Friday, November 02, 2007

Peculiar fashion trends generally filter down from the catwalk to high street shops, currently you can find Balenciaga's hologram leggings amongst those trends. I'm definitely a Balenciaga fan and I find Nicholas Ghesquiere's clothes incredibly exciting so I was quite interested and amused to find that these had leaked into Topshop.

Urban Outfitters appear to be snagging the concept for one of their shoes from Tashkent NYC at the moment. There's been some outrage about it on the fashion blogs. Presumably that's because the price difference isn't particularly large and Tashkent NYC is not a major fashion label that makes a lot of profit. However if you knew about both of these shoes and could afford either pair (and had any sense of aesthetic) the clear favourite would have to be Cheyenne's shoe on the right, which is interesting, elegant and appealing from a design perspective.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

People should dress their bodies rather than their genders. It seems an obvious and rational statement yet it is in direct opposition to accepted behaviour.

In many countries clothing is sorted into three definite consumer categories: male, female and unisex. Most people automatically opt for clothing that fits into their gender description. They position their bodies in line with the binary categorisation that consumer culture provides. The actual shape and silhouette of their bodies is placed within that structure regardless of what it actually looks like, whether it’s actually the right shape for the clothes.

Even if a specific body would suit the clothes of the opposite gender from an aesthetic perspective, even if different clothes would accentuate masculinity or femininity more people tend to stick to the correct category. Shopping outside of those consumer definitions is regarded as subversive by those that consider it and not regarded at all by a huge number of people. There’s a tendency to listen to the bureaucracy rather than the shape of the body that you’re dressing and that is related to cultural pressure, the need to be more female or male, more in line with culture than self. Occasionally a woman who buys jeans from the men's section will pipe up about it but rarely will you hear of other instances of women buying men's clothes and the suspicion is that those women come from a culture of light cross-dressing, are backed up in this choice by their peers. Gendered departments are usually viewed as a rule rather than a guideline.

There is a better school of dress to subscribe to. People who have choice should disregard the gender categories that consumerism provides and think about their bodies, what fits them, what they look good in and most importantly the ways in which their bodies are naturally structured. People need to think about their hips, their shoulders, their thighs and chests and waists and garb themselves according to the rules of their bodies and not wider society. It’s difficult, not least because you have to see yourself and clothes and it is tough to think about what suits you as well as what you like, hard to find clothes that do both. Even more so when you’re breaking taboos. But what is this foolish gender divide that we allow society to infringe on us? I hear the refrain “Men and women are different” all the time but I’m a little more concerned with similarities, particularly those parts of our gender construction that were written centuries ago. If we’re so different why create more difference? If it’s already there we don’t need to mark it out, that happens naturally so the suggestion has to be more freedom to wear what we want, the clothes that make us more beautiful, that emphasise the strengths we have individually.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fashion snubs older women. This is a very interesting article to read from a British perspective because I often feel like I'm surrounded by shops and labels that I really look forward to trying out but that I'm too young to buy from at the moment. Shops like Hobbs which provide beautiful clothes for women who can wear a really certain style and cut and Jaeger, which produces beautiful garments that can be worn with confidence by people who are well into womanhood. Fenn, Wright and Manson provides clothes that sometimes look too mature on younger women because they often aren't the right shape or style for them but actually makes women in their forties and onwards look sexy and interesting. When I think about clothing the possibility of ageing is a positive and exciting thing and I'm surprised by this article as a result. I notice these clothes without looking for them- I can't wear most of them despite occasionally trying them on and realising that I'm not enough of a woman to wear them yet. There appear to be all kinds of clothing possibilities, perhaps there's market to be cornered overseas that no one has targetted yet, maybe we need to export some of our clothing brands!
The aim for a fashion theorist, as with everything else, has to be to understand the subject from a starting point of unity. There has to be one concept to work from and to me that appears to be cultural construction. How do people construct themselves through their clothes? What impression does clothing leave the spectator with? What can we do with our clothes to make the best possible version of ourselves?

We begin with basic consumerism, fashion as functioning across tiers of availability. In the UK we begin with markets that sell clothing that creates false labels and emulates high end fashion so fake Burberry, fake sportswear. Then we get to the High Street, which holds a number of tiers from Primark to H&M, Marks and Spencer, Urban Outfitter, Warehouse, Jigsaw, Juicy Couture, Karen Millen, Agnes B. Then ready to wear designer clothing such as DKNY, Chloe, Paul Smith, Ferretti and then couture, a dying art that is made by a limited number of design houses such as Chanel, Givenchy and Versace. There begins an understanding of how the industry works. From that point on a fashion theorist has to conceive of how these different tiers of the fashion industry can be mixed together to create a more equal view of fashion theory and from there a broader concept of fashion theory can begin.

To understand fashion it is necessary to look at its history with an abstract eye, fashion is full of patterns that revolve around the human body and the various ways in which society is framed. Even now there are condemnations of social class that take place through the perspective of clothing choice. Look at the word "chav" which is so prevalent in the British media and on close examination you are left with "I do not like the way that person dresses. I think they are inferior because of their clothes". Ignorance of another groups social structure equates with judgement of their clothing but it's also a comment on money and the social background and choice and privilege of the person uttering the comment. They are probably on the outside of the social group they are criticising and do not understand the neccessity to dress like someone elses peers despite possibly having done so themselves in the past. Why is this important to fashion theory? Well it provides an explanation for some of the odder mainstream, wide ranging clothing choices. Dick Hebdige wrote about this phenomenon in The Meaning of Dress but it tackles a very limited period of history. Can we not extend the idea of dress and clothing beyond small groups of people. Why were corsets worn so widely for such a long period of time? Why has the suit proven an enduring fashion item, a fashion uniform if you like? These are the questions that a unified theory of fashion should seek to answer, we should move beyond subculture and gender perspectives and discover clothes as more than function, as an item that allows us to construct ourselves in culture beyond our peers and the dictates of designers and consumerism.