Keira Knightley appears to be doing more for the color green than Kermit the Frog ever did.

This story first appeared in the December 18, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Various media have splashed the drop-dead emerald green gown the actress dons in “Atonement” in newspapers, morning shows and tabloid TV programs. There is more coverage to come, no doubt, since the upper-crust drama about love and war has racked up seven Golden Globe nominations including a leading actress one for the 22-year-old Knightley. Moviegoers get a good long look at the sweeping gown created by costume designer Jacqueline Durran, since Knightley wears it in the flick’s most pivotal scene.

And the fashion world is racing to get in on a good thing while it lasts. Copycats have their work cut out for them, given Durran’s interpretation of a Thirties dress that’s not your average shift — a nearly backless number, ruched at the hips, loose-bodied with laser-cut patterns at the bust and a free-moving train.

Los Angeles-based designer David Meister pointed out that “films always have such an impact on fashion any time there’s a movie that gets a lot of press.” Case in point: Last week Meister had nearly sold all 300 units of a $486 emerald silk dress, after it was featured in a New York Post article, just after the movie’s premiere. That was serendipitous for the designer, who just happened to have the item in his collection along with similar versions in deep blue and wine. Despite the hype around the film, Meister said he had not decided if he would reorder the dress in green.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Durran explained that getting the unusually rich shade worn by Knightley was no easy feat. After finding lime green silk, black and green organza and green chiffon in London, she took swatches of each to a master dyer in London who dyed 100 yards of plain white fabric into a composite of those three hues.

Durran said she intentionally never asked director Joe Wright what particular shade of green he was after. “It’s an open-ended symbol that means many things to many people. I think of green as temptation but that’s just me,” she told the L.A. Times.

Non-moviegoers will also be seeing more green in fashion and design in the months ahead. Green appears to be at the beginning of a long cycle, according to the Color Association of America. “The eco-movement is definitely a big part of it. But moving forward it will be more of an upscale movement. People don’t want to identify being environmentally friendly as being hippy chic,” said Christina Chow, director of membership. Although it was warming of a different sort — the body’s and not the globe’s — that appeared to be on the mind of Knightley’s character in the steamy green-dress scene.

Fashion designers are beginning to move away from lime green, which is viewed as younger and less upscale, in favor of very leafy green shades, deeper moss greens and olives. These various hues are the new neutrals, Chow said. The undercurrent is that green is becoming more upscale, as evidenced by Barneys New York’s green-themed holiday windows and Knightley’s gown, she said.

Of course, sometimes there are other advantages at play. “Keira Knightley wears her clothes beautifully,” Chow said.

Green is seen as a positive color and conveys a sense of doing good, due chiefly to the environmental movement, she said. It also relays “honesty, authenticity and just being modern,” Chow added. Given that, green is cropping up in more branding and graphic design, with many new companies opting for green logos. BP, which was formerly known as British Petroleum, was one of the first to jump on the trend, and its redesigned green logo was well-received by the designer world, Chow noted. Conversely, blue logos deliver a more corporate feel, she said.

But green was already seeing a comeback in fashion before Knightley took to the silver screen earlier this month. Marc Bouwer showed a variety of green gowns on his runway in September, and Luca Luca has an emerald green tiered column gown with a low-slung hand-beaded belt in its Madison Avenue store’s window. Store manager Christina Klisanin said she had not seen the film, when the $3,200 dress from Luca Luca’s resort collection was put on display earlier this month. Interestingly, one of the dresses was requested by Knightley’s stylist for a shoot and movie premiere, but she did not wind up wearing it. A Luca Luca client has already secured the dress for her trip to the Grammy Awards, Klisanin said. And a few Luca Luca shoppers have referenced Knightley’s dress as proof that green is in, she added.

Eveningwear maker Cachet was already at work on an “Atonement”-inspired gown last week and its $280 version will ship to stores starting in May. Customers continue to react to what celebrities wear to red- carpet affairs like the Oscars, Golden Globes and Grammys, said sales manager Michael Ruff. In addition, “Green is going to be very important going forward — it already is now,” he said.

After “Access Hollywood” featured a knockoff by New York-based eveningwear manufacturer Faviana on air Friday night, the New York-based company received thousands of e-mails from consumers, said co-president Omid Moradi. Faviana expects to sell “thousands” of its $238 polyester charmeuse version. “We’ve been taking orders all day,” said Moradi, who has yet to see the film.

Allen Schwartz, design director of ABS by Allen Schwartz, said his company has moved away from knockoffs. “It seemed as though everyone thought of us as that. We wanted to get away from all that,” he said. “We’re really about what’s trending.”

That said, he does have Grecian gowns including a sage-colored one in his May/June collection, but that is nothing new.

“The trend of Grecian and ruching has really been alive for the last six to eight weeks,” Schwartz said. “It’s really the whole Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford way of dressing.”