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April 05, 2008

Ethereal Nature

Posted in: Dresses


Rodarte (American, founded 2005). Evening Dress, fall/winter 2006–7. Pale yellow silk chiffon and white silk satin with accordion pleating and self-fabric applied panels and rosettes. Gift of Christine Suppes, 2007 (2007.381).

Rodarte is the label of the Mulleavy sisters, Kate and Laura. In the two years since establishing their design house, the sisters have developed a devout following among fashion connoisseurs. Their dresses are characterized by an obsessional attention to detail. In this gown, fragile silk chiffon and lightweight silk satin have been pinked into fluttering ruffles, pleated into fluidly undulating panels, and torqued into their signature flower motifs. While the exquisite finishes of their designs are appreciated by critics and clients alike, it is their preference for an eased fit that keeps their work from appearing uptight and overly considered. At Rodarte, stiffer fabrics in brocades and metallics are invested with movement and swing, and the house’s favored organzas and chiffons are painstakingly worked to emphasize their fluttering ethereality. A Rodarte gown, therefore, is not only beautiful in the long view of the red carpet but also in circumstances of greater intimacy. The seduction of their craft is in the lightness of their touch.

Our work is often a study of balance, in which volume, construction, and color have a complex interplay that we carefully control. With this gown, in particular, we wanted to find a way of controlling pleats, and used pleating as a means of creating tonal texture. In using the pinked edges and the hand-cut waves, surrounded by a column of pleats, we were able to literally create depth in this piece while also maintaining both its delicacy and a light-as-air appearance and touch. Here, we also attempted to simulate the texture of tree bark, but in a soft and ethereal manner. Having grown up in northern California, completely surrounded by redwoods, tide pools, mustard fields, and apple orchards, we frequently translate vivid natural landscapes into our designs.

—Laura and Kate Mulleavy

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