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Here's why you'll love the new romantic

Rebecca Vallance dress (on top), $349. Frame shirt (underneath), $389. Rebecca Vallance dress (on top), Frame shirt (underneath).

Let love bloom, with cascades of frills and frothy ruffles in soft fabrics decorating the season’s lavish collections inspired by bygone eras.

Paul Smith coat, $1699. Self-Portrait dress, $579 Paul Smith coat, Self-Portrait dress.

“What we have here is a dreamer.” Though describing Lux Lisbon, the ill-fated heroine of his 1993 novel The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides could just as easily have been characterising this season’s new muse. From Rococo to Edwardian and beyond, ’70s cinema and ’90s cult classics, the style this season is a sort of “mixtape love letter” to fashion’s most romantic moments. A renewed fascination with all things feminine sees the return of ivory lace and broderie anglaise blouses, soft ribbons and fluttered collars made modern with dark blooms (think embroidered leather and black florals) and finished with elegant, old-world accents such as boater hats, bracelet bags and bows.

Sandro blazer, Backstage top, Gregory Ladner hat. Sandro blazer, Backstage top, Gregory Ladner hat.

Perfectly timed to coincide with the upcoming “reimagining” of Picnic At Hanging Rock for TV and the collector’s edition re-release of Peter Weir’s much-loved 1975 film, this season’s collections are a reflection of the current zeitgeist. “I see romance as being related to the unknown, the magical – something just out of reach,” says Ingrid Weir, daughter of director Peter and creative polymath in her own right. (In addition to managing the distribution rights for her father’s earlier fififilms, she is also a photographer, set decorator, interior designer and recently designed and launched a new website dedicated to Picnic at Hanging Rock and its enduring influence on art and fashion.)

What does romance mean to her? “The great designers, photographers and stylists can take you into that dream state. [So can] very beautiful places, natural or man-made; dusk, poetry, the light changing, special intimate moments between people...”

Alice McCall & Dries Van Noten Alice McCall & Dries Van Noten

This notion of the dreamer is reflected throughout the season’s collections. macgraw’s Resort 2018 collection, aptly titled “Love Letter”, features hand-stitched hearts knitted by the Country Women’s Association sprinkled across a collection that takes inspiration from Victorian blousing, puff sleeves and high-necks, as well as tiered, flfluttered shoulders, crochet lace shifts and delicate bows at the throat. Similarly, there were swathes of tulle at Dries Van Noten and Rochas, gutsy black leather ruffles at Alexander McQueen and micro iterations at 3.1 Phillip Lim.

Lover vest, Veronika Maine dress, Helen Kaminski hat, Chloé bag Lover vest, Veronika Maine dress, Helen Kaminski hat, Chloé bag

Meanwhile, Alice McCall pushed flirtations into more sensual territory. A “fresh from the bedroom” mood prevailed with barely there, sheer black silks that exposed both intimate wear and skin beneath. There were tiered, feather-light maxis – one in a particularly fetching neutral polka dot – coquettish woven mini-dresses, clutches of opulent featherwork, lamé and studded denim cords that would have looked just right on a rebellious teen from a ’90s movie.

Alice McCall Alice McCall

“There’s a beautiful dichotomy in romance that is both strong and vulnerable at the same time – love not only makes you stronger, it also exposes you,” explains McCall asked about her inspiration for Resort 2018.

“I feel drawn to the romance of certain periods of time, which is reflected in my designs. The romance of the mid-century period that captures my imagination would be the Rococo movement in particular, as I feel it really resonates with my design aesthetic.” Finally, she muses; “I’d like to imagine that the women who wear my designs feel this sense of strength but also appreciate the softness of the lace or playfulness of the silhouettes – all of the feelings that romance encapsulates.”

McCall’s fantasy was one shared by the style set outside the Spring/Summer 2017 shows, with frill-seekers turning out in droves, anchoring fly-away ruffles with distressed denim, artful tailoring and smart, slip-on loafers.

Sigh. If only all romances were this easy.

Words by Divya Bala

Photography by Jack Grayson

Styling by Jessie Aylmore

Keep reading to shop our favourite new romantic pieces...