The Dress: Magic times three

My GF C. and I descended on Muriel Dombret's Toronto trunk show last week, riffling happily though her winter collection of boiled-wool jackets, fine wool and matte jersey skirts and tops, velvety-soft fine cord pants.

Then we found The Dress, a simple black column with a slight stand-up semi-bateau neckline, a nearly straight narrow body with shape added by two soft inverted pleats under the bust, and three-quarter sleeves. The fabric, a supple Italian rayon-poly blend, mimics fine wool but is washable.

I zipped on the size 14, and had that sense of 'rightness' when a dress fits and flatters. I looked rather "Mad Men" (Joanie, not Betty): my ample curves settled down and behaved. I wouldn't say I looked thin, but the dress made the noblest effort on my behalf.

C. tried The Dress in a size 8. With her willowy frame, she became Breakfast at Tiffany's chic. The dress courted her. She looked born to wear it, smiling from a Town Car en route to cocktails at the King Cole Bar

C. referred to The Dress as "strict", described in my post (11/08/08) about a European style category. That's right; Muriel is Belgian, and her designs reflect the quality, subtle detail and rigour of this aesthetic.

Then our friend J. showed up. She's about as wide as a credit card, and looks like Patti Smith. She wears spare, neutral, low key/downtown styles. We greeted her, both wearing The Dress, holding glasses of bubbly, and insisted she try the size 6 (a bit large but Muriel can make a smaller size.)

Magic once again, it lent J. a Left Bank insouciance, not messing with her highly individual presence, but adding edge to the background of her
mix. If C. looked like Audrey Hepburn, J. looked like Juliette Greco, a boho goddess.

So, who bought The Dress?

J. didn't, because an upcoming New York wedding was on her mind; she chose a black boiled-wool soft jacket for everyday wear.

C. didn't, though she looked incredible- she thought she'd have limited occasions to wear it, and chose a black jacquard jacket with an interesting folded collar.

Yes! I bought The Dress, which Muriel will cut two inches longer for my height, so it hits
just below the knee, a better length for me.

Muriel brings swatches of fine fabrics; you can order the pieces in various colours or weights, For example, the boiled wool jacket is available in three weights, ranging from the thickness of a fine sweater to outerwear.

The designs are adapted for your body, without extra cost, except postage.
If you find something you love, and want a second colour, you can get it.

Prices are very reasonable for the quality, about $250-$375 for example, for a jacket or dress that will not go out of style, fall apart, or be worn by everyone you see (un
less you all buy The Dress).

What would you call this business model? "Not-quite-couture?" Whatever it is, I'm a devoted customer.

Why don't more designers do this?


materfamilias said…
I'm thinking of getting to a conference in Ottawa next spring -- if I do, I'll definitely stop in and check out The Dress if it's still available. It sounds like something you'd want in several colours and fabrics as the mainstay of a working wardrobe. Lucky you!
Susan B said…
Why don't more do this, indeed! Think I'm going to need to schedule a visit there as well.
NancyDaQ said…
I like this concept a lot. It's not expensive, considering that you're essentially getting a custom piece. It fits you, it's classic,you'll wear it a long time. What's not to love?
Anonymous said…
I am sighing with envy and once again contemplating making a north-of-the-border fashion trip.

Or maybe not. Here in the Bay Area, Diana Slavin ( practices a similar not-quite-couture model. I've never taken advantage of her trunk shows, which would be the way to go: her ready-to-wear is inevitably too short overall for me, especially in the torso, but if you order early she'll customize the measurements.
Duchesse said…
materfamilias: You'd find many pieces you'd like. Ottawa's charms are...subtle.

fritinancy: I looked at the Diane Slavin web site and found the clothes beautiful! But you are certainly welcome to come up here, I'll post the spring trunk show dates.

Pseu: That would be wonderful, we'd throw a parade.
Mardel said…
What a fabulous idea. I agree that it is a great concept and it is a shame that there aren't more resources for this kind of thing.

I am increasingly thinking that fabulously fitting simple basic pieces the most difficult things to find. When you find something, it is a treasure.
Anonymous said…
If you want custom a wedding dress,you do not need so complex,just visit or email the picture to,we will custom the dress for you,this service is free!Of cause,our prices are very low!please visit our website
Duchesse said…
cinderella: Wedding dresses are traditionally sold on the "show a sample and order, with possible modifications" model. I hadn't thought of this, b/c it's many years since I wore one and even then it wasn't a traditional one.

mardel: I wonder if the recession will encourage this approach? The success of the model depends on delivering orders quite rapidly. All fabrication is done in same city as her boutique, with non-sweatshop labour.
materfamilias said…
have to chuckle at your comment on Ottawa's subtle charms. Pater worked there from '99 to 2003/4 (now that was a long commute!) and I visited regularly. He had an apt. downtown, just off Elgin, and I loved the walkability of the city, the access to museums and galleries and concerts and plays. Loved the market in summer and winter. Not sure I'd want to live there permanently, but there is much to love, despite the preponderance of bureaucrats and bureaucracy, consultants and lobbyists, etc., ;-)
Anonymous said…
Duchesse, you MUST put a camera in your purse for things like this!!! I wanted to SEE you all in this dress!
Duchesse said…
ma: I'd add skating on the canal, living in a truly bilingual city and being only an hour-plus from Montreal. But I still find it terrifyingly cold, and a bit too small for my unreserved endorsement.

karen: maybe next time- I'm not as skilled a photographer as you!
Duchesse said…
materfamilias: If you do go, the dress is called "Violet".
Anonymous said…
I'm so jealous I can barely type!! That sounds exactly like the dress of my dreams, in fact the shopping of my dreams.
Glennis said…
LOVE this idea. If ever I get to Ottowa I'm there. But, please please please, Duchesse, a photo? Is the Violet in the pictures on the website?

I used to go to a place in Seattle called Opus 204 that was wonderfully similar - it has closed and I haven't found a substitute. The Diana Slavin site looks promising.

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