You can count on an economic downturn to cause a miniature movement, a rebellion, against the pared-back and practical. There was a subplot to the fall 2012 fashion season that set out to prove that luxury and opulence are alive and kicking, and it took the form of a revival of the heavily ornate. From embroidery to brocade, garments mirrored the lavishness of artworks, architecture and plush interior decorations – some with more baroque trills and turns than a Bach cantata.

After the break, a look at the trend and how to wear it.

Click the thumbnails for full pictures
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe
Lavish & luxe

As with any revival this one isn’t a straight-out repeat of a particular era. Some collections draw comparisons to the early Baroque era, some later or French Rococo. Contrarily, the Renaissance even popped up as an inspiraiton. The point is it’s useless trying to pigeonhole the entire revival into one: its really a swirl of influences that collectively make up a broader, new, aesthetic. So while we can refer to fall 2012’s trend as being neo-Baroque or neo-Rococo, not every garment or collection will fit a particular term.

What we can look at instead are the common elements that come together to form the aesthetic.

Baroque revival: the elements

  • Embroidery, needlepoint and tapestry.
  • Rich fabrics like velvet, leather and silk brocades.
  • Gold, gold and more gold. Gold hardware, gold embellishments, gold thread.
  • Ornate patterns that preference symmetry over assymmetry and curves over hard lines.
  • References to artworks, sculpture, interior design (don’t be suprised if some garments make you think of grandiose staircases or antique wallpaper).

baroque inspired dress
Complex curves at Aquilano Rimondi F/W ’12

How to wear ornate clothing in 2012

There was enough baroque inspired embellishment on the fall runways that you can expect to see it in stores and on the street – but not so much that you can expect a mainstream glut of it at the turn of every corner. As such there’s an opportunity to stand out if you wear it well. We’ve broken it down into two main looks: regal and rockstar.

Regal

Dramatic. Exuberant. Excessive.

The way to make this work is not to do anything by halves. Don’t pair an embroidered velvet cape with a pair of ballet flats: go for the heels, or the luxe leather boots. Layer on the jewels (costume or otherwise). Top it off with a bold red lip. It’s all about conviction, and a look that screams lavishness against all odds.

baroque embroidered cape
Going all out with gold embroidery at Dolce & Gabbana, F/W ’12

Rock

Rock’n’roll has always had the connotation of fast living and excess, so designs that lend themselves to the excessive have an inherent rockstar quality. Hence in fall 2012 one of the key ways to wear ornate garments is with a glam-rock or bohemian-rock edge. Imagine you could plunder the wardrobes of David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix and go from there.

For a glam-rock look try a metallic brocade jacket with skinny leather pants or jeans. For a bohemian-rock look pick up pieces in plush velvet and embroidered leather. You can mix these with minimal pieces to keep it modern.

balmain baroque trousers
Balmain F/W ’12 makes baroquely ornate trousers feel effortless with the addition of a slouchy knit

Baroque accessorising

If you don’t want to go all-out on an ornate look that channels the Baroque era (or even if you do) there’s also the matter of accessories. Ornately wrought filigree jewellery, tapestry handbags, jewelled headbands, embroidered suede boots, beaded removable collars or printed silk scarves are just some methods for upping the visually-ornamented factor of your accessories.

A note on quality

With a designer trend in ornate clothing, it’s all about a return to visibly impressive craftsmanship. It’s about creating details that aren’t easily copied, and as a result poorly made cheap versions simply won’t have the same impact. That’s not to say you can’t find well made versions at reasonable prices – just be wary. Feel the weight of the fabric, inspect the texture, and check for loose threads. Opulence should be just that.

As an alternative to heavy embellishment but to still indulge in the trend, you’ll also be sure to see printed or flocked versions of ornate patterns on shelves come fall.

Picture inspiration

To see more of how designers were reinterpreting Baroque style details and ornamentations into their collections for fall 2012, visit the gallery above.

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