Keep it classy and understated

Matric ball season is in full swing and it’s a time when parents have to break the bank to ensure that their children look the part.

It dawned upon me recently that my own matric ball was a shocking 14 years ago. I remember that my dream dress was a Gavin Rajah creation.

I used to walk past his shop in Long Street and longingly stare at the dress in the window.

When the time came to go dress shopping, I forced my mother into the shop and tried on the dress, all the while knowing that she could not afford the R18 000 price tag.

Nevertheless, I put it on and because I was very skinny back then it did not fit me. I left the shop feeling quite dejected. After hours of searching we found a beautiful gold gown with a low cut back. The minute I walked out of the dressing room all the women there unanimously agreed that I had found the “one”.

At the time, I did not know it was a knock-off of the Gucci gown Charlize Theron wore to the Oscars in 2004 when she clinched the best actress award for the movie Monster. I was quite chuffed with my 18-year-old self for being so on trend.

A man who knows all too well about dresses is fashion designer and Project Runway South Africa finalist, Stephen van Eeden who designs high glamour red carpet dresses, bridal wear and luxury leisurewear. We met at his beautiful home in Claremont.

He grew up in the small town of Kathu in the Northern Cape and after school decided to study fashion design at the Elizabeth Galloway Fashion School in Stellenbosch. After completing his studies, he worked at Cape Cobra Leather Craft in Green Point as an accessory designer; at Rosenworth in Newlands; did a two-year stint with Gavin Rajah; and in 2016 started his own line.

His advice to young girls shopping for the perfect dress is to keep it classy and understated.

“If they want it dramatic they can play with a mermaid silhouette or they can go for an embellished fabric with an understated silhouette. Even though it might seem simple it still has that element of drama,” he said.

He said if women want a burst of colour, fire-engine red and deep pinks are on trend at the moment.

“If they want to opt for something softer, lilac and soft purple are great colours to work with.

For those women who like a more classic look, black and gold is an option; nudes and metallics are also winners. We are moving away from silver and rose gold at the moment,” he said.

Stephen believes that comfort is everything and urged women to choose a heel that will enable them to walk with ease the entire night.

“Platforms and block heels are perfect and they make it easy for women to walk on grass and not have their heels dig into the earth.”

Spring is around the corner and Stephen said neon pink is a colour every woman should try to incorporate into her wardrobe.

“It’s amazing to be fashion forward and on trend but it is equally important that women should be conscious of their carbon footprint. They should try and buy an item that is neon pink and pair it with something they already have. I also want to encourage women to buy staple pieces that they can transition for a couple of years,” he said.

He said the “denim on denim” trend is also a must for spring.

“Animal and geometric prints are also on trend. Prints are amazing for all body types. It creates more shape for slimmer women and for fuller figure women, prints help to accentuate their curves and hide problem areas.”

Jersey wrap dresses in a beautiful print are also great for spring.

“This spring women would look great in a high-waisted flowing skirt, which they can pair with a T-shirt and denim jacket. Layering is also important and women should be opting for breathable, natural fabrics,” he said.

Stephen said his fashion line can be summed up in three words: Feminine. Modern. Glamorous.

He said his time on Project Runway exposed him to designers he would not usually meet in fashion circles.

“I didn’t necessarily enter the competition to win. The programme provided me with a platform to showcase my brand and show the country that my designs can compete on an international level,” he said.

Stephen, who has dressed women for the past 12 years, said: “If you feel good you will look good and that confidence goes a long way. I want women to transcend trends and most importantly I want to tell women that wearing good underwear is essential. Good underwear can do wonders for anyone’s silhouette,” he said.

Happy shopping everyone.


The pictures in last month’s column (“Designer brings his vision to fruition”, July 19) were taken by photographer Levi Niekerk.