'Lady' is a word you're really not allowed to use anymore. It's terribly politically incorrect. As is the idea of dressing women with propriety and quiet dignity. Tomas Maier's Bottega Veneta has traded in quiet dignity for a good decade since he took the helm of the company - and there's always something ladylike about the very best of his collections. That's because the Bottega Veneta woman is of a certain age and intellectual conceit: she likes to do the talking, rather than her clothes.
Maier's Autumn/Winter 2012 collection sought to create a wardrobe for that Bottega Veneta woman. Yes, a full wardrobe - the show was neatly cleaved into those old-fashion categories of day, cocktail and evening wear that still endure because they have a relevance to a woman's daily life. The colour palette was predominantly dark, the clothing on the whole reserved, covered-up, high on the neck and usually long in the arm. That of course gave Maier ample canvas to play with the textiles and patterns he so loves. In the past, Maier has become easily bogged down in that fabric experimentation, in an attempt to make his clothes appear 'modern' - a wrestling between technology and design. Here, he was happy to let the latter do the talking.
That said, there was still plenty going on across the surface, an explosion of print as day turned to night and throughout fraying, tearing and chenille embroidery adding three-dimensional effects to fabric. That was echoed in the silhouettes, with structured shoulders, a defined waist and hip emphasis. Maier even did his take on the peplum, fabric ruched and swathed to created a textured band and emphasise a curvaceous form. On floor-length evening gowns redolent of interwar glamour, they made you long for the days when ladies really dressed for dinner.
There were a few moments like that in this collection - a longing for the period when women changed clothes seven or eight times a day. But rather than a yearning for the past to give relevance to clothes that seem of another time, that longing was simply because you wanted to see more of these clothes out-and-about, everyday. The evening wear, especially, was stunning - columns of black velvet, poufed with taffeta and lightly embroidered. Who has the occasion to wear those? Red-carpet stars and Met Museum millionairess patrons - exactly the ladies who will be donning them in mere weeks, so pitch-perfect were they for their Klieg-light filled lives. The severe but not too strict daywear and sleek cocktail dresses, however, could find a home in any woman's wardrobe, so perfectly in tune did it feel with the demands of the contemporary world, reality merging with fantasy Doesn't look like it's so impossible to please all of the people all of the time: with this perfectly pitched, polished and truly outstanding collection, Tomas Maier achieved it.