Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fashion: What I like

So. Clothes. Fashion. That stuff. Today I've been thinking about the personal style thing.

For the past several years, my personal style could have been expressed as, "What does Eddie Bauer have on sale?" Or L.L. Bean. Or Lands' End. Mom jeans, tees, no-iron buttondown shirts. Whatever A-line or straight calf-length skirt was on sale when the last one wore out. On my feet, Merrels or whatever black leather flats looked most interesting when the last pair wore out.


What do I like? What could influence a personal style? I tried ambling around the web, looking for and at pictures of clothes that speak to me, trying to find clues. And I found a few. I seem to like:


This is one of those "I know it when I see it" things, but it's often about  seams--seams that do something unexpected, or inspire the response, "Clever!"

I want to show you examples, which is where I run into the problem with (1) blogging about fashion while (2) being obsessive-compulsive about copyright. I don't dare actually include the images. And there just aren't enough clothes on Wikimedia Commons. Ah, well--I link.

First to a gorgeous and distinctly clever dress worn by Mad Men's Christina Hendricks. Look at the tailoring traversing all those curves, with no excess fabric, no artless gathers, nothing cute. That's architecture.

Then there's the similarly clever gingham dress worn by Elisabeth Moss, again tracing every curve perfectly. I can't help thinking that in the fifties, there'd be better pattern matching at the seams, demonstrating even more jaw-dropping workmanship. But isn't it glorious all the same?

What else am I drawn to?

The Weird

Remember, when someone complains that a particular perfume smells like, say, a tire fire sniffed through a handful of mildewed mint leaves, my response is, "Ooh! Where can I get a sample?" My response to clothes runs along the same lines. I rarely have the courage to wear the truly weird, but I love it all the same, and the longer I look, the more my taste for weird grows.

Designer runway shows are always weird, I suppose. This one, Dior, 2011, particularly appeals to me. I can easily imagine these clothes being worn in Oz.

This glamour-steampunk look is also weird. Rich and detailed and surreal and combining so many inspirations in one.

And so is this one, in a crisper, calmer way; it's really just the hat that tumbles it into Weird. I'd like it even better if the cuffs and peplum were pleated instead of ruffles. Better architecture, see?

As I was sitting here trying to think of likely sources of Weird, I thought of NCIS's Abby, here in one of her calmer looks, with its own steampunk vibe.

Are you seeing the next pattern along with me?


That is, travel through time and space and fictional worlds. Clothes that are spot-on-in-fashion right now don't usually make me happy; I like a gesture toward another place or time. I think that this is partly perpetual rebellion against memories of the junior-high expectation of to-the-letter fashion compliance, and partly joy in drawing from a wider history of inspiration.

My examples above are from the Sixties, steampunk/Victorian, and Oz--OK, OK, I called it Oz, but can you disagree with me? And then there are these Cylons in big hats. Of course, don't forget Downton Abbey. And Downton Abbey Meets Vogue. Wow.

I'll keep looking. I'll be back.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fashion: Trapped in the Eighties

The 1980s took me from age fourteen to age twenty-five. I'm guessing that those are the critical fashion-imprinting years, especially for those who, like me, never update their fashion eye. The decade seems to have provided me with a set of style guidelines that my mind persists in seeing as "right," no matter how emphatically modern fashion disagrees.

Mom Jeans: For example, have you seen the page "Mom Jeans and the Dreaded 'Long Butt'" on Grasping for Objectivity? It's a great piece of writing. I should find it persuasive. The problem is that when I scroll through it, looking at the Before and After photos, the Before photos are the ones that look "right" to me. Yes, they show a "long" line for the hips. A longer line that starts narrower and then curves out. To my eye, this makes the wearer's hips look narrower, and narrow hips seem to be a universal desire. Plus, it just looks "right" to me, but of course I can't trust that fact. Modern hipster jeans, by contrast, produce a sort of wide slice-of-paving-stone hip shape, a shape that may well look "right" forever to anyone going through their teens and early twenties in this decade.

Now, just yesterday I nudged Himself to tell him, "There's the one girl who looks good in hipster jeans!" I was referring to a young woman wearing a slightly but not excessively form-fitting knit shirt that followed the curve from her narrow waist to the point where it was tucked into jeans that were almost at the widest point of her narrow hips. She looked great. Having her waist and a large portion of her hips outlined by a simple shirt made that curve far more visible than it would be if it were broken in the middle by a pair of jeans. But the whole look was a death-defying act that required absolute perfection of tone and curves, and not a millimeter of abdomen fluff. I could appreciate it the way that I appreciated the street performer juggling a chainsaw the day before. But to me, it has no more to do with real life than the street performer did.

(No, my town doesn't have people juggling chainsaws in the street. I'm on vacation. Woo! Nearing the end of vacation. Grumble.)

So I continue to wear Mom jeans. And, even more offensive to modern style, I sometimes tuck my shirt in. Which leads to another eighties imprint:

The Tucking Issue: When I was growing up, shirts with curved tails were tucked in. Period. Now, that's not to say that they really were always tucked in, but they were supposed to be tucked in. If you cared even a little bit about looking neatly and properly dressed, you tucked the thing in. I continue to be startled by beautifully-dressed women who, by evidence of being beautifully-dressed, obviously consider an untucked curved tail to be entirely appropriate.

The Sticking Out Issue: And then there are all the women, sometimes it seems a majority of women, who layer a shorter shirt on top of a longer one. I know that the line of fabric below the shorter shirt is a conscious choice, but I can't seem to get over the assumption that the wearer put on her layers in the wrong order, or forgot to tuck them in, or both.

What else? What else? That's all for now, but no doubt I will have further evidence of fashion backwardness on my part.