Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

The legend of the strawberry dress

In the words of Cher, “can I hear a little commotion for the dress?” The dress in question is the pink tulle, glitter strawberry patterned dress by the Lirika Matoshi. In 2020 the garment made its rounds on TikTok, making it a lockdown hit. Everyone and their dog (and there is now an option to buy the item for your pet) fell in love with ‘The Strawberry Dress’.

Matoshi designs dresses and pandemic appropriate face masks to match them, along with a limited selection of tops, jumpers, skirts, and trousers. The strawberry dress itself comes in three colours – the original pink, a pastel blue and black. Each retains its strawberry pattern, short sleeves, deep V-neck line, a mid-length wide tulle skirt with ruffled ends, and delicate string ties on the waist and bottom of the neckline.

For the average UK university student, Matoshi’s work is definitely on the pricey side, with the strawberry dress costing $490/£352. However, compared to her older sister Teuta’s equally gorgeous ballgowns, which enter into the thousands of dollars, this dress is much more affordable while often getting a similar aesthetic.

Women are now dressing in a way of self-expression

Its success has seen the dress emulated by fast fashion brands, trying to make the design more economically accessible. Wish and Shein have made almost identical replicas; other brands such as H&M, Monki and & Other Stories have opted to evoke the imagery of the pink tulle or the strawberry pattern, but not both together. It’s clear that the dress has been a massive cultural hit.

When talking to one friend about the dress, they raised how it was a rejection of fatphobia in fashion. Being handmade to order and going up to a size 20 (22 UK size) the dress can accommodate a wide range of body types; the individual wears the dress rather than the dress imposing a size standard onto the individual.

Tied to this, the success of the dress is also perhaps due to its release coinciding with a growing shift in style among many.  There is now a greater awareness and promotion of ‘the female gaze’ across multiple avenues of culture such as film, TV and photography. The fashion industry is no different, with many now trying to centre on the female gaze rather than the male one. Women are now dressing in a way of self-expression rather than conformity.

It makes the wearer stand out from a crowd

On the surface, wearing something like the strawberry dress– pink, glittery, princess-like – doesn’t feel like it would fall into the category. It, on the surface, by being hyperfeminine would appear to fall into forcing the idea of femininity onto women. Yet somehow it does reject the male gaze and centre on the female, through both its excessive style and context of creation.

In its extravagance, I can imagine wearing the dress feels like a costume or putting on a beautiful piece of art. This makes the garment appear like a means of escapism or expression, with the item being designed by a woman enabling the femininity of the dress to feel like a performance, rather than a condition imposed by a man.

It also acts in opposition to the minimalistic, utilitarian wave of mainstream fashion. The dress seems ‘too much’; too attention-grabbing, turning too many heads in the street, and, it makes the wearer stand out from a crowd, rather than blending in compliantly in clothes made by an industry based on patriarchal conceptions of beauty and self-expression.

It feels like the dress represents the rejection of the male gaze

This rejection of the male gaze perhaps also plays into adopting the dress by the queer community. Multiple drawings of queer couples and people talking about finding someone to wear the black and pink versions of the dress with has cropped up across the internet. The dress is perceived as an item that women wear to look pretty for other women that they love.

In essence, it feels like the dress represents the rejection of: the male gaze, conformity, fitting and blending into society, and, the mainstream. Some of this is slightly ironic considering its price tag and increased popularity, but sometimes the emotions and imagery something evokes are more influential than its reality.

These are all hypothetical assessments of the dress, just my own musings as to why I love a pink sparkly dress that doesn’t fit into my usual style at all. It could just be that everyone liked the dress because it was in opposition to the three-day-old t-shirt and jogging bottom combo being worn at home in the pandemic. But like Tiger King and banana bread, the strawberry dress will go down as a lockdown hit.

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