As our esteemed readers know, each time a duchess wears a dress to an event, we at the Guardian fashion desk do not make a habit of blanket coverage. There are problems that warrant rolling attention in the news right now, and common sense suggests Kate's decision to wear, say, a tweed suit versus a wool coatdress on a charity visit of a given day is definitely not one of those issues. But it was a real moment when she wore a sparkling green Vampire's Wife outfit, with the strikingly dramatic emo-mermaid silhouette of that label and frilled bracelet-length sleeves. Each fashion-based WhatsApp group started blinking in unison; shortly afterward, the dress became headline news on Vogue.
Accessorized during the first leg of the Cambridges tour of Ireland with a pint of Guinness, this was a coronation. Not for Kate-the coat. It was the moment when the dress for the Vampire's wife became an official dress for It. Not one dress has been so popular since Cameron Diaz and Scarlett Johansson swooped simultaneously on Roland Mouret's Galaxy Dress in 2005. Following a lengthy under-the-radar campaign of red-carpet appearances, the Falconetti, which costs £ 1.595, has become a bona fide mainstream hit from its indie heartland.
Rachel Weisz wore a floor-long, darkest aubergine version of the Baftas back in 2018, Margot Robbie wore the same in crimson to an Australian wedding and Jennifer Aniston picked a similar frock for a Jimmy Kimmel theme. Kate Moss appeared last year in a Vampire's Wife ad modeling a shorter version, the Mayhem, while Princess Beatrice wore the Falconetti to the wedding of Ellie Goulding's. This dress has crossed every divide: from London to Los Angeles, from music to fashion, and from traditional to set up.
The model is The Vampire's Wife herself. The ex-model Susie Cave, 53, still has the skin of the milkmaid and the hair of Beetlejuice, which made her a legendary beauty that Prince used to give red roses when he was in London. In 2014 she launched her fashion label with a name referring to her friend, Nick Cave the musician. The signature dress was described by Florence Welch, a devoted fan, as "making you look like you're doing witchcraft in a very romantic cult." The fabric is elegant–corded dark velvet, or neon sweetie-wrapper metallic silk chiffon–and the neckline is high and modest. The torso is body-skimming–but not close–and finishes just above the natural waist in a seam position. This basic form is set off by short sleeves placed on a high armhole that flounces at the shoulder and waist, which enhances posture. The fabric gathers gently. The classic hemline is below the knee, although Alexa Chung is fond of a short alternative. The story of The Vampire's Wife is exceptional for two reasons. First, famous women don't want to be seen in the same dress as anybody else on the whole, which means that it takes a lot for a dress to overcome the desire to look exclusive. Second, it's not an obvious choice for that dress. They're poetry, not music. The few elite dresses that achieved this degree of success seemed to be admired for their Mouret's Galaxy dress was a double whammy of internal structure to suck and wear, with external styling the flattered (that elongating back zip) and added a glamorous air (those origami-like neckline folds). The Octavia dress of Stella McCartney, which was everywhere in 2011 –Liv Tyler wore it, and Kate Winslet had it in two different colors–used optical illusion panels that acted as a kind of hourglass-shaped shield over the body.
The wife of The Vampire is special. The design covers the upper arms and thighs modestly, but the profile is cut to best work on a small chest and a flat stomach. (It's age-forgiving, though, because it covers a lot of skin.) This dress takes the wholesome, milk-fed look of a prairie dress–and its omnipresent high-street offshoot, the mid-long ditsy floral dress that has a ruffle in the hem and is probably worn by someone in your office or railway carriage right now, probably with flat white trainers or ankle boots–and gives it a cheese. Wearing a wife's vampire dress is an elevated kind of power move: you're not only showing (to those who know) that you have the body to look nice in this dress, you're also pointing out that you're subtle enough in your thought and messaging to be low-key about showing off. The Vampire's Wife mark story is a touching one. In 2014, the label was introduced with a broad-based bohemian style that included pastel-toned full skirts, silk blouses, cashmere cardigans and tailoring for Liberty fashion. Then in July 2015, Arthur, the 15-year-old son of Susie and Nick, plunged to his death in a horrific accident near the home of the Brighton family, and all fashion thoughts vanished from the world of Susie. But three months later she found her way back to her design studio, encouraged by friends who tried to divert her from her sadness on the pretext of having dresses made."Working is what saved me, to be honest," she told Vogue in 2017. It was during this highly charged time that she narrowed focus, distilling the aesthetic to its essence and hitting on the very particular silhouette with which it has become synonymous. This is a party dress with a romantic look. It is a goths-dressed Disney princess, a dancefloor dress for Billie Eilish's age. This is a volumetric top. It's beautiful but it's a little bit puzzling. And in 2020, it is expected to be everywhere: the most recent sighting was on Jodie Comer while filming season three of Killing Eve. The Cambridge and Villanelle duchess is about as good a ticket as it gets. A dress that can tie these two together is nothing short of magic. The Vampire's Wife will have her moment in the Sun this year.