Praise and blame for the oversized (for Gaylene)

This is very long, but it’s something I’ve been wanting to get off my chest for a while. I stepped out of the forum for a few weeks, partly because I’ve been wearing a lot of baggy clothing lately. To put it mildly, this is not the most popular choice around here and I completely understand why. I’m not judging anyone else for their choices and I hope you'll do me the same courtesy. Life’s too short to have the whole of YLF look at me sideways.

If you have the patience, please read on.

I have a definite preference for the oversized. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me. It hangs well on my big boned, zaftig frame. It gives me the freedom to eschew figure flattery and focus on colour, texture and proportion. It sidesteps all the problems I have with fit on my broad shoulders, short waist and large bosom. It makes me feel good and it’s comfortable.

I’m quite sure I look more impressive in mannish tailoring and more conventionally attractive in a fitted dress. But right now, a looser fit feels very authentic in relation to my lifestyle. Why should I dress up and perform when all I’m doing is working alone, running errands and meeting friends? Why not enjoy the freedom and mobility of an unconstricted silhouette? These shapes are having a moment and I’m taking advantage of that.

There’s been a lot of talk lately on the forum, confusion even, about how we should respond to this, in particular a very thought-provoking thread started by Gaylene a little while back. I really enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts on this, but to my eternal shame I only made the most pitiful contribution myself. To be honest, I’ve been disinclined until now to wade in when it’s clear that a lot of people here seem to have the poison eye for a style that’s so close to my heart and anyway, I’m the first to admit there’s a problem. It may feel to me like a gift from the gods to see this filter down at last, but in reality the building blocks are very hard to assemble. In my opinion, high volume stands or falls on design, materials and fabrication, but I’ll come to that.


"Conceptual Fashion uses the body as a site for communication. Postmodern philosophers like Foucault maintain that the body is inscribed with cultural and gender meanings and becomes a text that tells the story of the social context that the body is constructed in. This process not only shapes the body but in many cases disciplines it as well, for example, what bodies are considered to be objects of beauty. Some conceptual designers have understood this and use fashion and clothes to disrupt dominant discourses and narratives about the female body."

Gaylene posted this quote from the Accidental Icon and all I said was Yes. Gaylene, my humble apologies. I wished afterwards I’d given you a more nuanced answer, so here’s one now.

I’m a professional creative living in the centre of an international city. (sounds glamorous, but in fact it’s a life as full of misery, challenges, ennui and joy as any other.) No doubt if things had turned out another way I’d be dressing differently, but this is who I am now and I like looking the part. Fashion is important to me and I strive to engage with it on the level of ideas and contexts as well as using it to look appealing, or correct, or whatever. On some levels (not all) it’s definitely an art form, and like any art it doesn’t always have to be beautiful, it can be used conceptually as well. And quite frankly, there are times when I can do without the demands of performative femininity and I’m more than happy to stand in opposition to it rather than simply ignore it.

So yes, I see this partly as a subversive statement about womanhood, ageing and social expectations. But ultimately, I agreed with a lot of what was said in that thread. Aesthetically this is very challenging, at odds with just about everything we’ve come to expect from womenswear. It’s been a huge disappointment to see this executed so poorly by retailers. Something’s been lost in the translation from high fashion to high street.

We all seem to agree, however, that they do layers very well in Japan and I think that’s a clue as to why this isn’t working. Japanese fashion to my eye is more concerned with forms and fabrics and far less about the body underneath. The lagenlook has relevance here in Europe for more or less the same reasons. But in both locations the designers and brands who have been working with it for a long time prioritise quality in material and fabrication.

COS don’t seem to be able to pull this off. I look in there from time to time, I can see what they’re aiming for and I want them to succeed at it but there’s something about their cuts and materials which just doesn’t work out. Uniqlo have done better at it (just look at this lady) perhaps because they’re Japanese and it’s part of their DNA. They just sold me a very nice boxy sweatshirt and I’m liking their wide legged gaucho pants at the moment. But even so, a quick straw poll of my wardrobe indicates that for me, it’s either high end pieces with exemplary cuts or my own creations where I’ve used top notch fabrics. It doesn’t work well in inexpensive materials.

I find since my trip to Japan last year I’m moving more and more in this direction. I’ve been looking back at pictures from the last couple of years and I can see that even though many of them hit the conventional flattery spot, they look to me as if I’m trying too hard. By contrast, the looks I’ve been wearing lately, the loose fitting tops, the baggy pants, the chunky shoes, all seem to express something that’s fundamentally me. It puts me in mind of Gaylene’s observation on seeing the model’s faces more clearly in these clothes. Maybe I don’t look as conventionally beautiful in these outfits, but I can see very clearly who I am.

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • rachylou replied 5 years ago

    I wish I had more to say than *I agree,* approprio, but that's what it comes down to :) Foucault has some gems, and you look amazing. It probably doesn't count as much coming from me, because I have a well known love of the quirky, but there you have it. And after all, I know everything ;)

    I esp agree that context shapes everything. What is beautiful has a lot to do with WHAT we're trying please. The ancient Greeks sought harmony, but I suffer from bourgeois ennui - so I like a little discordance. I rather believe everything has a beauty, it only needs to be found. It's even in my Style Statement (which I paid Carrie and Danielle for, lol): Contemporary Beauty.

    I applaud!

  • RoseandJoan replied 5 years ago

    Thank you so much for writing such an interesting post, I will need a little time to ruminate on my thoughts on beauty v interest whilst factoring in the cultural norms.

    My immediate thought is that your current clothes speak, if I walked past you on the street my assumption of your character would be of assertive intelligence. I would wish to know more.

    Off to marinate a little more.

  • Angie replied 5 years ago

    Liz, I'm glad you posted! Thank you, and hugs.

    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. 

    Now, onto you! You wear your creative, playful and arty oversized looks with panache, and you know I love them on you. I agree with your reasoning here and it all makes perfect sense, especially when you have a soft spot for how some of the people dress in Japan. I've seen it. I get it. Why not! 

    And on that note, I have a soft spot for how the people dress in Hong Kong, so as much as I am an '80s gal at heart, I'm moving back to the tailored looks of the '70s and '60s on this Modern Retro and "Urban Pretty" leg of my style journey. You were gracious enough to compliment me on my outfit last week - the Spring tweed suit - which means that I know you can also appreciate different styles on different people. That's what it's all about. We are all rocking on and feeling fab in the ways we want to dress! Listening to the way we FEEL in an outfit is key. 

  • catgirl replied 5 years ago

    I'm sure you can predict I am 100% on board with this. 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. :)

    I recently posted about the pressure to "show a cute figure" that I've heard from others (often my own family) IRL about myself. And I'm happy to have reached an age or stage where I take that kindly without feeling obliged to comply.

    The style world would be a poorer place without people like you!

  • Firecracker replied 5 years ago

    I love these outfits on you, Liz. You look stylish and relaxed, so at ease, appealing, and like someone I want to get to know better. I envy your ability to wear a lot of the clothes you wear and create; because they don't express me the way they seem to express you, I would not wear them as well. I think I'm pretty much a fan of any outfit you pair with your platform creepers. That's a style that I so admire, and when I've tried on similar shoes, they have just felt and looked odd to me. I will continue to admire them on you and others!

    I will leave my comment at that, the specific instance. I'm a little intimidated by the philosophical discussions about style, because I figure in my ignorance I'm bound to offend someone unintentionally, so I didn't even wade into Gaylene's thread, though I read it.

  • Xtabay replied 5 years ago

    I know zip about Foucault, but I'm glad you're dressing YOUR body the way YOU want to dress it.  I'm not one to make political statements with my attire, but there's plenty of room in the world of style for those who do.  And you look fab!

  • replied 5 years ago

    I'd like to start at the end and say this before I ramble on and lose my point:

    I would expect nothing less from someone working and living in the city you do, and from someone with more than just a consumer's interest in fashion. In fact, I personally  need women like you to serve as an ambassador for an equally important part of fashion and design - this alternative, conceptual, and artistically driven way of looking at dressing the body.  

    Now, clearly I'm not one who is intimidated by alternative or conceptual ways of dressing but I don't participate in it myself.  Doesn't' matter what the reasons are - what matters is that you are probably more authentically you and dress with more consideration to the greater concept of fashion as art than most of us do. And for that you are to be commended. And admired. And looked to for exposure to fashion as something more than just what is in the malls this season.  

    As far as what is accepted and understood here on this forum, I personally see it as a microcosm of the different ways women and men use clothing to express themselves.  It's pretty mainstream , with fewer outliers than market fashion consumers.  

    The moment anyone feels that justification of choice and expression is necessary,  is when the rest of  lose insight into a world much bigger than our own.  You're pretty cool.  

  • Sheila replied 5 years ago

    Brilliant. Spot on. You know (and articulated so well) way more than I do about this topic but I love the way you said it as much as what you said. I think our clothes should suit us individually, they should be comfortable to our soul, and they should serve us well. From the top of our heads to the tip of our toes!

  • MsMaven replied 5 years ago

    Excellent post! You make good points, especially on different body shapes. I admire women with strong, square shoulders because they can wear the flowing and oversized clothes and still look good. 

    I could go on but you and other posters have expressed these thoughts better than I can.

  • replied 5 years ago

    Approprio, I love the looks you post and always look forward to your insights into fashion, especially Japanese fashion. I would be very sad if you held back on posting your fabulous WIWs .

    I love oversize looks. I wish I could wear them, but two things make it difficult. First, I am clumsy. 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.

    Second, I am a short, small-boned person and I've come to realise I feel like I'm literally drowning in fabric when I wear head to toe oversize looks. I wish I had your height to carry off the look I Iove, but I can still appreciate it on you and others. Thanks for keeping the spirit alive :)

  • Irina replied 5 years ago

    I used to think that as much as I admire the oversize fashion, I can not wear it myself only because I am a petite, shorwaisted woman and it would not suite me. 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. I love COS, wish I could afford more clothes from them but admit that I adapt their pieces to suite my style and not true "oversize trend follower" :) love it on others, though

  • skylurker replied 5 years ago

    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.

    Probably because, well, most of the time I don't get the concept, so I won't be a billboard for something I don't even understand.
    Of course if you understand what they mean and identify strongly with their ideas, I can imagine one could enjoy wearing conceptual clothes.

    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. I guess it's an introvert ideal :)

    OTOH I have issues with conventional flattery too, you summarize them exactly when you write "dress up and perform".
    Being a polished, flattered, woman is a performance that I admire from afar (truly, I'm not being sarcastic) but I can't do it. I'm not able, I'm not motivated, dunno what my problem is, but I'm not that woman.

    (I read the text before I looked at the pics, was expecting to see a bag lady, so was pleasantly surprised by your great looks!)

  • bonnie replied 5 years ago

    Thank for sharing your experiences. I've always had a fondness for non traditional (oversize) dressing and although I don't dress this way everyday, I like to wear it occasionally. My attempts to share my work with this style have "mostly" garnered support and helpful comments and I appreciate that. I agree with Angie that "poison eye" should be kept to a minimum. I look forward to your posts and hope you continue.

  • Suz replied 5 years ago

    Approprio -- what a wonderful post. When it comes to your outfits, I can only echo Jules (RoseandJoan) and say "if I walked past you on the street my assumption of your character would be of assertive intelligence. I would wish to know more."

    And when it comes to myself and oversized, I would say what Aliona does. I love it, adore it even, but it's tough for me to wear due to my frame/ size. I have to be quite particular. I'm very interested in what you said about Cos, because I have tried on items there when in England and could not get them to work for me (much as I so desperately wanted to). 

    Anyway, I can appreciate it on others and enjoy it if I cannot wear much of it myself. 

    Skylurker, I am curious about YSL's remark. 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. (Mind you, I quite liked that particular uniform.) In other words, I think clothes communicate whether we like it or not, but what they communicate is not always the message we are trying to send.


  • Echo replied 5 years ago

    "The moment anyone feels that justification of choice and expression is necessary, is when the rest of lose insight into a world much bigger than our own. You're pretty cool."

    lisap, I could not agree more. And again, I think this is part of the reason many of us tend not to critique outfits unless we are specifically asked to do so. We ALL have our own biases and baggage around the issues of how we dress and how we choose to express ourselves. Each time I am here, I try to take Angie's advice about keeping my poison eye to a minimum. It is difficult for me, but the practice is helping to open my mind. 

  • bonnie replied 5 years ago

    I was curious about skylurker's fashion master, YSL, so googled YSL fashion and found this photo. Is this an example of silent clothes?

  • Vix replied 5 years ago

    Hi Approprio --

    I always try to catch these types of discussions because I do think they're very fascinating. Maybe more so now with our collective awareness about (global) cultural ways of dressing, some of which give women no real, coercion-free choice about how they will dress.

    While I'm having to dust the cobwebs off my memory, I believe Julie Kristeva and Laura Mulvey resonated with me more than Foucault.

    At any rate they all provoke us to think about the female body and how we're seen (in art, film, tv) to dress, told to dress, or WANT to dress, which I think is a very positive thing. 

    The/your choice to hide more of the body in a "show" culture can't help but be provocative. The irony.

    As a feminist from the second grade on (I questioned gender inequalities I saw in and between Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, ha) 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....]

    Because I am drawn to both personal accounts and research on what affects body image, I have to say I'm surprised by your self-description. My words have zero overlap with yours (though I guess I'd say "great shoulders" so perhaps there's a bit of venn diagramming). 

    Where you were in the past interests me (loved seeing some of your older pieces), where you are now interests me. Thanks for sharing!

  • skylurker replied 5 years ago

    @Suz : here it is - you're Canadian, you may read French ?

    "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."

    Funny that you mention Communist China because IMO, he means the opposite. Uniforms are imposed by the State and produced in standard sizes. I think he speaks of his work as a tailor : 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. Not a garment advertizing communism or the "dna" of the brand x.

    And of course, I agree with you, clothes can't really be silent, they're part of all that non verbal messages we're sending. I just love the idea of silent clothes.

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Ladies, it's late at night here, and I'll respond in depth in the morning, but right now I want to hug all of you! Thanks for such a great discussion xo

  • replied 5 years ago

    Regarding the concept of "silent clothes " - I believe that by switching the order of those two words , his original meaning is lost or misunderstood . Not that I'm some big expert, (anymore- she says ruefully) but my interpretation of that phrase is something else . It harkens back to that old phrase : clothes do not make the woman ....or we should see the woman before her clothes . Of course social and economic standing is broadcast through what you wear ( in that rarefied world , anyways) but the ideal garment doesn't define the wearer ; rather she defines it . And so I hopefully don't sound like a pretentious jerk here and to provide some context - I studied fashion in all ways and concepts and from all perspectives at both and undergraduate and graduate level of university for almost 7 years . I loved the academic study of clothing - and appreciate how this kind of discussion energizes me and reminds me I've still got the brain power to engage in fashion in more ways than just buying stuff at the mall. Thank you, Liz.

  • replied 5 years ago

    And because I just can't stop, that photo of Joni Mitchell is interesting - I heard she had just shot an ad campaign for some fashion house this year, so I'm curious if this is it . She looks younger here ......

  • Caro in Oz replied 5 years ago

    Thanks so much for this post. I have a curvy body & have fought the idea of body-con clothes all my life - they are just not me.  When I first saw Japanese clothes (in the 80s) I loved how they played with western fashions ideas of the female body. When I started wearing those clothes I understood how freeing they could be, not only on a physical level but on an emotional one - to feel released from societies constraints is very empowering for women imo.

    My problem with oversized or layered (lagenlook) or similar is that here in Australia a version of these looks has become the default look for so many women. The Australian versions are not the same as their European counterparts. Here clothes are often made with poor fabric & are terrible cuts - so not what the Japanese designers had in mind. They are often considered "fat lady" clothes - not my words :) 

    As someone who doesn't fit (or buy) into societies current ideas of beauty  I was fascinated to read that 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 :) Fine for a role where you mean to do it but not so great for a person imo.

    I love your outfits & love that you explore fashion as art. I missed Gaylene's post so off to read it now.

  • Angie replied 5 years ago

    Liz, I'm glad you feel loved. Mission accomplished.

    Echo, thanks for watching that poison eye. I constantly watch mine too. I applaud the spirit of the advanced style blog with every fibre of my being because it sends the right message to the world. But I do not want to dress like that at any age. Doesn't mean I can't appreciate it! 

    I'm nodding along with very wise Suz. 

    Skylurker, ironically, so called silent clothes speak volumes too - although they might not be the messages that we want to send. From what I've gathered about you - (and do correct me if I'm wrong) - fashion and style is like Sport. You are very interested in being a spectator but you don't really want to participate in the game. 

    There is a lot of truth in that old saying that Lisa mentioned. The wearer defines her clothes and makes them work. Our reasons for wearing a certain look may be very different - but the motivation behind the outfits is the same.  We are listening to how the outfit makes them FEEL so that we can feel fab. 

  • viva replied 5 years ago

    Approprio, as always I find your post so interesting and provocative, mostly because for me fashion is not such an intellectual adventure. So I appreciate the challenge to think about it that way. I'm really a much more emotional and impulsive dresser and tend to / try to have a very liberal style worldview: I bristle at comments like "that look/style is very out" and I interpret my own poison eye as the result of my own narrow-mindedness (who am I to judge, really?).

    Where I nodded with the surprise of being enlightened was during your discussion about fabric quality, and how COS may not quite be succeeding at the oversized look because it requires better fabrication to achieve. I think that may well be right, and it's both interesting to ponder and somewhat disheartening. I rather like fast fashion as a way to try some styles that are more outside my comfort zone and COS represents the perfect vehicle for that -- but then again, maybe not.

    Where I nodded most vigorously in gut-level agreement was to your final statement: Maybe I don’t look as conventionally beautiful in these outfits, but I can see very clearly who I am. This is really my goal in dressing, what Lisap refers to as authenticity. Whatever I am wearing, I want to recognize myself (and, I suppose, I want those who really know me to recognize me too). 

    Thanks for the spark.

  • deb replied 5 years ago

    Thank you for an interesting discussion, approprio! I have always liked your style because you make it yours.

  • Diana replied 5 years ago

    I have not read all the comments yet so please forgive me if I am rehashing.

    I think you do oversized and "conceptual" very well, and so do many others. However, I'm skeptical that it's an aesthetic that can ever be done well as a mass market thing. You have the advantages of living in a place where you have access to high fashion, avant grade designers, etc and more importantly you have the skills and the eye to make/alter/tailor things perfectly for your body. 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.

    I don't know this for a fact but I suspect many of the Japanese women who wear this style have the clothes tailored or even custom made to fit their specific bodies. (I had a Japanese friend who wore a sort of toned down version, and she had fewer clothes but they were almost all really well made and almost certainly tailored. I think she mostly purchased clothing when she went back home to Japan for visits.)

    You could get lucky and walk into COS (for example) and come out with a garment that hangs perfectly on your body, but 10 other women could end up with the same garment that technically fits but looks sloppy, schlumpy, or otherwise "off." It's not that the design is necessarily bad, just that it's a hard thing to fit on many bodies of varying shapes and sizes. A body con, stretchy dress, provided it's the right fit, is a lot easier these days because it conforms to one's body due to stretchy fabrics, and let's face it, we might be too overly critical about our own bodies, but objectively most bodies are attractive in one way or another. A skilled tailor with vision could probably take a tuck here and a dart there and achieve the right effect, but skilled tailors are few and far between, to say nothing of visionaries. and honestly the visionaries should be designing couture or at least high end ready to wear.

  • Deborah replied 5 years ago

    What a wonderful conversation, albeit a little deep for me first thing this morning lol. I will need to re read and ruminate further:)

    Liz thanks for sharing. I get it! I have spent my whole life not feeling I fit in (note I do not feel that way at YLF). because I have never wanted to wear what was considered conventionally attractive. I adore oversized garments and second Caro's comments about how it is here in Australia. 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. I am reminded that beauty is in the eye of the beholder... Liz I find your "looks" incredibly attractive and beautiful and I see no lack of femininity in oversized garments.

  • Cins replied 5 years ago

    I love your style. You can tell how well thought out your outfits are. Yes, unconventional and they all work. I especially like the leather top look. Arresting!

  • Mochi replied 5 years ago

    I had never checked out your style before. And having quickly done so just now, I can say that it makes my heart skip a beat. Truly thrilling, artistic, amazing and unforgettable. 

  • Suz replied 5 years ago

    "Maybe I don’t look as conventionally beautiful in these outfits, but I can see very clearly who I am."

    I think perhaps that is the meaning of YSL's "silent clothes." If I'm understanding it correctly, Skylurker? Or...perhaps not quite. Because Liz's  version is about how the wearer sees herself. YSL's remains about how the world views the wearer. The wearer is objectified, still. 

    I prefer Liz's formulation. I would love for fashion to be (primarily) about how I feel in my clothes -- although naturally, of course, without question, 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. 

  • shiny replied 5 years ago

    Skipping ahead to your photos.. a big YES! I love your aesthetic. 

  • rabbit replied 5 years ago

    I've always admired your style, it's coherence, modernity while celebrating retro elements, thoughtfulness and advanced understanding of design and fashion history and agree with everything lisap wrote.  

    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.)

    I also agree that all clothing communicates something, even if it's 'I'm blending in with my suburban surroundings, nothing to see here, move along' - there are still messages about age and economic status, and even very mainstream looks communicate information which may or may not accurately reflect the personality and interests of the person wearing the clothes.  It's as much about disguise as statement of intent sometimes I think.

    I've been thinking about over-sized clothes because they have been so omnipresent on the runway, and in street style looks that are heavily influenced by the runway, and yet no matter how many articles are written about the death of skinny jeans, it looks to me like more bodycon and tailored looks are still at peak saturation at retail and seem to be the dominant silhouette outside of the edgy creative districts of cities (at least in the US).  

    I think like a lot of others have mentioned, some has to do with materials, and stretchy fabrics being easier to fit over myriad body types, and some has to do with the visual skills and experience required to bring all elements into balance with over-sized looks (I'm thinking that haircuts play a big part of it too).   Caro, Deborah from Oz and you (to name a few) seem have an innate understanding of how to work with volume and the edges of where volume meets the body and how it's draped.   The overall look is highly compelling and sculptural -- and fits with both body and personality.  

  • Style Fan replied 5 years ago

    I enjoy your posts and your style.  I try to have an open mind about all fashion.  All.  It is easy for me to like edgy, out of the mainstream looks.  I find the oversized look creative and it intrigues me.  I agree that the face of the models in the COS post was highlighted because of the drape of the clothes.  You do a much better job.  Your style shows who you are.  The oversized look does need to be done in quality fabrics and with attention to detail. 
    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.
    I feel about fashion the way I feel about many things.  People can dress how they want and in a way that expresses themselves and makes them happy.  Or in a functional way.  It is up to them.  And I will support them.

  • Sal replied 5 years ago

    I have enjoyed this thread very much, and I loved your photos Approprio.  I have limited knowledge of the art or science or history of fashion design, and I cannot offer much here.

    What I do know is that 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.  It is especially wonderful when that translates to being interesting and unique as with your style Liz.

  • Debbie replied 5 years ago

    I you have an innate way of putting things together. Your style is truly artistic. You look confident and put together. If I saw you on the street I would look twice because of the confidence you exude.
    Please continue to show us your looks.
    If everyone dressed the same it would be a boring world.

  • rachylou replied 5 years ago

    The idea of silent clothing is one that could occupy me for years. The comparison between the silence of good health and good clothing intriguing. I think the quote means things are good when they are not bothering you. A good outfit may be forgotten by the wearer once it's on.

    Also, I have noticed today I don't do oversized that much. When I do, it's with outer layers. I probably do clunky looking things more specifically than oversized. AND I think I spend so little time in oversized mainly because of my work. My clothing needs to be close to the body so I don't get caught in any machines and such. I will wear a skirt in the height of summer on the production floor of the bakery, but it will be a straight one...

  • Sally replied 5 years ago

    I love the Japanese look which is about texture and style. The Japanese do it so well. We've just had a Japanese student staying and I loved her outfits which were very different from what you normally see in suburban NZ. The other two who I think do it well are the two on advanced style? Valarie and Jean? I think they are influenced by Japanese design too. I really liked your style from what I saw in these pics.
    I've seen a few posts here discussing about women dressing conventionally attractive etc. I have been thinking a lot lately about this whole thing about women getting older etc and invisible and how they are expected to dress. 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. Hope that makes sense.

  • shevia replied 5 years ago

    I am trying to sort out this thread in my head.
    If I understood your original post correctly, you are not arguing that anyone else should start wearing oversized silhouettes (indeed you suggest it would be quite difficult given the lack of good foundation pieces readily available) but rather feeling that your choice to do so is less acceptable somehow. It is the case that the most conventionally flattering outfits will garner the most praise on the forum and probably in most lives, but I for one appreciate your outfits tremendously - as I have tried to make clear. And I do think there are lots of women here that admire your style, not just me.
    As for Foucault vs. YSL, I think they just represent different stages of the same thing. Your identity and your body is the locus of competing claims ala Foucault (more or less) but 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. 
    Regardless, Skylurker, my friend, you are not invisible.
    Wonderful thread, thanks!

  • skylurker replied 5 years ago

    @Rachylou : exactly, thanks for the translation - I see you read French fluently.

    Clothes can bother you physically, because they're not well made or not adapted to your body. With brands advertising a lot these days, not only about the ideal female shape, also about lifestyles, concepts, political ideas...I find clothes can bother me psychologically, too.

    Of course, Shevia is right, we can reclaim them, appropriate them, that's what personal style is about.

    Sorry, Liz, I went on a tangent and hijacked the thread.
    I'll shut up now :)

  • chirico (Chiara) replied 5 years ago

    I read your post with great interest, and I am surprised you sounded almost apologetic for your style choice.
    You style is totally different compared to mine, yet I love to check your posts and outfits because they are beautiful and clever, IMO.
    I think there is no general "right" when talking about style. There is right for the person, right now, and you seem to have what is right for you at this moment very clear.
    I hope to see more of your outfits, and your creations too!

  • rachylou replied 5 years ago

    @skylurker - Ah, if only! ;) I think your point about psychological comfort is well made. I was thinking more about the 'introvert ideal' and the idea of silent clothes. It's not that we want to be invisible; it's that we don't want to be exposed to discomfort. It is discomfort that makes for the most ruckus.

    Shevia - this is brilliant and I'm saving it for posterity: 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.

    Brilliant because to be comfortable in all ways isn't always simple. I require my clothes to entertain me - it's one of the ways I keep myself awake. But, for example, my rarely done Femme Fatale mode I can only do when I've got patience. It's entertaining for me, but it garners solicitousness (sp?) from others which requires it in return. Most of the time I'm too American for that, lol.

    Lastly, 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.

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Oh my. This is why YLF is streets ahead of any other fashion site out there. Ladies, you can't see Manrepeller for dust right now. Angie, thanks once again for hosting this amazing space.

    The "poison eye to a minimum" is the best rule ever. When we overcome that we can find a richer appreciation for other people's style (I was swooning yesterday over goldenpig's matchy matchy) and a deeper understanding of our own. I've been doing it all my life and it's all about training the eye.

    Una: go rock those sack dresses in Vegas! The bodycon ladies are all eyeing your hair with envy :) Thanks for championing the oversized here on YLF.

    Jules: crossing those cultural norms is a difficult one. I appreciate the freedom I have to do so, but at the same time I see the importance of dressing for one's environment. One of my big frustrations with the fashion industry is that I don't think they always take this into account, as was made clear in the recent BR thread.

    Firecracker: I think you and I have quite a similar approach and I always like your sense of adventure. Go team harem pants! You're right though, part of this is knowing what suits you, from the inside out. My shoes would probably be even weirder if I thought I could pull it off...

    lisap: I'd encourage anyone to look beyond what's in the shops! One of the problems I have with this trend is that it's difficult to wear and it's being sold pretty hard, which I think can devalue it. That's a pity, because done right it can be very effective.

    Which brings me to Caro and Deborah, who totally rock it! There's a lot of unnecessary baggage about this being an "old/large lady" look. It also creates a feeling of retreat or concealment, which is in conflict with Western humanist ideas about the body. There's an element of disguise to it. Does that make people suspicious of it, I wonder?

    And is that the same as skylurker's silent clothing? Maybe that's why I like Uniqlo so much. ;) There's a lot of that in normcore too, but it's impossible to get dressed without saying anything. I sometimes fret about my clothes drawing attention, and I suppose that's one reason why I feel the need to apologise for them. It's complicated.

    shevia: well, there's definitely been some debate about the merits of covering up! I've been called out here before for not displaying my womanly figure or wearing chunky shoes or whatever. There's no doubt that this kind of concealment draws criticism and it's worth exploring why we do that. But your power-grab... I'm bookmarking that!

    rachylou: you make an interesting point about gender roles regarding youth and age. Female fertility plays a part in this. I don't dress to with the intention of looking sexy but I still get enough attention (at my age!) to make me want to look explicitly un-sexy sometimes. That's definitely part of the appeal: I can look strong, cool, fun and smart without necessarily making myself available.

    Suz: "how to be a girl enculturation" nails it for me. That is very hard to get past, for any of us, regardless of our background. There's so much pressure and the goalposts keep moving. We can never win. 

    Thanks so much to everyone for such a rich debate. I'm sorry I haven't replied to all these comments, it's hard to do with so much to think about! I'll probably come back when I've thought about it some more...

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Back with some more ruminations, and picking up a few things I missed on the first pass...

    Vix: ah yes, the Male Gaze. So glad you mentioned it. It’s problematic, isn’t it? Female beauty is most definitely worth celebrating, but you’ve got to ask yourself why you’re being looked at in the first place.

    Speaking of Japanese fashion, I’ve been lapping up a load of cultural theory on the subject lately, and one thing that came up is that Japanese men are far more attuned to the idea of being looked at, specifically by women (they have some great men’s fashion to prove it.) That puts a Female Gaze into the equation. Even though their dress is in general quite gender normative, there’s a blurring of the boundaries that brings a lot more androgynous styles into play, particularly among younger people. I’ve long thought menswear should be more like womenswear and vice versa, and hey, that’s exactly what they seem to be doing in Japan. No wonder I’m so in love with it.

    lisap: “the ideal garment doesn't define the wearer ; rather she defines it” …that seems like the perfect definition of “silent clothes”! But I’d question the extent to which this is possible, because ultimately we’re all open to the interpretation of whichever of those pesky Gazes we’re subject to, in the context of our environment and its norms, requirements and expectations. I can think of a few pieces that fit the bill, like a perfect blazer or a plain white tee, but don’t we need a little more than that? Maybe we need a whole new thread on the subject.

    But… back to the topic in hand.

    I think the sculptural quality is all important here. I love what rabbit says about the spaces between the body and the garment. Materials rendered without the structure of tailoring are more subject to gravity and motion; draping is key. These boxy forms don’t hang well without close attention to how fabric behaves in action.

    , I think that’s one of many reasons why it’s not translating well to the mass market. I totally agree with you about that, by the way. And I like the sound of your friend’s tiny high quality wardrobe. That's another Platonic ideal I have no hope of achieving....

  • replied 5 years ago

    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 replied 5 years ago

    Love shevia's idea of reclaiming, making a power grab.  One of the things I've thought about thrifting and buying second hand, is that it leaves out the original producer and retailer and makes items available on a quite different timetable, to women of a much broader economic background.  The revenue also goes to support very different kinds of organizations or local (often women owned) businesses.  Also with restyling and reconstructing and having so many different eras at your fingertips at once, there is much more emphasis on the role of the purchaser as the stylist, and more leeway for very individualized personal styles.

    It's also really interesting how the same outfit can have contradictory internal meanings to the wearer.  It can feel both like concealment and like standing out.   Is over-sized clothing designed to take up more space than the outlines of the human figure about disguise, or about having a larger physical presence, or both at once?  

    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.

    Heh, It's like when you run into a cougar walking along a backwoods trail, you try to make yourself look larger and taller to scare it off, a kind of primitive 'I'm not prey' statement.

  • replied 5 years ago

    I will tell you that I am very much a fashion follower and do not like to stand out! That's the only reason I don't wear ultra-oversized things. 

    Otherwise, I totally would! I think the Japanese streetstyle is completely, completely fabulous. I think the way they wear their oversized clothing is awesome. I think it's fresh and really, so much fun!

    I wish I lived in a more fashion-forward city where I wouldn't stand out so much for wearing something a little different.

    My own, small, tiny, insigificant thing I'm doing to set myself apart, fashion wise, is I'm wearing bodycon tops this year. Bodycon anything is quite out of style, I'd say, so I do look a little different from everybody else in their flowy, oversized tops.

  • Janet replied 5 years ago

    I am late to this, and don't have time to really respond as fully and thoughtfully as I would like to, but I do want to quickly say a few things. Liz, I LOVE your style and only wish I had the body shape and self-confidence to go more outside my box of psychological comfort as well as you do. But who's to say that such looks would work on me even if I magically attained the IT-ish body and attitude to match such a style? I have an entirely different location, life, body, history, and personality.

    This is why I love YLF and also think that styles that are a bit more of "outliers" here are so necessary and valuable. It helps all of us challenge our norms and define our own styles. I bet there have been many instances where we start by seeing someone like you wearing something outside of our norm that appeals to us somehow, but we don't know how to emulate some part of it. But by continual exposure to ideas and looks that challenge our norms, we grow and evolve. And I believe that happens even if we don't personally change our own styles -- at the very least, our eyes and minds are open to more ideas and possibilities. That is one of the things about art, design and fashion that appeals to me so much.

    Keep on rocking on, Liz. You inspire me! And clearly, I'm not the only one.

  • Sara L. replied 5 years ago

    I don't have much to add, but I'm highly enjoying this thread.  I'm not introspective by nature, so I'm finding others thoughts on this subject very interesting.  I think the quality of the fabric and tailoring is very apparent in the pieces you're wearing in your photos.  That, in addition to, your confidence and personality makes your outfits look fabulous.

  • Janet replied 5 years ago

    I'll add one more personal perspective on the "oversize" thing. I do think that I have gained some appreciation for this look that has filtered into my own style. Witness the 3.1 Phillip Lim oversized vest that I love and wear. Maybe because it is a vest and I can choose otherwise structured and/or fitted items to "rein in" the look on me, it manages to push my personal boundaries but still makes me feel fab and very much "like me."

  • Sheila replied 5 years ago

    I don't think anyone else has posted this link so here goes:

    It is beautifully relevant to our very interesting discussion here on this post.

  • skylurker replied 5 years ago

    Ha, Sheila, relevant indeed, and it was posted today, what a fun coincidence ! Thanks for sharing.

  • skylurker replied 5 years ago

    Oups, I forgot I promised to shut up ;)

  • RoseandJoan replied 5 years ago

    Very relevant Sheila, I guess clothes do not need to shout when the message is clear.

    After thinking this over some more I believe the High Street will always struggle to deliver an avant grade look because by its nature it is not relevant to the masses.

    Also, for a High Street store to translate a look from a petite Japanese frame to a taller and broader Western European/ Nordic frame whilst keeping the price to a minimum and offering widespread distribution is headache inducing.

    I think you navigate this territory very well Liz because you have the knowledge and skill to succeed.

  • Suz replied 5 years ago

    I love this conversation. I understand this idea of good clothing being silent in the way good health is -- the owner can take them for granted - but clothes speak anyway, I think, just as health does. Or youth, for that matter. 

    I want to frame what Shevia said!! :)

  • Angie replied 5 years ago

    The definition of a stylish outfit is one that you loved the look of in the mirror, and that you forgot about for the rest of the day. To Shevia's point where the outfit becomes invisible or "silent" because it's authentically you. 

  • Gaylene replied 5 years ago

    Thanks, Approprio, for a fascinating thread. I've been debating whether or not to jump in, though, because I'm not sure there is much I could add to the discussion about the need for authenticity, personal boundries, and appreciation for alternative aesthetics.

    But (and you knew there would be a "but", didn't you. ;) ) I think there is one area that hasn't really been explored which was germane to my original post--the equality and liberation which volume and androgyny could offer women. Take a look at this video:

    What struck me when I first saw this advertisement for Kaliyana was the revolutionary idea of wearing clothing which didn't depend on a female silhouette to give the garments shape or interest. If outlining was eliminated, a woman could be any shape or size--pear, rectangle, size 20 or a size 2, broad-shouldered or broad-hipped, busty or boyish--under her clothes. Coverage and volume would be a product of design, not for concealment or modesty, but there to let me twirl and swirl instead of trying to hide the wobbly bits. And the practical aspect: ordering online would be a snap since the number would depend on how much volume or drape a person wanted--I could order a size 4 and my skinny friend could opt for a size 14. No returns. Weight loss, or gain, would be unimportant because everything could be easily adjusted. And there wouldn't be much point in comparing my thighs and waistline to others, so no discussions about thunder thighs, middle-age spread, and wobbly upper arms accompanied by too much wine. ;)

    Is it this kind of equality the Japanese designers, the Langenlook cohort, COS, and other avant-garde designers dangle in front of us? 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?

    As I said, just musing....

  • goldenpig replied 5 years ago

    I don't know much about fashion (esp all the names being discussed, it is just going way over my head) so not sure I can contribute much to this discussion, but I just wanted to say I've always loved your style! Quirky and interesting and love the shapes and textures you use! I do love Japanese style and the mix of minimalism and maximalism, avant garde and cute kitsch. But I would say ultra oversized is hard to do unless you have that self-confidence to carry it off and just the right aesthetic. Otherwise you run the risk of people thinking you're fat, or worse, pregnant! When I wore my loose fitting Vince shirtdress, one of my patients asked me if I was pregnant! I thought I looked pretty good in that one, but bleh, that's not fun when people ask you when you're due! The oversized look has to look impeccable and intentional and you have to have that confident attitude. That's why it works so well on you! (And thanks for saying you like my matchy matchy outfits, by the way!) Glad that you're here. Life would be too boring if everyone dressed the same!

  • Beth Ann replied 5 years ago

    I've been buried in the books recently, studying for a challenging board exam, and completely missed Gaylene's thread (love her posts), and have only now had time to read through this one.

    I'll need to mull over the fashion philosophy for awhile, and don't have time to answer them fully today, in any case.  However, I wanted to pop on and encourage to continue bringing your style and musings to the forum.  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.  A "nay" vote may be a  sign that I'm actually more a "part" of the group than I was befre.

    Your style is wonderfully bold, and doesn't sit on the center of the bell curve (I'm studying statistics at the moment, can you tell?).  But isn't that marvelous -- to represent and share a style that isn't in every Banana Republic ad that appears in my inbox?  Being in the 99.7% (That's three deviations above the mean, or pure fabulousness in statistics, btw) makes it even more imperative that you share what you're exploring with the rest of us!  And it makes the forum so much more fun!

    My own style may be far more conventional than yours, but you remind me to explore the pure deliciousness of fabrication in my clothing, and the power of structure in construction, particularly when paired with draping.  Please keep it coming!

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    I love this thread. :)

    , thanks for bringing your wisdom and erudition to the converstaion! Beyond delighted that you joined us :)

    I agree with you that the idea of eliminating the feminine silhouette feels quite radical, even though it's by no means new. In Western terms, it goes all the way back to the early feminists of the Dress Reform Movement. As Alyson points out over at TNMA (thanks for the link Sheila!) it's rarely been particularly trendy, so it's never been "out" either. However, current incarnations are quite explicit in their rejection of gender binaries, like this stuff over at Sixty Nine. I won't deny this radicalism appeals to me.

    The Shirin Guild stuff is gorgeous. I was intrigued by Alyson's description of this look as "cross-cultural". What's she implying here? I'm not quite sure, because it doesn't read that way to me. These forms have been a feature of avant-garde sportswear for years, from Yamamoto to Calvin Klein to Martin Margiela to Rick Owens.

    This makes me think there may be a semiotic component to the lack of uptake in the US. There's no doubt that whatever the aesthetic merits, it carries with it certain messages. What reads as modern urban sophistication in Europe may read elsewhere as covering up the fat bits, or an immoral rejection of masculine/feminine archetypes, or the appropriation of another culture by privileged white people, or just too unconventional and unfamiliar. Take your pick.

    (goldenpig, I'm reminded of a colleague once asking me if I was pregnant. I wasn't of course, I just liked the shape. And I wasn't offended in the least - she was pregnant herself and wanted some fashion tips. :) )

    I'm in reasonable shape for my age and I can imagine many people here wondering why on earth I'd want to disguise long legs and a cute butt in baggy dropped crotch trousers. The answer is that like many others here on this forum I'd rather claim my space in society with brains and character than with physical attributes and this is how I choose to do it. We've talked about that before. I identify with rabbit's comment about using voluminous shapes to make myself look bigger. I've used high heels that way too.

    At the end of the day though, it's absolutely true that I dress this way because I can. I often feel awkward and ungainly in what many would consider conventionally flattering, but I've lost count of the times I've reached for that "hard to wear" piece in the shop, and heard approvingly from the sales assistant "Not many people can pull that off!" It all comes down to good old fashioned figure flattery. In that respect, Janet, I guess I'm a little envious of you too.

    And skylurker, no need to shut up. You know how I enjoy our little chats ;)

  • Janet replied 5 years ago

    This is really interesting stuff, and I realize while reading through the thread that I have certain knee-jerk reactions that are very telling. I pay attention whenever I have a visceral reaction to something because it may mean I'm a little too invested in my old viewpoints. ;-)

    Gaylene's remarks especially made me think about the why's and how's of this kind of dressing. Personally, 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. Now, that doesn't mean bandage mini dresses and stilettos, but there is a lot of ground in between. :-) and of course, what makes one woman feel strong and empowered in terms of dressing can make another feel inauthentic and uncomfortable. This is why we need to be supportive of other people's expressions of themselves via style, rather than prescriptive.

    I am struck by the video lookbook Gaylene posted too -- I find it interesting to look at, and some of the styles are truly very artful. But the ones that look most wearable to me feature fairly standard loose trousers and more voluminous jackets and toppers. (I admit that as someone who is inherently bottom-heavy, I am rarely drawn to looks that emphasize volume on the lower half.) 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. But hey, I do my most strenuous activity in skin-tight Lycra! ;-)

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Ok, now I have to thank everyone for their kindness and support here. It's sincerely heartwarming. Beth Ann, I loved your use of statistics. I like math.

    I wrote this post not because I need to justify my choices but because I was certain from the discussion that's already gone down that my current direction would look weird and unflattering to many people. That's ok, it's their right. But I figured that rather than just shutting up and not posting, it was more constructive to explore what's so very problematic about a different approach to dressing and why it might provoke such a visceral response.

    Being an outlier here, as many of you so charitably put it ;) I'm always conscious that what I wear doesn't play to the conventional standards that most people abide by. I've been around fashion on the internet long enough to know that if it weren't for Angie's expert moderation there'd be fire and brimstone raining down on me right now. That's not about me, or you, it's just how online communication works when nobody's there to enforce standards.

    I'm very flattered that so many people seem to enjoy what I post and not particularly bothered by anyone who doesn't. But most of all, more than anything else, I'm thrilled to have such an intelligent and thoughtful conversation on the subject without it turning into a flame war.

    Thank you. All of you. You're all brilliant. :D

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    deleted for being pithy :)

  • Janet replied 5 years ago

    LOL! Great minds and all that.

    I love being challenged, and I don't like to get too set in my ways. YLF has played a big role in that, stylewise. :-)

  • LaPed replied 5 years ago

    Chiming in behind the 8 ball to say, once more, how absolutely wonderful this thread is! Thank you approprio. I refuse to hang out on any fashion forums that don't bother to mention Foucault ;)

    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? 

    alaskagirl I had to smile at your description of LV and feeling like you stood out in your sack dresses. Living in LV for a couple years I decided that it's the town where people put their bodycon out to pasture. My mind was always a little blown every time I visited BuffEx or other consignment shops by just how *many* mini bandage dresses there were on the rack. I found that the biggest "statement" I could make as a Vegas townie was to continue dressing (somewhat aggressively) like a New Englander. And of course, now that I'm back in New England, I feel quite a bit more excited about my mini skirts. I'm one of those people who needs to dress a little against the norms, apparently. ;)

    Which plays a little bit into shevia's comment about the ultimate power grab (I may have to print that comment out and tack it up on my wall!) -- those moments when the individual spirit is able to lift a look or a garment out of its expected context and make it fully and seamlessly a part of herself, no questions asked, no eyebrows raised...

    Thanks all. You've made my morning.

  • skylurker replied 5 years ago

    (You thought you closed this thread one hour ago, didn't you ? ;)

    I have to disagree with Angie, I don't think an outfit becomes silent because it's authentically you. Here you are, in your oversized clothes that are authentically you, and you wonder about the visceral reaction they stir.

    Trying to put myself in your shoes (actually, I'd love to try one of those creepers, lol), I think I wouldn't be bothered by the "weird and unflattering" noises, that's just the expression of different fashion tastes. I would consider the cultural judgements - denial of feminity, hiding fat hung-ups, etc.

    This is highly context driven, as Rabbit said, and I gather from your post, that in your context, oversized clothed are not too loud.

    So : rock on.

  • Gaylene replied 5 years ago

    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?

    I think my current fascination with volume arises from my questioning some of those long-held attitudes I've internalized. I've never felt bad about my body and I've never shirked from revealing it on the beach, in a low-cut top, a mini-skirt, or in private, but I'm now wondering why I've been so willing, all these years, to put my body on public display. Doing so invites comparison--and the images we are given as benchmarks don't do much to promote a positive self-acceptance. As an avowed feminist, I'm wondering if I've been wandering down the wrong path.

    I love the strength of your look, Approprio, because it signals a confident femininity to me. To be able to choose--boxy or fitted--IS freedom but thinking about that choice has made me confront my own conditioning. Isn't it interesting how such a seemingly small thing as the cut of a shirt can reveal so much about ourselves? And I'm so grateful for having a corner of this forum where we can explore some of these questions.

  • rabbit replied 5 years ago

    I agree with skylurker  that reactions can be more about the baggage that comes with culture, and sometimes location specific culture rather than differing fashion tastes.  

    I think Beth-Ann's bell-curve is a fitting explanation.  Interestingly 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 :).

    Caro and others have mentioned  the prevalence of seeing ill-fitting over-sized clothes being primarily made for obese people, and I think this can strike a cultural nerve in countries like the US which is one of the world leaders in obesity. (Interestingly Japan and South Korea are are the top of the list of least obese, which might explain why over-sized has a completely different cultural connotation there?) (older info, but the graph is telling, and the Netherlands is closer to Japan than the US in this respect).


  • rachylou replied 5 years ago

    Speaking of culture...I'm reminded of how my dad used to say 'don't cut your eyes at me.' He felt that was disobedient. He wasn't American. I had to learn outside the house, here in the US, people want you to look them in the eye: this is a sign of honesty, 'owning up.' Likewise, 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.

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    (Just deleted a bunch of stuff here. Internal feminist narrative blah. It's late. I'll try again tomorrow.)

    This visceral “oh no! awful!” reaction though, this is absolutely not a thing where I live. I see enough well-dressed ladies of all generations wearing contemporary high volume looks for me to know I’m not alone. It’s maybe not mainstream, a relatively small percentage, but it’s far from invisible either. Like she says on TNMA, it's always in the background.

    I’m really interested in how this plays out culturally on your side of the pond. Gaylene, I’d never thought of it in terms of body image culture, and rabbit, that’s a fascinating insight there about obesity. I’m adding to that what La Pedestrienne says about associations with conservative cultures. Is this perhaps why people respond so negatively?

    And rachylou, here's something interesting about masks...

  • shevia replied 5 years ago

    Still thinking about this thread (and am very flattered by the shout outs). 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. 

    As a small example, drop crotch or harem styles are quite common in this neck of the wood - not as much as a style trend but a practical way of remaining 'modest' while retaining mobility and comfort. How to draw the line between jeans and burkas and where exactly harem pants fall on the continuum is a question I cannot answer.

  • rachylou replied 5 years ago

    What a good essay on masks! Thanks for the tip off, approprio! The thought of one's whole personality being a particular assemblage of masks is something to give pause...! But more to the point, interesting about the idea of short cuts for signaling and the idea of permissions granted through masks. Clothing as a mask - not in the sense of hiding - but in these other ways and clothing making the man, so to speak... Lots to chew on.

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Wow! This discussion has been so instructive and given me a lot to think about. I can honestly say I've learned a lot here and I'm still pondering over the implications. 

    For my own benefit, I went back over the thread and compiled a summary of some of the most interesting comments, mainly so I could preserve shevia's bon mot for posterity. The whole thread is so full of insight, wisdom and opinion that I ended up with quite a long document. 

    It's worth reading in its entirety of course, but I was wondering if there would be an appetite for a tl;dr digest of this as a separate post, a celebration of the collective wisdom of YLF for anyone who may have missed it. 

    What do you think?

  • Janet replied 5 years ago

    I like that idea very much.

  • catgirl replied 5 years ago

    Yes, compilation of posts would be wonderful.  Thank you for all the insight and food for thought here!

    I am so tired from an overnight flight followed by a 6AM work shift that I'm just going to link to two of my prior threads which I believe tie into this discussion as well:

  • annagybe replied 5 years ago

    I can't find the designer vision blurb. But there's a new tiny fashion line out of Portland, Oregon. Basically from memory it was something about clothes that were the antithesis of sexy & meant to make the body shape obscured. I however did not get a modesty vibe.

    I think it takes a supreme amount of confidence to wear such clothes.
    And yes like other said there is some things specific to America that makes these looks difficult for many.
    Jewelry designer Wendy Brandes, who lives in New York. once bemoaned getting a makeover in LA that was the LA asthetic, Kardashian like. Smokey eyes, nude lips, lots of bronzer, etc. she preferred bright lipstick and more simple eye makeup. Kinda funny to think of regional differences.
    Japan is small, and more homogeneous In my opinion. So perhaps different dressing is a way to distinguish yourself, see also harajuki. This may be changing, but until recently I understood that women in Japan stopped working after getting married. A few years ago there was a piece on Decora style in Japan, the women featured were single. One was in her thirties, & lived with her parents. The corporate look is very uniform, see salarymen. Admittedly this is pure speculation on my part.
    For me personally I do get some flack for wearing "unflattering clothes".

  • skylurker replied 5 years ago

    Very interesting piece about masks. I wonder if clothes don't work mostly in the opposite way : encouraging to conform to social norms instead of encouraging to violate social norms.
    Also linked to the "enclothed cognition" Angie mentioned in her Monday post, or "clothing making the man" as Rachylou said.
    Though I admit I don't really believe in the magic of clothes, except for specific instances when you embody an institution (magistrate wig, police uniform...). Well, maybe you have to believe in it for the magic to work - for clothes to lift your spirits or improve your self-esteem. I've not felt that effect personally.

    As for the digest, if you need it to marshall your thoughts, sure, but I don't think it's necessary, the whole thread is interesting.

  • Roxanna replied 5 years ago

    Can I just say that I have been loving this thread and following it all the way through; just felt a bit out of my depth in terms of fashion theory and historical knowledge so I didn't comment. I will say, though approprio, that I *love* your style and it is one of my inspirations and aspirations (my other is the very traditional Audrey Hepburn/french girl look, and yet another is returning to my Indian girl roots - I am a cornucopia of opposing ideas :) )
     I  absolutely do not feel that you should dress to show off certain body features or fit a conventional description of 'flattering' if that is not your thing, and you are all the more interesting for it. It takes time, skill, resources and expertise to step outside the box the way you have, and I love seeing that. Keep it coming!

  • replied 5 years ago

    If we never look past the cover of a book how we really know what is inside.  We all have our own unique style so celebrate it, life is too short to worry about what everyone else think's is cool or dope ect.  You be cool.

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Una: thanks for the links. I've never had much truck with pretty myself, but I'm alright with her naughty cousins cute, kitsch and kawaii.

    annagybe: you're right, gender roles are very conflicted in Japan. I have the impression people use fashion as an outlet for some of the tension and frustration that creates. 

    Janet, skylurker: I think a lot of people won't have the time or patience to read the whole thread, and that would be a pity because there's a lot of good stuff here. I'll post something tomorrow if there are no objections.

    Roxana: thanks! You have a lovely style yourself :)

  • Aida replied 5 years ago

    Very much enjoyed reading this thread! I wrestle with oversized versus not all the time. Nodding along to many of the thoughts here, and echoing the sentiment of enjoying your creative outfits Approprio.  You do volume, oversized, and architecture really well, and always intelligently.

  • deb replied 5 years ago

    I really need to thank you again for this thread.

  • lyn67 replied 5 years ago

    What  a fascinating thread, indeed, will have to fight me over all these wise comments, too:-).

    I surely  couldn't add more than all of these, and I love lagen/oversized looks on  you and others (and find it very individual, artsy and generally fashion forward) but there are 2 reasons which make me  stay away from this style for my own persona:

    1. I don't have the body, the right posture, and the lifestyle for doing it right...:-(.

    2. You say it so well well " there’s a blurring of the boundaries that brings a lot more androgynous styles into play, particularly among younger people"  but I am closer to 50 and I would be afraid to be considered a fashion/or anti-ageing victim.

    Than, I was also wondering about your statement in one of your answers here:
    " I’ve long thought menswear should be more like womenswear and vice versa...". 

    Can I  ask what started you on these intriguing thoughts? Just curious:-)).

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    lyn67: my thoughts on menswear/womenswear? that's a whole new thread right there!

    Put simply, it's not about loosing the gender distinction, more about how two very different ways of thinking about dress could learn so much from each other and be improved in the process. But I'll leave that for another time.

  • replied 5 years ago

    Not that this thread needs any more input to keep it going, but I just wanted to come back to say I have read almost every word posted here and even thought about it yesterday while mindlessly driving (not a good thing ) somewhere.  I was wondering what my own motivations were for dressing as I do, and why I wasn't drawn to a more voluminous, artistic, avant garde, etc style.  Am I succumbing to pressures I feel from some unidentified source? Am I being unimaginative and just following the herd?  And who do we/I really dress for? Ourselves?  Other women?  Men?  etc.  The conversation could carry on for ever.  Talk about insightful.

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    lisap, I've been asking myself some similar questions. Why do I always want to look so resolutely individual? Might people find my style confusing or intimidating? Is it regressive to want to wear big clothes? 

    I've had in mind a comment you made in another thread though...

    "I do think you are bang on with the theory of aesthetic preferences being influenced and even determined by what you already know to be flattering . I absolutely operate that way. I don't think there's anything wrong with that unless one's goal is to constantly reinvent, investigate and create. I'm not interested in always trying every new thing that crosses my path - who has the time?"

    I do like to reinvent, investigate and create as you put it, and hey, big clothes happen to look good on me, so it makes sense that I've acquired a capsule of oversized clothes that suit me and feel relevant. I must say though, that I'm also swayed by fashion, the desire to look conventionally attractive and the need to fit in. So I don't think I've ever fully committed to the silhouette. 

    But I tell you what, I'm liking it right now. ;)

  • Jules replied 5 years ago

    Bear with me as this may be somewhat tangential and I'm not feeling very articulate these days....
    In my mid twenties (so 2000ish) I noticed with some resentment that so many pants now contained stretch. Today I get that there is demand for this "flattering" (to some) development in fabrics but really, whatever happened to denim and other thick 100% cotton fabrics, and looser cuts, that skim over rather than clinging to? Why is there even a need for women to worry about "VPL" - I don't think this was a thing for generations past? Men are not wearing clothing that shows their underwear line!
    Similarly, in a bathing suit, I'd be personally just as happy in board shorts (and some kind of top) as a women's suit of any type. It is about personal body issues to some degree - my shape has never matched most bathing suit cuts - but nobody is expecting men to shave the body hair to be socially acceptable in their standard bathing costume. So why are women expected to bare so much that hair removal is "required"?
    It's interesting to me that while I believe women's clothes have overall trended more bare and bodycon during my lifetime, men's clothes have possibly gotten bigger and looser. Men and boys only wear board shorts for swimming, not skimpier bottoms. Men don't wear short shorts even for exercise. Most women seem to agree they "don't want to see that" when it comes to men. Well, I don't want to show it either.
    But it's very difficult to reject the current standards and still have a flattering, current look. I'm not looking to stand out from the crowd and attract a lot of attention to myself/the way I am dressed.

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Jules: thank you! I too find it problematic that these standards are upheld, and that baring our flesh is seen as the liberal, progressive thing to do when nobody holds men to up to such scrutiny. And frankly, I think it would make everybody happier if men were required to take more care of their appearance!

    lyn67: this is what I'm talking about when I say menswear should be more like womenswear and vice versa.

  • Jules replied 5 years ago

    My own rant just helped me realize something... "flattery" and "fitting in" are part and parcel, for me. I am not a strong enough personality to want to stand out much in my appearance. I have other issues (being in a male dominated profession, social anxieties) that make me feel enough "apart" already, I think. And when I see someone who has truly rejected flattery fundamentals, let's say an older, larger woman who does not wear a bra, to me that does stand out in a way that *I* really don't want to.
    btw, I love your looks approprio. Nor do I relate to the "why do you want to hide your pretty figure"-type comments that have been under discussion lately. But I personally need to fit in just enough and some degree of conventional "flattery" seems to be a part of it. Interesting.

  • Jules replied 5 years ago

    And I am also now understanding normcore a bit better, I think... these clothes are less body con and less gendered.

  • JAileen replied 5 years ago

    I happened upon this thread, and Jules' comments about men's clothing, VPL, etc. It reminded me of an article in the SF Chronicle I saw yesterday about the Warriors' uniforms. What I noticed most was how the uniforms have gotten bigger and longer, the opposite of the trend in women's clothes. Also, notice they're actually playing in Converse shoes in the old picture!

  • Aida replied 5 years ago

    Perhaps in some degree because exposing more skin is now associated as a more feminine look?

  • deb replied 5 years ago

    JAileen, here is another basketball photo from the 70's. Notice the woman in the background and her dress style vs. the mens uniforms?

  • JAileen replied 5 years ago

    Deb, I love her dress. I would wear it today.

  • Elizabeth P replied 5 years ago

    Another very late to the thread person here.  I also have nothing intelligent to add in terms of style, designers etc but I did want to say how much I've enjoyed the conversation here, VERY thought provoking.  And most importantly, how much I love seeing your posts, and outfits.  I love your style.  And interestingly enough, the thought of how "flattering" your clothes may be to your body, never crossed my mind.  I see style, art, a look, that seems to totally work.  It flatters, without the  dimensions/proportions etc of your actual BODY being relevant.  Which is not always the case, and certainly not how I put together MY outfits.

  • rachylou replied 5 years ago

    Ok, so I prefer the new basketball shorts to the old ones, lol, but I don't want to see them on the street, lolol. Those tiny tiny little shorts make me laugh. I feel like they fun-house mirror people.

    Also: Jules, I was struck by your comment about no one expecting men to remove body hair (I think I read this, could be my imagination). Struck because in my metro area, men ARE expected to do so. Men are featured in ads for hair removal products and everyone feels free to complain about hairy guys and how gross that is. People turn down dates if a guy has chest hair. There is so little hair on anybody, it's like everybody is pre-adolescent. It's striking. But this is an area that pushes hard to make the point about goose and gander.

  • rachylou replied 5 years ago

    One other thought: was driving today through the city's downtown and had a look at all the fashions. There really is a difference between oversized and just big. I think it shows up in rumpling. There are folds, there is crinkled fabric, and then there are wrinkles and crumples. But I can see easily how one might try to go for oversized and just get big pulling things off your standard rack...

  • Jules replied 5 years ago

    Yes rachylou, you are right that there are now more expectations on (young?) men around removing body hair, a sad development IMHO. And women are totally capable of body shaming men. But I was thinking more about bathing suits and bikini lines, specifically - that the default design for women's suits often reveals hair considered to be private/obscene, whereas whatever hair men's trunks reveal is considered basically acceptable, if unattractive to some.

  • DonnaF replied 5 years ago

    approprio; I just wanted to say I LOVE your style and WIWs -- so very interesting, unique, and YOU.  I don't do and have never done bodycon, but I s'pose I can say the same thing about oversized and loose.  Well, I'm too clumsy to favor that look.  But I must say that at this stage of my life, age (almost) 63 with gray hair, if I wore something hectically oversized I would probably end up looking like a hobo.  If I were 30 or 40 years younger, hugely oversized would probably appeal to me as a political statement if I wanted to be dramatic.  Now, I prefer fun over dramatic.

  • lyn67 replied 5 years ago

    Thanx Appropro, I see now !:-).

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    I honestly thought we'd exhausted this topic, but no, more ideas keep on coming! 

    JAileen, Deb, thanks for the sports shots. I've noticed similar trends in soccer. (I kind of like the tiny shorts, they make me feel nostalgic). It's a really interesting observation, particularly considering the way that translates to urban sportswear.

    I'm intrigued by menswear=loose/long vs womenswear=short/tight, alongside the American feminist narrative around showing one's body. I did a quick and completely unscientific study of styles on, and there does appear to be a trend among users on the West Coast towards more revealing and bodycon styles, which you're less likely to see in Europe.

    Another thing: we were talking here in IRL about the idea that looser clothing might suggest that a woman had "let herself go" as it were, which goes against current ideas about body positivity and empowerment. This is also part of my own internal narrative, maybe a reason for my feeling a little sheepish about posting these looks here. They feel to me quite relaxed and effortless, but to another eye that might translate as just plain lazy. 

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