FashionLifestyle

Britney Spears: The once and future Versace muse

Written by Vanessa Friedman

(Critic’s Notebook)

The dress was long. It was white. It was Versace. And it wasn’t just a wedding dress.

Well, it was, literally, a wedding dress — the dress Britney Spears wore to marry Sam Asghari on June 9 in Los Angeles. But it was also a symbol of Spears’ new era of independence, and a relatively restrained choice for a woman who has lived a lot of her pain, and her fame, in public. While it may be her third marriage, it’s the first since the end of the conservatorship that defined a large part of her adult life. So why not dress for it as if it is a fresh start?

Not so much a fairy tale ending as a beginning, in off-the-shoulder ivory silk cady with pearl buttons down the back, a high slit to free the leg, a nearly 15-foot flowing veil and a matching choker — a nod of sorts to her own 1990s trendsetting self.

And for that, why not turn to a designer who knew her when? Enter Donatella Versace.

Back in March, Spears posted a picture of herself with Versace on Instagram, suggesting that the two of them were peas in a pod (in somewhat saltier language). Versace, in turn, told Variety later in the month that Spears was “in an amazing state of mind.

Indeed, the wedding may have consecrated Spears’ relationship with Asghari, but her relationship with Versace has been going on for decades. The two women have long had more in common than a poptastic aesthetic, a love of body-conscious clothing, bleach and a bit of a spray tan.

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Versace, after all, went through her own public trial by fire when she was forced to assume the reins of the Versace brand after the murder of her brother Gianni. She endured substance abuse issues and family trauma to keep the business going no matter what. (Sound familiar?) She knows something about being stuck under the celebrity microscope.

Perhaps as a result, she and Spears have had each other’s backs since at least 2001, when Spears chose a backless green chiffon minidress with black beading to perform with Michael Jackson at Madison Square Garden. In 2002, Spears wore a rainbow-toned, flesh-flashing Versace gown to sit in the front row at the Versace show during Milan Fashion Week, and in 2008 she wore two different sparkling Versace minidresses to the MTV Video Music Awards.

Versace once even defined her clothes according to Spears’ reputation. They are “young and rock ’n’ roll,” she said of the looks in her spring 2003 collection. “Britney things.”

After the nuptials, there were more Versace “Britney things,” including an assortment of minidresses in black and red that Spears wore to the reception and dance party.

And together the wedding wardrobe suggests there may be even more Britney-related inspiration come September and the next Versace runway. It’s not hard to imagine that this could be the start of a whole new Spears-Versace era (not to mention ambassadorship), one that defines the look of a certain unapologetic and triumphant feminine survivalism.

If so, it would mark a fashion marriage of the most enduring, and authentic, kind.

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This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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