If every era has its characteristic fabric, then lamé - slinky, shiny, and shown to best effect under nightclub lights - would have to be the 1970s in material form. As fashion designers take another look at style tropes from that decade, it’s no surprise that lamé is back, in a bigger way than we’ve seen practically since the heyday of disco.
Michael Halpern, named British Emerging Talent at the 2017 Fashion Awards, loves a bit of lamé mixed in with his lashings of sequins. French designer Isabel Marant is at it too, using crinkled red and evergreen lamé fabric for trousers in her spring-summer 2018 collection.
Downtown New York brand Baja East played on lamé’s louche associations with some slippy, sheeny, silvery pieces, while Christian Dior designer Maria Grazia Chiuri looked to the fabric’s luxurious side with a gold pyjama-style suit -- inspired, perhaps, by the pleated gold lamé gown she created for Charlize Theron to wear to the 2017 Academy Awards.
And it seems like everyone (Alexa Chung, Jenna Coleman, Sienna Miller and Ruth Negga, to name several) has worn The Vampire’s Wife’s Festival dress: a high-necked, frilly-hemmed, Edwardian dress—in lamé!
Silver metallic chiffon mini festival dress, £1,395, The Vampire's Wife
Not that it’s an entirely new rediscovery (who could forget Kate Moss in Marc Jacobs at the 2009 Met Gala?). But for all its apparent novelty, lamé has been around since ancient times, when ‘cloth of gold’ was used in religious and royal ceremonies.
More recently, designer Jeanne Lanvin’s sketchbooks show examples of lamé evening gowns dating to the 1930s. And Nancy Mitford mentioned it in Love in a Cold Climate, published in 1949 (‘[I]t smells like a bird cage when it gets hot but I do love it,’ one of her characters said of her silver lamé ball gown -- the odour being one downside to the real metal used in early lamés).
Metallic drawstring top, £45, & Other Stories
These days the effect comes from metallic-finish yarns (think tinsel), making modern lamés far lighter and less smelly than their retro predecessors. If you have a vintage lamé stunner just waiting for an outing, then there could be no better occasion than New Year’s Eve.
Air it out immediately. Don’t chance ironing, as any steam (or stains, or dried perspiration) could cause older metallic fibres to tarnish. If yours is already afflicted, use a compound of lemon juice and salt to restore lustre. And practice twirling - you’re going to want to show this one off.
Tracking the trendDisco queen
When model Pat Cleveland wore this sunray-pleated Zandra Rhodes gown to one of Halston’s parties at Studio 54 in 1977, she couldn’t have known that the dress would sell out when Rhodes reissued it through her Zandra Rhodes Archive label nearly 40 years later.Silver siren
Supermodel Kate Moss stood out for the simplicity of her look at the 2009 Met Gala, and for its sheer glamour. The short, nearly backless silver mini-dress featured a dramatic shoulder drape and matching turban that ensured Moss was the talk of the red carpet.Green goddess
Lupita Nyong’o walked the Star Wars: The Last Jedi red carpet in all-eyes-on-me green dress by London designer-of-the-moment Michael Halpern. He’s the man prompting fashion insiders to trade their minimalism for sequins, so prepare your eyes for more sparkle to come.