Fooled Ya!

Thom Browne ‘fool the eye’ mini dress in double bonded
heavy silk charmeuse with vinyl printed gingham,
$4900 available at Barneys

What better way to mark April Fool’s Day, than by celebrating the art of trompe l’oeil which literally translates to “fools the eye”? Is there a better time than now, to be tickled by its inherent whimsy and humor?Trompe l’oeil is the art of creating the illusion of a 3rd dimension. Though it originated as a painting technique in Greece and Rome, and has been used decoratively in home furnishings throughout the ages, it has also been applied to clothing and accessories. It is meant to describe something which appears to have detailing, such as a belt, a tie, a pocket, or a complete garment, that is actually just drawn on, knitted in or printed on.

Schiaparelli trompe l’oeil bow tie sweater 1928

Elsa Schiaparelli was the first designer to utilize trompe l’oeil in her designs in the 20’s and 30’s.

Hermes trompe l’oeil

In Spring 1952, Hermes created a group of trompe l’oeil sweaters, dresses, and raincoats.

Hermes trompe l’oeil coat in 1952 photo

They were photographed by the famed Gordon Parks and appeared in Life Magazine.

Vintage Roberta di Camerino trompe l’oeil dress

Roberta di Camerino popularized this style in the 60’s and 70’s with her clothing, bags, scarves, men’s ties, and umbrellas. Designed by the late Giuliana Camerino, they remain collector’s items and, like this vividly printed maxi t-shirt dress, are available from time to time. More info/purchase

Christian Francis Roth

In the 90’s, Christian Francis Roth made us all smile with his quirky, playful trompe l’oeil suits and dresses. His ‘Christmas Lights’ dress is for sale at Resurrection Vintage. More info/purchase

Comme des Garcons

Who could forget Rei Kawakubo’s Comme des Garcons Fall 2009 “Wonderland” ready-to-wear collection? To best illustrate her point that “nothing is as it seems”, Rei drew outlines of jackets onto the fronts of a number of pieces and sketched naked toes on the front of menswear inspired flat loafers and oxfords. I’d be surprised if some of these are not included in her upcoming Costume Institute exhibition. Coincidentally, there is a version currently for sale on EBay. More info/purchase

Moschino trompe l’oeil printed black satin dress

Franco Moschino had a history of using trompe l’oeil, and for the Moschino Spring 2017 ready-to-wear collection, Jeremy Scott (now head of design) added his own cheeky versions, including this trompe l’oeil satin dress superimposed with a bra and underpants. More info/purchase


This Gucci trompe l’oeil cape was right at home in Alessandro Michele’s eccentric Fall 2016 ready-to-wear collection and it’s still currently available to purchase. More info/purchase

Thom Browne satin trompe l’oeil tuxedo dress

Perhaps the most notable examples come from Thom Browne’s trompe l’oeil filled Spring 2017 ready-to-wear collection. All of his one piece dresses were made to look like three, four, or five piece suits (complete with shirt, vest, jacket, tie in some cases). Among the items currently for sale: Trompe l’oeil tuxedo silk satin dress  More info/purchase

Thom Browne trompe l’oeil dress Spring 2017

Long sleeve trompe l’oeil classic above knee dress in bonded 120’s wool with gingham cotton back, $5200, is available at Forty Five Ten in Dallas Texas, 214.559.4510, and Barneys New York, 212 826 8900.

Thom Browne trompe l’oeil dress Spring 2017

Long sleeve classic trouser length dress in bluebell sequin embroidery, $11.000, is available at the Thom Browne New York store, 100 Hudson Street, 212 633 1197.

Thom Browne trompe l’oeil Spring 2017

Long sleeve polo mini dress in solid gimped yarn selvedge tweed, $3400, is available at A’marees, Newport Beach, California, 949 642 4423; Dover Street Market New York, 160 Lexington Avenue, 646 837 7750; Thom Browne New York, 100 Hudson Street, 212 633 1197.

Last but not least, are these fabulous Stuart Weitzman “Hands Up” black satin evening pumps. Dating from the mid 2000’s, the three inch heels are covered with Swarovski pave crystal hands with perfectly manicured red nails and sporting emerald cut diamond rings set in yellow “gold”. Marked size 6 ½ they ensure you will make both a grand entrance and grand exit. More info/purchase

– Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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