Trompe L’Oeil Tricks, Treats and Gets Tacky

With less than two weeks until the election and only a few days until Halloween, now is as good a time as any to let you in on my little secret: I am a trompe l’oeil supporter. Whether it’s luxe (Gucci and Thom Browne in their Spring 2017 collections); quirky (Mary Katrantzou with her digital prints); fun and trendy (Moschino “necklace” dresses, Sonia Rykiel sweater dresses);

Isaac Mizrahi Trench

or (Isaac Mizrahi designed a trompe l’oeil “trench” that gave the impression of creases through relief rubbing); provocative (Jean-Paul Gaultier); or vintage (Roberta Di Camerino with her “neckties” and “pleating”), I’ve never met a “fool the eye” garment that didn’t make me smile and want to wear it.

Venera Arapu in her Showroom
(photo by Claudiu Enescu)

A few years ago while browsing on the website, I discovered a Roumanian designer named Venera Arapu. Her dresses, tops and jackets feature digitally printed “outfits” lending the look of inspired layering onto a single garment. I was hooked immediately and ordered a dress which appears to have a denim jacket, sequined skirt, a fur stole, crocheted gloves and a wide bronze buckled belt accessorizing its front and back. I loved the freedom and feeling of lightness from not actually having to wear the many (suggested) layers as well as from not having to encumber my brain to plot them all out.

Venera Arapu Trompe L’oeil dress
Once I got hooked I also purchased a jacket and t-shirt from various sites that carried her line. The pieces were often one or two of a kind in very limited sizing — I decided that in the dresses at least, “size matters not” as they are not intended to be fitted but rather to skim the body. I remember remarking that some of her designs were decidedly on that border between tacky, “boudoir-ish” and overly provocative as they suggested bare skin, lingerie and um, well endowed decolletage — a bit trashy for my taste.
Siouxsie Sioux wearing Trompe L’oeil Vivienne Westwood in 70s

Fast forward to a few weeks ago — I was running errands around the UES one morning when I spied a woman flashing what, at first glance appeared to be quite a bit of cleavage bursting out of a top for so early in the day. “Walk of shame, perhaps?” I asked myself. As I approached and got a closer look — averting my eyes was impossible — I realized that she was not actually baring her “large tracts of land” (Monty Python reference).

Willow Smith in Vintage Jean Paul Gaultier circa 2015

Instead, her “girls” were completely covered in a tacky trompe l’oeil t-shirt bringing to mind a raunchier, novelty version of the Arapu ones. I wondered how many men had done a double take as she pranced along her merry way and how gutsy (or damn near insane) she was to have done so.

Faux Real Trench Coat

Now that Halloween is nigh, I have pieced together the fact that this fearless woman’s tee must have come from Faux Real ( featuring “photorealistic apparel,” after seeing a similar polyester item, albeit in a PG version displayed in a candy/novelty store window . These shirts are the perfect lazy person’s Halloween costume…boom, throw one of these tops on with a pair of shorts, jeans, leggings or a skirt; maybe customize your hair in a braided updo if you’re gonna wear the Bavarian Beer Wench version, and you’re done.

Faux Real Britney

From a “Catholic School Girl” dress in which you could channel Britney Spears singing “Hit Me Baby One More Time,” to a tatted-up biker chick; from a crazy cat lady to a woman in a B-movie clutching her trench coat to her otherwise naked body; not to mention the de rigueur sexy nurse, hula girl (cultural appropriation?) or “bikini” babe — tasteless (but humorous) options reign aplenty.

Faux Real party suit

For men, the selection is no less stellar including a purple colored pimp suit, an armored barechested gladiator, or how about a candy corn “suit”? Want to match your SO? Couples options include sexy tuxedos, sailor “suits,” a male counterpart to the female biker, the ever popular “ugly” Christmas and Hanukkah “sweaters” (even one that does double duty), as well as the male and female version of sexy Santa. Looking a little farther ahead, you won’t need to have the luck of the Irish to find your couples St. Patty’s Day outfits here.

Shiny legs

One last “trick (or treat)for the eye”– here’s a photo that’s recently gone viral: do you see shiny legs? Or just strategically placed white paint? Discuss amongst yourselves, but try not to argue. We have the election for that.

– Laurel Marcus

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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