, with hot pink kitten heels to the Serpentine summer shindig, somebody’s nuptials, or the pub.

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