What Lies Under the Veil

I’ve spent part of the last week-end leafing through a lovely volume, Gypset by Julia Chaplin, about an emerging group of artists, musicians, fashion designers and surfers, who lead semi-nomadic and unconventional lives far from the spotlight, yet influencing celebrities and socialites. Their lifestyles are strongly multicultural, because they mix and match suggestions from other cultures and from the places they live in or they visit during their escapades. I think fashion has always taken exotic cultures as a source of inspiration and it still does, even if these influences are well hidden under the designer’s personal style. I was shocked when I first saw Givenchy Haute Couture collection for fall/winter 2009, because it contains hints to different cultural elements, combined in such a way that simply emphasizes the absolute genius of Riccardo Tisci. Tisci has always played with echoes from other worlds (think about the Mexican elements in the spring/summer 2009 collection), but this time he has out-done himself.

The ideas emerging from this collection are basically two: the first is a modern version of the Statue of Liberty’s spiked crown, related to wedding-like veils and dresses, and the second is an interesting elaboration of Bedouin face-veils and jewellery.

The dress seen on Mariacarla Boscono, Riccardo Tisci’s beautiful Italian muse, is reminiscent of a wedding dress, but modern touches are everywhere, especially in the plaid-houndstooth chiffon of the skirt and in the complex structure at the hips. The gold metal accessories contrast with the romantic mood of the dress and this makes the outfit fashion-forward.

Mariacarla and Karmen Pedaru walked the runway wearing spiked headbands, where the spikes are made of gold metal.

Karlie Kloss and Ana Claudia Michaels’ outfits are stunning: they wore strapless white dresses, with embellished bodices and flowy skirts. They both had their heads covered with a tulle veil and this is another romantic touch, which makes them look as brides.  The complex iconography related to the use of the veil is a fascinating journey through the cultures of different continents, and Tisci is well aware of this, because he gives this accessory several meanings.

The spiked headband seen on Karlie Kloss have silver metal spikes and is different from the ones seen on the other models, because it has two bigger spikes on the sides and four central studs. The primary source of inspiration must have been the Statue of Liberty, designed by the sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi in the nineteenth century: the radiant crown it wears has seven spikes, symbolizing the seven seas and the seven continents.

Fashionistas have immediately fallen in love with this extravagant accessory, so it is no wonder it has already become a cult object. Vanessa Traina, one of Danielle Steel’s daughters, known for her unique style, was seen wearing one just after Givenchy’s show. It’s not a case that Nicole Richie recently asked Santa – on Twitter – one of these headbands for Christmas: Vanessa is the face of Richie’s upcoming clothing collection, Winter Kate, so she must have loved it from the first moment she saw it on her friend.

She was soon followed by Eugenie Niarchos, who wore a different version, made of bronze metal.

What has really caught my attention are these two all-black outfits, where the intricate gold jewellery and the face decorations do all the talking. I love collecting jewellery from India or Middle East, so you might understand why I am currently obsessed with these gorgeous necklaces.

Leticia Alterbernd also wore lots of gold bangles around her wrists, and this is another sign of the influence that Bedouin culture has had on this collection. The hood of the jumpsuit was used as veil and this underlined – again – the source of inspiration.

Thousands of gold rhinestones have been applied by hand, one after the other, on the faces of the models, so as to create a sort of mask. These backstage shots are stunning, aren’t they?

If we compare the picture from the catwalk and the picture on the right, taken by Jean Besancenot in 1930, it is possible to understand the concept these decorations are based on. The Moroccan bride from Rabat had beads applied on her face, decorating her cheeks, chin and forehead, and the same can be said of Leticia. The model has rhinestones applied on the nose, under the eyes and on the temples, too, and this is due to the combination of two different wedding traditions – the beaded decorations on the face, as seen on the Rabat bride, and the face veil.

I am no expert of Moroccan, Bedouin and Muslim traditions, but I’ve found out that these amazing face veils, all embroidered and embellished by beads and coins (symbol of prosperity), are especially used by brides.

The veils cover the face but not the eyes, and this is important to realize that the crystal lines on Givenchy’s models are traced following exactly the lines of the veil. Mouth and chin haven’t been hidden because the intention was not to reproduce the traditional face-veil but just an idea of it.

This trend hasn’t been embraced by any celebrity (oh,maybe the ubiquitous Lady GaGa could sport these face decorations), but the gorgeous gold necklace (combining coins, spikes, chains and studs) was seen on Rihanna in the fierce photoshoot by Steven Klein for Vogue Italia (September 2009 issue). As for me, I wouldn’t think twice and immediately wear such a beauty all the time. I’m sure my 21-month-old daughter, who is a sort of magpie because she likes anything shining and dangling and rattling, would love it, too.

Source, source, source, source and source.



  1. I love every and each Jennifer Behr’s headbands. Aren’t they absolutely gorgeous??? The spiked turban headwrap you’re referring to is lovely!

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