Fashion loves juxtaposition. So it is hardly a surprise that the hooded dress, nestled amid the paradox of an element designed to hide the wearer making them stand out, has risen to the top of fashion’s trending lists.
The silhouette recently catapulted to fame at the Cannes Film Festival 2023 — that concludes today — when Aishwarya Rai Bachchan walked the carpet in a Sophie Couture gown with a massive silver hood attached to the black corseted bodice. While this appearance caused the hooded gown to occupy mainstream Indian consciousness, it has hardly been the only one around. Mrunal Thakur walked the Cannes carpet in an ornate hooded outfit by Anamika Khanna while Anne Hathaway was labelled “mother” by social media feeds globally for her sequinned Versace gold hood at a recent Bulgari event.
First introduced by Yves Saint Laurent on the runway in 1969, the hooded dress silhouette was popularised by Azzedine Alaia’s custom Bond-girl wardrobe for Grace Jones in the 80s. The recent modern resurgence has seen it across international houses like Saint Laurent, Alaia, Coperni, Halpern, and Schiaparelli to name a few. Closer home, designer Gaurav Gupta’s hardened shell hooded creations have drawn attention, especially in an electric-blue iteration worn by Cardi B for the Grammy Awards 2023.
So what is it about the silhouette that has found favour with celebrities across the globe? “I think hooded silhouettes are gaining popularity right now, especially with celebrities because they are constantly trying to redefine themselves,” says Lylah Shaw, founder of the label Ituvana. “As a designer, I find the technicality of designing and creating hooded dresses exciting because it adds an element of mystery and edge to the outfit,” she adds about the silhouette’s personal appeal to her. “I’ve experimented with incorporating hoods with traditional garments like kaftans and kurtas as well and it instantly offers a unique and unconventional style.”
For Gaurav Gupta, the appeal of the hooded dress lies in its drama. “People are looking for something new, different, and interesting. A lot of traditional outfits of many cultures had this silhouette as the touchstone of the drapes or hats people used to wear and I also see the hood replacing that while adding the right kind of new age drama to it. It’s a new silhouette that’s being widely accepted, which is exciting for me right now.”
Additionally, with the rapid and reliant rise of the fashion markets in the Middle East and south-east Asia, hooded garments are weather appropriate and resonate with cultural values too.
The cultural connect
“I think hooded silhouettes provide a sense of nostalgia,” Lylah says. Hoods have been worn across cultures through the years, as markers of cultural identities and religion. This nostalgic appeal has played a huge role in the silhouette’s popularity. “The act of covering one’s head with a hood carries a certain symbolism and evokes memories of different times and traditions. I think celebrities are trying to think about what an outfit means to them as a person,” she adds.
Take, for example, model Bella Hadid paying homage to her Middle Eastern roots with a hooded dress at a recent appearance at Fashion Trust Arabia Awards. This fashion-forward intersection represents a celebration and normalisation of self-expression and cultural identity.
A new-age sensuality
In a sartorial landscape populated with skin-tight silhouettes and naked dresses, the hooded dress seems antithetical. However, despite the excess fabric on a hooded gown, they usually add a level of allure to the wearer that the slinkiest of strappy dresses do not.
A major factor for this is the comfort a hooded dress affords the wearer. “Simply put, if you feel good in an outfit, you look good,” says Fatima Punjaabi, founder of the label Mati. “Hooded dresses have a perfect balance of an exposed neckline or even shoulders while adding mystery with the hood.”
There is also the fluid element of the languidly draped fabrics that add to the sensuality. “Fabrics play a crucial role. High quality silks and cottons drape and flow gracefully and enhance the overall sexual appeal,” says Lylah.
The silhouette’s popularity seamlessly transcends into the real world. Straddling the line between couture glamour and high-street ease, casual versions of hooded dresses have the potential to be a lasting trend.
The trend off the runways is a little more relaxed, with shift dresses and tunics adorned with a minimal hood. Mati’s breezy hooded tunics were favoured by their customers according to Fatima. “The hooded tunic did very well for us. People aren’t using the hood like in the gowns with celebrities. It’s just a cool fun element. With gowns it’s elegant while with casual dresses it’s more sporty.”
The hood is also an understated extension of self-expression, making it a desirable choice. “I think it’s equally interesting for the consumers to wear this off the runway – it’s easy and bold at the same time and makes a proper fashion statement,” concludes Gaurav.