WTF is ... Trompe L'Oeil?

Trompe O'eil Fashion
Photo: Photo Illustration. Photo: Getty Images

Trompe L'Oiel was one of the first terms I ever learned in French class. I remember my professeur (that's professor in French) saying the term meant "trick of the eye," but it wasn't until she showed us photos of buildings and ornate wall drawings that I really was able to understand what it meant.

Let's start by how you say the phrase before we explain what it means in the fashion world: Trump (sorry) + Loy (as in "oy" with an "l" in front of it). Easy enough, right? Now that we got that down ...

On a building, trompe l'oeil is expressed when something is painted on a wall that typically is three dimensional, say, a window, but instead, is just, well, paint.

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It's a visual illusion meant to create the experience that a three-dimensional object—be it a window, a cloud, a flower—is actually there. In reality, though, you're just looking at concrete. The phrase translates from French to English to literally mean "deceives the eye."

So how does this work when it comes to fashion? Look no further than brands like Moschino and Gucci for examples. But brands consistently use trompe l'oiel throughout their collections in whimsical ways. My personal favorite example: a $13,500 Gucci gown from the Cruise 2018 collection. Thanks to the trompe l'oeil pleating, the gown is made to seem mythical, almost Grecian. In reality, it's a simple frock.

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A T-shirt with a beautiful bow silkscreened on versus an actual bow applique, a pair of jeans with lines painted on to create the appearance of fading or creasing, a sweater with a pearl necklace painted on ... all examples of trompe l'oeil in fashion.

And now you know. Shop away.

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Trompe L'oeil Blouse

Trompe L'oeil Blouse
Farfetch
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Trompe L'oeil T-Shirt

Trompe L'oeil T-Shirt
Farfetch
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Trompe L'oeil Lace Print Skirt

Trompe L'oeil Lace Print Skirt
Farfetch
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Trompe L'oeil Tote Bag

Trompe L'oeil Tote Bag
Farfetch
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Trompe L'oeil Chain Necklace Dress

Trompe L'oeil Chain Necklace Dress
Farfetch
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Two-tone cotton and cashmere-blend tunic

Two-tone cotton and cashmere-blend tunic
Net-a-porter
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