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.