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Great Outfits in Fashion History: Joan Smalls in a Tee and a Ballgown Skirt

A classic Brandon Maxwell mix of American sportswear and high-fashion glamour.
Joan Smalls attends the 2018 CFDA Fashion Awards at Brooklyn Museum on June 4, 2018 in New York City

There are perfectly good celebrity style moments, and then there are the looks that really stick with you, the ones you try desperately to recreate at home. In 'Great Outfits in Fashion History,' Fashionista editors are revisiting their all-time favorite lewks.

Dressing an everyday wardrobe staple, like a white T-shirt or a button-down, all the way up — like, to red-carpet levels of fancy — is always fun. Sharon Stone was one of the first to do it pairing a long designer skirt with a button-down from the Gap at the 1998 Oscars. Zendaya referenced that game-changing look at this year's ceremony, only this time in custom Valentino Haute Couture. We saw another epic interpretation of this formula at the 2018 CFDA Awards, on runway and red-carpet favorite Joan Smalls. 

The model arrived to the event on the arm of the designer who dressed her, Brandon Maxwell, wearing a pared-back but incredibly elegant ensemble that married American sportswear with eveningwear — his bread and butter. It consisted of a super-cropped white baby tee and a voluminous magenta leopard jacquard ballgown skirt. Smalls pulled her hair up into a high ponytail, and accessorized with sparkling silver hoop earrings and bangle bracelets. 

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Eric McNeal, Smalls' stylist, described the process behind the look as "so fun" in a 2020 interview with Fashionista: "That T-shirt with the skirt is quintessential Americana. It's very Brandon and it's very Joan. It was such a great energy around it."

Shop T-shirt-and-ballgown pairings inspired by Smalls in the gallery below.

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