We’ve just had a long and very fruitful discussion about the pressing and divisive problem of the oversized silhouette. During this debate, we agreed on the importance of personal authenticity, lamented poor design in bigger garments, speculated on the possibility of “silent clothing”, exposed some cultural prejudices surrounding a looser fit and examined our conflicted feelings about putting ourselves on display. All in all, a far reaching philosophical exploration which went above and beyond the original remit.
I went back to it yesterday with the intention of picking up a few bon mots for posterity, but there's far too much hive mind fabness to stop there. This might be the most interesting online conversation I've ever had the pleasure of joining, let alone the honour of starting.
The thread itself is well worth reading all the way through and my compilation is just the tip of the iceberg. For anyone who hasn’t already seen it, or has too much of a life to wade through 80+ comments, here are some highlights.
YLF, thank you once again for your extraordinary wisdom. Best of the web.
Approprio: Maybe I don’t look as conventionally beautiful in these outfits, but I can see very clearly who I am.
Angie (on the second rule of YLF): We celebrate ALL forms of fashion and style on YLF, and it is my wish that everyone is open to styles that work for different people at different points in their lives. They may not like a certain look - sometimes people just can't help what they don't like - but I DO want us to be as open minded as possible, and keep poison eye to an absolute minimum. That's one of the most important things to learn on YLF, and people like you help me teach that.
(first rule being “HAVE FUN WITH FASHION!!!”)
lisap: “The moment anyone feels that justification of choice and expression is necessary, is when the rest of (us) lose insight into a world much bigger than our own. “
Skylurker: “I have a problem with conceptual fashion and fashion as art : I don't want my body to be used to hang art and concept on, like you'd hang pictures on a wall. I don't want such an intimate relationship with a designer….. YSL, my fashion Master, wrote that good clothes, like good health, are silent. I've always been fascinated by the idea of silent clothes, that won't communicate anything to the world about you, nothing about your social context, your ideas, your personality.
Suz: “I can't even begin to understand what silent clothes would be, except perhaps in a country where everyone wore essentially the same thing, like early communist China.”
Skylurker: “IMO, he means the opposite: a bespoke garment is so individual, not because it's an original design, but because it's made to your measures, that it becomes your own, perfectly adapted to your fit and needs, functional garment.”
YSL: "On a coutume de parler du silence de la santé, du merveilleux silence de la santé. De même devrait-on parler du merveilleux silence du vêtement, de ce moment de grâce où le corps et ce qu'il porte ne sont plus qu'un, où cette union, toute spirituelle, se résume en un mot, l'élégance. Car, d'une certaine manière, celui que ses vêtements entravent, celui qui ne vit pas en accord avec eux, celui-là est un être malade."
lisap: “the ideal garment doesn't define the wearer ; rather she defines it”
Angie: “so called silent clothes speak volumes too - although they might not be the messages that we want to send.”
Vix: “I often have a little ongoing internal discussion around privilege, the Male Gaze, conventional standards of dress, and what I kind of lump under the "Go-Goddess" stuff (celebrate your unique beauty, highlight your femininity, etc). [It really helps when all one's current inner voices have opposing viewpoints....]
Caro in Oz: “many people thought Tilda Swinton looked "better" in Trainwreck than she does irl. I have trouble getting my head round this - she'd lost her individuality - the very thing that makes her Tilda”
Una: “Here in Vegas I am an oversized sack dress in a sea of short bodycon dresses. I am glad those women feel happy and confident in their tight dresses, and I feel perfectly at home in my own loose shifts.”
Aliona: “ Experiments in oversizing last year saw me getting caught up in my baggy trousers and falling down a flight of concrete stairs and catching the sleeve of an oversize jacket on a steaming hot mug of coffee.”
Irina: “Truth to be told, it is just not my personality and my environment. I realized that it's not the physical limitations but my mind set prevents me from wearing it.”
Diana: “More than most other styles I think this one depends SO much upon perfect fit, tailoring, and attention to detail. You can't just go into a store and expect to walk out looking like the mannequin. It's maybe a little counterintuitive because the styles are not designed to hug the body, hence you might expect that they would more easily fit. But they DO still depend on the "bones" underneath, so to speak. They have to hang off the body just so and you have to rely on not only perfect tailoring but also a really strong understanding of fabric composition, drape, etc.
Deborah (undisputed owner of this aesthetic): “The attitude of designers (referring to Caro's "fat lady" clothing) can appear to be one of let's hide/cover women, whereas beautifully designed and constructed non conventional looks IMHO can enhance and flatter.”
Suz: “how I feel is always and forever shaped by my environment and enculturation -- which in my case included some fairly aggressive lessons in "how to be a girl in consumer society." I can't escape those messages completely, not at my age. And not in my income bracket. (The two are not irrelevant. If I were younger -- like my daughter -- I could probably find a place for myself a little easier as an outlier. And if I could afford bespoke perhaps I could afford to speak louder than my clothes which would, nevertheless, inevitably speak volumes). But as things are, at least I can interrogate myself, continually question what is really right for me -- and meanwhile keep an open mind and an unpoisoned eye about others and how they choose to present themselves.”
Rabbit: “Like any other art form I think fashion is highly context driven, and meaning comes out of process, but also the intended audience being communicated with. I think we all have different intended audiences (a traditional potter and a conceptual sculptor might both make things out of clay, but the markets for their work are very different.)”
Style Fan: ”I am interested in fashion and gender roles. Why do women have to look a certain way? Why is there an ideal look? I think about this a lot. It is a part of my work. I worked with adolescents who had eating disorders for many years.”
Kiwigal/Sally: “ I love to see people comfortable, confident and authentic in their clothes, and their identity, and their appearance, whatever their age or shape or location.”
Sally: “I will admit that i swayed by what is conventionally attractive when dressing myself because it's been beaten into me. I remember at 16 cutting my hair really short and my father saying "that looks awful. You don't look feminine" and my sister wearing a jumpsuit and another family member commenting that "it really did nothing for her figure. " I'm fighting my own upbringing and society..probably why I've gone back running to at least get a strong body instead of worrying about how it looks in clothes all the time. “
Shevia: “the ultimate power grab is to dress where our clothes integrate seamlessly (;)) with our identity and thus become invisible as things in themselves empowering the designer/blogger/retailer/business interest that would like to control them and instead become part of we the wearer. “ (best moment in the thread!)
Rachylou: “ I have had a thought about being an 'older woman' and invisibility. I feel that as I've gotten older I'm less visible for my cuteness and more visible for my command. And in some ways, this is simply less of a thrill...but I really don't want to be bothered by the attentions of others to my cuteness.”
Bettycrocker: “You should never apologize for your style. It's what makes you you. Each of us has to figure out what works best for us based on our lifestyles, careers, body type and personality. In the end, you need to feel great in what you wear. It really is an emotional thing.”
Rabbit: “I was pondering heels, because I've been wearing more high heeled boots. On the one hand there is an element of artificiality/traditional feminine sexual ideals/slightly hindered movement (harder to sprint across a parking lot and avoid a rain shower), on the other, I'm suddenly taller and since I'm fairly tall to begin with find myself seeing over the heads of other women in a crowd and looking straight into (or down into) the eyes of men when I talk to them, and there is a strange power in having that viewpoint.”
Smittie: “I wish I lived in a more fashion-forward city where I wouldn't stand out so much for wearing something a little different.”
Gaylene: “Why the resistance--the " well, it's great for you, but I couldn't" reaction. Is it that radical or subversive to downplay and, gasp, even hide, our female attributes from the gaze of others? Might it make it hard for someone to figure out how to interact with me if my age, shape, and gender wasn't easily discernible? Would strangers have to learn more before they could figure how to stereotype me?”
Beth Ann: “Sometimes, when someone responds unfavorably to something I've worn, I remind myself that they may be just learning how to engage honestly in an active thread, and may not always get the balance right -- and I also know that someone will tell me they don't like something only when they think they've come to "know" me a bit.”
Janet: “ I want liberation and equality but not through total androgyny -- that would not feel like me, even though I do like a certain amount of it in my style. I don't want to feel like I have to wear something so completely covered to assert my personal -- and decidedly female -- power. …. The looks with very voluminous and layered skirts frankly put me in mind of days gone by when women were *required* to hide their legs -- only the ankles were visible, and the styles looked more cumbersome than easy to me. “
La Pedestrienne: “It strikes me that in extremely conservative cultures heavily layered, voluminous clothing is seen as a way of controlling bodies and sexuality. There are still parts of the world where revealing skin or form is a revolutionary act. Yet, to our western eyes, it's oversized looks that have become a type of resistance and/or rebellion against norms. It's all situational, isn't it?”
Gaylene: “I think it's rather fascinating how we, in North America, are so inclined towards seeing layered, voluminous clothing as a way of controlling female bodies and sexuality. I've been wired to think revealing my body is a statement of my free will and feminine power--a sign that I can't be coerced or controlled by those who would want to restrict my choices and ambitions. And, yet, when I think of the constant dieting, exercising, maintenance, and self-loathing we North American women put ourselves through in order to "look good in our clothes", I wonder If I'm not fooling myself. Is all this effort actually for ME--or for those who have convinced me I need to attract approving gazes from strangers who find it appealing to see a female shape on display?”
Rabbit: “I think that the opposite end of the spectrum - body baring or body con gets as much potential push back if not more than oversized/body obscuring -- and that touches on underlying issues from Puritanical/new England historical attitudes towards modesty in dress, social and economic class assumptions, more recent patterns of immigration, as well as the Pandora's box of feelings about open expressions of sexuality or baring skin (in the US), plus location specific norms -- Vegas baby :).
Rachylou: “I remember someone telling me it was actually illegal to wear a mask, cover your face, with the exception of Halloween. And when I walk down residential streets, sometimes I'm amazed how you can look in everyone's windows. Other places, every house is walled off. I wonder not a little if there are parallels with clothing: Western society drives toward openness and transparency. And sometimes maybe the drive is random and indiscriminate.”Shevia: “ I absolutely agree that there is a Western or at least American association with obesity and muumuu dressing and that plays into our first reaction to oversized silhouettes. And also agree that the emphasis on body con, or body show, somehow relates with keeping women obsessed with the size and shape of their bodies.”