Woman's Gown by Tom and Linda Platt
Paige Bailey, graduate student in the Master's program of the Dept. of Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design, reached out to Tom and Linda Platt via their facebook page at the beginning of her research on this dress during the Spring 2021 semester. A short email discussion with Tom of Tom and Linda Platt revealed the history and provenance of the gown. Tom was able to confirm that this dress was designed in 1989 and is from the 2000 Collection. The dress style number identifies it as 2082, titled “A NIGHT TO REMEMBER.” This gown is a sample garment, which is why there is no sizing tag alongside the designer tag. This sample gown was gifted directly to the donor.
Tom described Lorraine de Wet Howes, the donor, as his best friend. She was a fashion model in London before she immigrated to the US. From 1976 to 2000, Lorraine was the Head of the Apparel Design Department at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD); she hired Tom Platt as an Assistant Professor in 1978. He commuted from New York to Rhode Island for five years before directing his focus to his own budding design business. The couple created their first collection, the TOM AND LINDA PLATT COLLECTION, in 1982.
They remained close and still have a phone chat every Friday morning. Tom gave the gown to Lorraine to wear at one of the annual RISD fashion shows. Tom and Linda have gifted Lorraine multiple garments over the years. The RISD has a few donations from Lorraine that are either a creation by the hands of Tom and Linda, or a garment that Lorraine created using a Platt pattern.
Tom Platt confirms that the materials for the dress begin with an outer layer of black knit. The lining fabric is a black jersey knit. The entire gown is covered in black sequins that are likely made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and 6mm in diameter. The simple jewel neckline and bottom of the fitted sleeves are bound with a plain weave fabric made with a lamé faille, giving these edges a slight sheen. The zipper (Talon brand), as well as the hook and eye are made of metal painted black.
This sequined sheath dress has a boxy, heavy feel due to the large shoulder pads and lack of shaping in the upper torso. There are no darts, gussets, or princess seams, but the side seams form a curving shape to the hips and taper the skirt inward down to the hem. The shoulder pads make the top of the gown the widest part. The sleeves are tight to the arms of the person wearing it. All of the black sequins give the gown a shiny, PVC-like look when viewed from a distance.
This gown could easily be imagined worn on a runway, a red carpet, a charity ball, or as a fun party gown in the 1980s. The versatility is an interesting facet not only of this gown, but the increasingly multi-purpose mindset that was emerging in the ‘80s and following decades. A garment could have multiple uses and be worn multiple times, while in earlier decades, colors and styles were segregated by events and the hours in which the garment was to be worn.
Elements of this garment are still being produced by Tom and Linda Platt today. Their personal outlook on fashion stresses that they believe high-quality fashion lasts forever and transcends trends, an idea reflected in their current garments. Similar shapes, design choices, and fabrics appear across their portfolio, including the use of black or dark sequins and dresses with slits (This is evident in their patterns, ready-to-wear, and custom garments). Their website, tomandlindaplatt.com, has more examples of clothes that play with shape and texture in a similar manner.
The 1980s was a time of power suits, puffy sleeves and shoulder pads, and evening gowns made from shiny, modern materials such as lamé, sateen, taffeta or acetate. Dramatic effects included big bows, ruffles and pleats, tiered skirts, or fabric that would shine. Some of these design elements have withstood the test of time, as evidenced by the use of sequined material in contemporary Tom and Linda Platt designs. This dress can be worn to multiple types of events, transcending fads that quickly come and go. It is interesting to see not only the amount of foresight the Platts had in the late 1980s, but the success they continue to enjoy. So far, their designs are still touching multiple generations of varying incomes, depending on how they acquire their Platt garments.
This garment stands as a testament to American designers who are successful in the international high-fashion industry. Many designers have come from America, but their legacies have been shadowed by the fashion powerhouse that is Europe. Tom and Linda Platt continue to make desirable fashion that competes alongside established European fashion houses. Trends come and go, but good design remains as a mark of designers who make clothing for the love of art.
Bailey, P., & Platt, T. (2021, April 12). Tom Platt Interview. personal.
Design Group. (n.d.). V1506. SomethingDelightful. https://somethingdelightful.com/v1506.
Poshmark. (n.d.). Tom and Linda Platt Sequined evening dress. Poshmark. https://poshmark.com/listing/Tom-and-Linda-Platt-Sequined-evening-dress-