High-Low Must Go

Opinion | Margaret Childs | July / August 2013

I first saw them in New York City last summer. It was one of the trends I hoped would never make it to Europe: "High-low hem" or "mullet" dresses are cut short in the front and long in the back: like a Farrah Fawcett haircut, if your knees were her eyes.

Whose idea was this? The style seems to stem from the "fishtail" cut of the Victorian era and later trends of the ‘20s and ‘30s, but today’s fashion victims look as if they couldn’t afford the whole thing. The way it falls makes slender legs look knobby-kneed and bigger ones look like elephants.

The red-carpet versions are not as bad. High-end designers can afford to make visible inner hemlines in the back look fantastic, even work in layers or an alternate pattern to complement the outer shell. On the Zara and H&M versions, it just looks tacky, revealing not only that inner hem, but the "underbelly" of the design in back. So ladies, if you do insist on wearing them to events, remember to pose in profile.

With the mullet hairdo, the phrase was "business in front, party in the back", but with this dress it’s more like "cocktail party in the front, evening gown in the back", missing the point of both styles. A cocktail dress should be cute and easy, and let you look good from any angle. An evening gown should be elegant and seductive, letting the world imagine the luscious legs beneath. This is neither.

I’ve seen them as wedding gowns where the back end is detachable, making the post-ceremony bride look like a poof of polyester, a Barbie doll right out of Vegas. But hey, if that’s what you’re going for, more power to you.

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