Rachel Bilson models summer dresses
Rachel Bilson symbolised simple LA style as Summer Roberts in The OC. Who better to model the season’s easiest look?
At around this time each season, when the weather begins to turn and the shops fill up with new clothes, our minds start to wonder: shall I try sports utility, or deconstruction, or clear anything from my wardrobe that isn’t yellow? It is OK to delude yourself momentarily, and think that you are going to nail the latest trends. But we know that what you actually want is just another nice dress.With this in mind, we phoned Los Angeles. There, the fashion scene is blossoming and the warm weather means that a dress and bare legs is a default summer look.
Waiting to help was the angelic face and diminutive frame of Rachel Bilson: “I love fashion and clothes. For me it’s something that is a really fun addition to my work.” Thankfully, her interest in style extends to the dress. So while the wide-eyed actress pursues her career in front of the film cameras, everyone’s favourite ex-OC girl also moonlights as a fashion muse and sometime designer.
Bilson recently created a capsule collection for Donna Karan’s DKNY label, (“I did lots of really easy little pieces”, you guessed it, “mainly dresses”). Being an enthusiastic fashion consumer herself, she understands what other customers want to buy.
In one sense, the dress has come a long way since its wide-necked, corset-bodied medieval roots. For one, women no longer need to drag around a dead weight of fabric. We also have the comfort of knowing that a pair of jeans is waiting in the drawer should it turn out to be a bad leg day (ie, the waxing lady cancelled).
But for all the sartorial changes, some of those early influences — the pushed-up bosom and the restricted body to name just two — are still on shop rails this summer. Alongside these shorter, sheerer versions of their historical frontrunners are new takes on the lean, fluid Twenties column; Biba’s boxy, thigh-baring tunics; maxi dresses by Clark and Birtwell; and even those unapologetically sexy Eighties micros perfected by Gianni Versace.No other piece of clothing has had so many reincarnations that still feel relevant today. As Bilson says, while posing in a neat turquoise and white shift, the dress works because it is feminine.
It is also unmatched in ease — just slip on and go — and comfort. This is what we love about the dress and why, although next winter has already been hailed as The Trouser One, Phoebe Philo still channelled some of her minimal Céline brilliance into loose, artists’ robes, while the Louis Vuitton catwalk was cluttered with unctuous Betty Draper fit-and-flare shapes. So keen is the creative director Marc Jacobs on his dresses that he put Alexa Chung, Pixie Geldof and Kirsten Dunst in his old/new Fifties shape when they attended his store opening on Bond Street last week. By doing this, Jacobs proved that a heavy, waisted number can still look young and frivolous.
Whatever media attention the trouser gets for a few months from September, deep down, it is obvious which item will be first off the hanger this time next year.Brian Reyes was the obvious contender to help to illustrate our dress point, not least because his clothes have just arrived on our shores thanks to Harvey Nichols.
The Colombian-born designer trained with Oscar de la Renta, a man for whom the dress has never staled. The 28-year-old protégé retains many of his tutor’s ideals, designing strong, simple dress shapes hewn from graceful, luxurious fabrics.
Since Bilson began wearing Reyes’s designs, the two have become friends. Her method of getting dressed (“I always have the same basic formula: I start with simple shapes and then add accessories or an interesting jacket or pair of shoes”), together with his classic dress designs, mean that their artistic visions are in tandem, and the star has virtually become an ambassador for the brand.
Here is Rachel Bilson modelling our favourite Brian Reyes designs, shot on location in California for The Times.