Saturday, September 29, 2007

Picture for a moment Victoria Beckham in Gucci. Emphasis on her breasts, waist and hips, presenting a classic Italian silhouette despite the design probably having been created by Tom Ford. At the end of Milan fashion week 2008 the distinct curves of the Italian feminine strike me. There appear to be geographical differences in the approach to the feminine silhouette. The shape of the constructed ideal feminine body changes in various countries, Southern Europe contrasts with Northern Europe. Designers who are not Italian tend to be heavily indoctrinated into the specifics of feminine fashion.

At this moment the opportunity to review the runway shows, specifically those of the big designers and fashion houses is presented. The urge is to try and find similarities between clothes, try to spot common trends but this year I have been struck by difference. Italy has a very specific type of femininity that comes across on the catwalk. If you imagine the models outlines rather than the you arrive at the point where you have to start considering the contrast in clothing.

Below are two designs by Marc Jacobs, a ready to wear evening dress and a more casual outfit. The dress is quite diagonal, if it weren't it would have an element of A-line about it. You can see a hip at one side but there's little emphasis of it. There's definitely an A-line element in the shorts but little emphasis on the hips despite their length. The legs of the model are made to look almost continuous, a part of a single structure that is the body.

Matthew Williamson puts some emphasis on the hips, the shape of the purple dresses is clearly influenced by Italian designs but they don't quite have the same bite or emphasis on the waist, the influence is at the thigh rather than any higher.

In comparison are some examples of Spring/Summer 2008 Italian ready to wear designed by Roberto Cavalli, Versace and Prada. The clothes always taper into the thigh and emphasise the waist, almost biting into them.

There are exceptions of course, the Matthew Williamson piece above shows that quite adequately, yet there seem to be two different streams here, working within a set of rules that change from season to season. It is a good guide to what kind of fashion house you would like to buy from, a decision could be made purely on the basis of what kind of silhouette you want. If an extremely feminine construction is your desire than the Italian designers are more likely to provide you with your perfect piece of clothing. The further north you venture the more the A-line becomes the ruling factor of a silhouette, the feminine becomes something different, more focused on the detail and content of the clothing and less on the shape. Italian dress plays more with the structure of the body and less with the presentation of pattern and frill, it is less girly and the trends lean away from the masculine elements of women's garments. Versace plays a little with masculine modes of dress but the vast majority of the clothes still retain the silhouette to some extent, usually by tapering into the thigh and putting some emphasis, however small and seemingly insignificant on the waist. I wonder if this is in some way related to Roman sculpture, the curves of ancient statues, it's certainly a deep vein running through the industry. Regardless of this it's cultural, that isn't really something to be questioned because it crops up in almost all of the Italian Spring/Summer collections despite all of the other trends that are being followed by the designers and fashion houses based in the country.

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