Life, etc

Chronicles of Chic: Remains of the rainbow day

By Emilie Gambade 15 February 2013

The SONA red carpet is not your usual fashion event, although one may see Chanel bags, model-look-alikes, local celebrities and fashion flops. Still, the rainbow nation every year manages to produce a line up of politicians in suits and evening gowns, weird hats and exuberant feathers. By EMILIE GAMBADE. Photos by GREG NICOLSON.

Fashion events usually set trends; in 1998, Sharon Stone combined a lavender skirt from Vera Wang with a white men’s shirt, rocking the Academy Awards and giving birth to a long series of casual-meets-formal outfits. The 2013 Golden Globes signalled the comeback of fishtails, although they never really left the red carpet, and Barack Obama’s Inauguration Ceremony was all about the coat-dress, the purple colour as worn by Sasha and Malia and, of course, bangs.

SONA, uhm, doesn’t. The red carpet is rolled out to welcome the feet of MPs, MECs, the political and business elite of South Africa and yes, they do dress for the occasion. But calling it a fashion event would be more than slightly exaggerated; not with the heavy dresses, ruffles, feathers, and frocks that look like they were made for drags rather than leaders.

This reporter spotted a turquoise duo that was quite symbolic of the Dynasty look (headline photo), en vogue in the eighties: the combo corset-dress in tulle with intricate flowers, jacket with puffed sleeves on steroids, cut-out Victorian collar and A-line skirt with, again, flowers, is everything but… fashionable.

Sizakele MaKhumalo Zuma chose baby pink for the occasion, but neither the colour nor the fabric nor the confused movement of the dress did her any good; the veil on her hair seemed an embarrassment, not something to punctuate her outfit.

Photo: Sizakele MaKhumalo Zuma and Jacob Zuma

There were also the usual traditional outfits that seem to be recurrent at the SONA. Two ladies stood out: Rachel Tambo, who went for pink and black, quite appropriate on this rather subdued Valentine’s day, marred by the murder of Reeva Steenkamp by Oscar Pistorius. The lady in orange and black is a symbol of South African contradictions or how to clash African and Western together; Karl Lagerfeld might have rolled in his bed. Mandla Mandela’s headpiece was beautiful, in turquoise and light pink, a colour that seemed to be très SONA 2013.

Photo: Rachel Tambo

Photo: Mandla Mandela