British designer Molly Goddard has been busy picking paint colors and putting the finishing touches to her fall 2021 collection—her East London studio has undergone a colorful refit to act as the backdrop for her London Fashion Week film. The paint hue in question? “A slightly dull yellow,” she says, laughing.
“I’m so excited for it,” Goddard says of the film, in which her Lina dress, a tonal tulle masterpiece, is set to star. Add in the fact that the designer is also
eight-and-a-half months pregnant with her first child, and the excitement is reaching a fever pitch. In the days leading up to the collection’s premiere, Vogue asked Goddard to keep a diary of what goes into making her showstopper dress in a bid to answer the questions that have been playing in our mind ever since Rihanna first stepped out in a zinging Goddard dress in May 2016: How does she make her dresses? And how much time does each one take to create?
Two days ago, a crisp screenshot of a model wearing the finished dress landed in my inbox, alongside a neat list of secret details revealing its inner workings. Today we are catching up via an old-school phone call to unearth the final ingredients of any monumental Goddard gown: spontaneity and instant joy.
“I enjoy designing big dresses because the process is quite instantaneous compared to the more labored process of designing tailoring or shirting, where you’ll need to make a toile and have five separate fittings,” explains Goddard. “We often won’t make a toile for these dresses; we’ll just go for it.”
Each frilled Lina dress takes approximately one-and-a-half days to make, using around 13 meters of the designer’s favorite stiff Italian tulle. Goddard’s rule of thumb when it comes to scaling up? “Typically, the bigger the dress—especially in tulle—the more I enjoy the process. I really love the side of designing that’s about creating volume.”
Beneath the scene-stealing drama of her subversive fairy-tale gowns you’ll find intricate, hidden details, including a hand-smocked waistband. Her trick to creating that magical (and much imitated) Molly Goddard bounce? The hem of the smocking meets a large bubble skirt that is slightly shorter at the front and covered in frills, “giving a squishy and irregular silhouette.”
Color, of course, plays a big part. Pre-COVID, the “gown moment” signposted the finale on Goddard’s London Fashion Week catwalks and would draw audible gasps from the FROW—the dress sashaying down the minimalist white runway like the first daub of paint on a bare canvas. “The colors do come very naturally, I suppose. I don’t really overthink them,” she says.
The technique of mixing adjacent shades of tulle into tonal, frilled designs is something that Goddard first engineered for spring 2021. “[The spring 2021] dress is a coral pink, with red dotted into the bust and then a black underskirt,” she notes. It has a matching counterpart in azure and sky blue within the fall 2021 collection. The final splash of color arrives in the form of ultra-refined, golden platform boots—a renegade pairing that taps into the high-jinks we’re all missing right now.
“I hope that intensifies this summer,” Goddard says of our collective longing to get out and celebrate life through fashion. “I know it will for me; I’m desperate to wear fun things. When I think of all the pieces I saved for a special moment and haven’t worn yet—why do we do that? Never again. I’ll be wearing big taffeta dresses to go, well, everywhere.”