My fellow fashion lovers who grew up with a dog-eared copy of D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths and idle daydreams of walking among deities, our time is now. For spring 2022, echoes of antiquity breathed new-old life into the runway, from the dreamy gathered gowns at Loewe and statuary-inspired trompe l’oeil triumphs at Thom Browne to looks fit for Aphrodite herself at Alaïa, Proenza Schouler, Rick Owens, Schiaparelli, and Dries Van Noten. Dior’s cruise 2022 collection was shown at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, each model’s silhouette casting a long, elegant shadow on the weathered marble of the Olympic site.
Exquisite drapery, fluid lines, and feminine grace will never truly go out of style, but the new designs put a fresh spin on the Greco-Roman chitons and togas of the past. During a particularly difficult pandemic period in early 2021, Roksanda Ilinčić found herself with “a desire to create these otherworldly women who are standing strong and very feminine… to create something beautiful but also timeless.” She started conceptualizing her collection—a silken feast of volume and movement, creating the impression of a dancer twirling and contorting in the throes of some Sibylline power. Ilinčić was searching for a way to show how creativity can still thrive in spite of heavier circumstances: “I think we all needed some really elevated and positive and bright vision of the future.”
Sam Lobban, senior vice president of designer and new concepts at Nordstrom, agrees, attributing this uptick in ethereal runway pieces to the feeling of emerging out of lockdown and coming together once again in celebration. “They’re empowering styles that are comfortable but emotional,” he says, pointing to how the silhouettes and fabrications of these flowing goddess-style pieces make a glamorous statement while still boasting versatility and ease of wear. (What can we say? Some WFH dressing habits die hard.)
Dimitra Petsa, the designer behind the “wet look” brand Di Petsa, has made a name with her goddess gowns, worn by FKA twigs and Doja Cat. Her dive into mythology for spring 2022 stemmed from her Greek heritage—she grew up in the Athenian suburb of Rafina, by the sea—as well as the introversion and introspection that suffused much of her pandemic experience. The resulting collection, “Nostos-Touch” (nostos, Greek for “homecoming,” the kind that Odysseus kept trying to make happen for 10 years), was about returning to one’s body and rediscovering sensuality, sexuality, and pleasure itself. Fittingly, the models who wore her form-clinging pieces at Paris Fashion Week skimmed their bodies with their hands and writhed against rocks like temptresses who could shipwreck sailors. “The siren was a perfect symbol,” Petsa says, describing a lingering feeling she still had from the worst days of the pandemic: craving touch, while also recoiling from it. Sirens, of course, cannot be approached, at least not without paying a deadly price.
It’s a slightly different take on mythical femininity than the kind presented in the softer, diaphanous tones elsewhere on the runway. But, in a way, aren’t they two sides of the same coin? The virgin and the temptress, Ilinčić’s bright lady and Petsa’s dark siren—in legend, and in real life, all expressions of what it means to inhabit one body, multiple selves. There’s an overwhelming sense that we are looking for something primal, something profound, to help make sense of everything that has happened over these past two years.
“I think the Greek goddess style is emblematic of a time when there was a lot of ritual,” Petsa says. “We’re all trying to go back to nature and to connect to something a bit bigger than [ourselves].” Maybe it’s only by gazing backward that we can finally move forward.
This article appears in the March 2022 issue of ELLE.
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