The Dress

07.01.11

Kate's Controversial Gown

The model got hitched in an elegant dress designed by her friend John Galliano, the fashion genius under fire for anti-Semitic comments. But Robin Givhan says her choice is not a political statement.

The Kate Moss wedding gown designed by John Galliano is a mere slip of a dress, simultaneously understated and provocative—for reasons that have nothing to do with fabric or silhouette. 

For fashion fans, Moss’s wedding at her Cotswolds estate to musician Jamie Hince—who wore a pale blue double-breasted Yves Saint Laurent suit—was the equivalent of a breathless royal extravaganza. The dress was eagerly anticipated; it received due gossip. And now that it has been unveiled, it demands dissection.

Aesthetically, it’s a lovely dress, but not a magnificent one. It has easy lines and an opaque bodice that blends into a translucent skirt through which one can just make out the shadows of Moss’s slender legs. The gown is embellished discreetly with rhinestone embroidery and exudes an informal elegance while giving a nod to flapper frivolity. The dress was inspired by Zelda Fitzgerald, whose engagement ring Moss is wearing, according to Women’s Wear Daily. 

The dress isn’t dramatic or theatrical, nor a runway-finale-style dress full of tricks and showstopping ostentation. It isn’t an iconic gown, either; its lines won’t have the bridal industry atwitter. And yet it is notable as an expression of Moss’s personal style, which has always been more dressed-up cool than anything particularly fussy or overwrought. 

The gown also reflects the aesthetics of its designer, John Galliano, for whom romantic, bias-cut gowns have always been a signature.

Galliano’s craft has, of course, been overshadowed in the months since he was accused of lobbing vicious, anti-Semitic comments at a couple in a Paris bar. Fired from his job as the creative director of Christian Dior and dismissed from his own eponymous label, Galliano spent time in rehab in the United States before returning to France for a June 22 court date, at which he described his struggles with substance abuse. Making racial slurs is a crime under French law, and a verdict is expected in September. But Moss and the disgraced designer have a long friendship, and those who know them both said it was no surprise that, having already chosen to go with Galliano, Moss would keep her word. 

The two met in the early 1990s, when Moss was starting out. She was an unconventional model, unusually short and especially thin, who launched the era of the waifs and heroin chic. Galliano was just beginning to gain traction as a designer, finding fame with his dazzling imagination and the lush romanticism that he put on the runway. They became close friends, along with Galliano’s confidant, Stephen Robinson, who died in 2007. “There were a few people who were always in John’s life,” says photographer Roxanne Lowit, who in 2009 published the picture book “Backstage Dior” with Galliano. “Kate was always there. She was like his family, his sister, his muse.” 

Moss is not some rarified doyenne whose choices carry moral clout. She is not a power broker who speaks for the establishment.

Moss and Galliano, who are both British, have more than nationality and fashion in common. Moss, too, has had struggles with drugs and addiction. In 2005, photographs emerged purportedly showing her snorting cocaine. As a result of the scandal, she lost jobs with major fashion houses such as Burberry and Chanel. She bounced back after a stint in rehab and was even more in demand. If anyone has a sense of Galliano’s travails and the possibility that they can be overcome, it is Moss, who was reportedly instrumental in helping him get into rehab. 

Some might think that in wearing the dress, Moss was making a symbolic statement about Galliano's skill as a designer, his importance in the fashion industry, or even the justice—or injustice—of his being fired. But Moss would be a flawed messenger. She is not some rarefied doyenne whose choices carry moral clout. She is not a power broker who speaks for the establishment. And she is not some surprising outlier whose decision to wear Galliano required complex and painful intellectual gymnastics. 

She is a model who has known Galliano some 20 years and must surely have a better sense of what is in his heart than those who can only judge him by what he said and what he did while in the haze of addiction. Standing on the outside looking in, the only thing to read into Moss’s choice of Galliano is this: She is his friend. And for a man who was once hailed as a creative genius, who has seen his professional life destroyed by his own hand, that must be a sweet salvation.