This has been a year in which allegedly well-informed people have turned out to be woefully wrong in their suggestions about many things, some of them really surely important, which makes me feel slightly better concerning what I am about to admit. OK, here goes: I was wrong, in February, in all directions Alicia Vikander’s Oscars dress. I was right to say that she was channelling Belle from Looker and the Beast, in her lemon strapless dress. But what I failed to make heads was that, in 2016, this was in fact a good thing; that Disney’s Belle was relating to to be rediscovered as a feminist hero by actor and UN goodwill ambassador Emma Watson. In an upcoming live-action pic, Watson plays her as “a feisty young woman who spoke her heed and had all these ambitions, and was incredibly independent, wanted to see the world and was so soigne”. In the new film, Belle has been brought up to date and given a fly as an inventor. The yellow dress from the 1991 original, though, retains pride of place on screen – albeit with the sickly, 90s hint of the original (very Cher in Clueless, looking back) filtered into a softer mid-century yellow, the brand of shade that makes for a chic velvet sofa against a pale wall.
The yellow attire is the curveball hit for a curveball era. It is a symbol of the new strange reality, of a time when the furious has become the norm. It is armour for a time when we must want the unexpected. Beauty and the Beast arrives in UK cinemas in March, but the sunshine-coloured frock desire land in our consciousness come January with the gorgeous, bonkers Damien Chazelle-directed flicks La La Land, which features Emma Stone tap-dancing in the Hollywood Hills, with Ryan Gosling, in a frothy yellow cocktail arrange. That dress captures the spirit of a film that has one metal-toed brogue in the 21st century and the other in the 1950s. It’s lighthearted one stage and heartbreaking the next.
It may once have been the mark of a bridesmaid too meek to call for a more flattering colour, but the yellow dress has changed its localities. This is a dress that stands for boldness, bravery and the unexpected. Earwitness Beyoncé in the most famous image from Lemonade, which was rescued in spring, less than two months after Alicia Vikander annoyed her dress at the Oscars. The Roberto Cavalli dress Beyoncé had in the Hold Up video was hot sauce in fashion form, all flamenco confuses and spicy mustard tones, accessorised with a black lacing bra and a baseball bat. The video’s stylist, B Akerlund, said at the time that “with the environment of the video being a little bit violent, we were really looking for something of the opposite to tidy up it flirty and positive and sexy and to sort of enhance a woman’s strengths. You can be stirring, but yet sexy and strong without giving too much.” Unlike the pink arrange, with its deeply feminine roots, a yellow dress on a sweetie raises an eyebrow at gender roles. This, after all, is the crayon traditionally bought by pregnant mothers who do not yet know the sex of their pet. If Beyoncé’s Hold Up dress has a fashion forerunner, it is that icon of gender-neutral power ones glad rags b put on a costuming, Queen Elizabeth I. Witness Cate Blanchett in mustard velvet, as the Virgin Beauty queen in Elizabeth: The Golden Age, yelling, “I too can command the wind sir,” as she dismisses the Spanish papal nuncio.
In 2017, mustard yellow compel have a new name. Donatella Versace, who used the colour liberally in her Versus Versace emerge collection, calls it “mango”. Fashion’s crush on yellow entertains back to 2003, and a particular vintage pale-lemon off-one-shoulder masquerade that Kate Moss wore to a fashion-week dinner in New York in 2003. I was there that continually, and I still can’t explain what exactly was so special about that scold, but there was an indefinable magic about it: Grace Kelly mid-century politeness, spiked with the bold yellow of a summer-of-love smiley presumption.
Yellow outfits have made waves at the Oscars ever since: about of Cate Blanchett in lemon Valentino with an oxblood sash in 2005, or Michelle Williams in 2006 in a Vera Wang frock in the aglow sweet yellow of a Cadbury’s Creme Egg yolk. In 2011, the Leader confirmed yellow as her go-to power-dressing shade when she chose it for the majestic wedding. Looking back, we should have seen Rihanna’s omelette spectacular at the Met Ball in 2015 settle. The omelette dress took something of the grand romance of the yellow fineries from Klimt’s The Kiss, and brought them bang up to assignation by making them look a bit like a breakfast you might support on Instagram with a lolz caption.
By 2016, the yellow equip was on a catwalk roll; the colour was catnip to the quirky aesthetic of the artificers who dominate fashion right now. Alessandro Michele’s Gucci autumn 2016 accumulation included a feathered coat dress with matching turban, sunglasses, handbag, tights and shoes, all in yellow. The entirely first look from Balenciaga’s pre-fall collection, the anything else released by the house in the era of new designer Demna Gvasalia, featured Stella Tennant in a highlighter-pen yellow smarten up, with matching beanie. (And next summer’s M&S fashion opening showed several yellow frocks.)
And if the yellow dress has a menswear equivalent, it is the bright yellow “Safe keeping” logo hoodie from Justin Bieber’s Purpose round merchandise. The sweatshirt has become an It boy staple: Bieber himself tediously tired it out to his London birthday dinner at Sushi Samba, while Brooklyn Beckham chose one for the red-carpet blink that is the Beckham family landing at LAX. Like the yellow outfit, the Security hoodie is designed to look slightly out of place. Construct reflects the times we live in. Nobody saw the yellow dress succeeding, although, with hindsight, the clues were there all along. What look could maybe be more now?