“Last season, this thing was not a thing,” says trend spotter, a freelance expert. “But just look at Hollywood. From the runway to the real way, now this thing is definitely a thing.”
“The rise of haute couture in the early 20th century dovetailed with advances in communication and travel, and so, too, the public’s unusual interest in this rarefied world. There are well-known stories of Paris policemen and taxi drivers being able to recognize couture, like a cop in the ’30s who refused to arrest a feminist agitator on the grounds that she was dressed by Molyneux. By the ’60s, everyone knew about the latest fashion, if not from Mary Quant, then from the Beatles. But sometime in the late ’80s, fashion discovered semiotics. Clothes suddenly acquired meaning (think of the efforts to “decode” a Helmut Lang show or almost any by Martin Margiela). You truly needed to be an expert to appreciate why a jacket was worn inside out or why a dress that made you look like a bag lady was cool. Susan Sontag described a similar shift in the arts in the mid-60s, noting that “the most interesting and creative art of our time is not open to the generally educated; it demands special effort; it speaks a specialized language.” Today, as high fashion moves closer to mass media — with brand-hosted YouTube channels, films, huge spectacles — there is pressure to simplify. I also wonder whether the surge of new brands — their shows often crammed with weird and banal designs — hasn’t caused elite designers to rethink matters. Hence more straightforward clothes.”—
“Ask yourself always: am I harmoniously put together, am I appropriately clad for the deed at hand, and am I free of non-essentials?”— Edna Woolman Chase, Vogue editor 1914-1952
Why There’s No Good Writing About Fashion
Fashion now seems like a club with a private jargon that leaves no room for the play of sensitive literary exposition. And good critical writing about clothing hardly exists at all. There is no tradition of clothes criticism that includes serious analysis, or even of costume criticism among theater, ballet, and opera critics, who do have an august writerly heritage. This fact may be what makes the fashion journalist hate her job—the painful sense that real work cannot be done in this genre, that it would be better, more honorable, to be writing about something else.
There are heartening exceptions. One is Amy Spindler of the New York Times, who seems to take clothes seriously without excess or apology, deploying a quick imagination and an interest in detail that give her writing a fine attentive sting. (A Versace show “opened with razor-sharp bias-cut asymmetrical navy dresses, stern except for a frill at the hem and a swatch of black lace that masked eyes.”) There was Kennedy Fraser, late of The New Yorker, whose witty essays on fashion published in that magazine during the 1970s have since, happily, been collected. Holly Brubach, who succeeded Fraser at TheNew Yorker, kept the standard high during her time there. A big exception is the fashion journalism of France, where a noticeable respect for fashion has been a standard common attitude since the 17th century. Fashion is as acceptable in France as any imaginative work, and criticism about it has certainly flourished there. […]
But fashion has been without honor in the English-speaking world for so long that we are afraid to take it seriously—solemnly, yes, as we take so many things, but not with ordinary seriousness. When we are not in raptures, or disapproving in the name of female realities, we are likely to wax sociological and psychological about fashion, to weigh it down with quasiscientific meaning—out of some ancient fear, perhaps, of its obvious debt to Eros.
It’s well worth a read, and you can see the rest here.
(Thanks to Ivory Tower Style for the link)
“Research has become relatively easy. You can just type in what you’re looking for and find it in an instant. The hardest thing now is the edit. Internet fashion has become this all-consuming beast which regurgitates fashion images with little regard for merit or relevance. Everything becomes elevated. I’ve come to really appreciate the make of a garment, the technology within it, the story behind it. The things you can’t see on Tumblr.”—
Michael Power, 2014 graduate of the famed Central St. Martins postgraduate fashion/design program, on the fallacy of internet clothing research.
A reader wrote to us today, in response to our editorial policy and an article on how “style bloggers” earn money with appearance fees, editorial placement fees and other payments from brands. Here’s what he said:
Redditor daou0782 explains the difference between a $450 black t-shirt from Rick Owens and a $5 black t-shirt from Hanes. He then talks about the importance of details, and how there are two ways to appreciate clothing: clothes as means-to-an-end, and clothes as an end in itself. I don’t wear long, drapey, black tees, and wouldn’t pay $450 for one, but daou0782’s post is pretty interesting and sensible.
“[Someone who] dresses well but not remarkably.”— Coco Chanel, when asked how she would define a fashionable person. (This post was inspired by The Prophet Pizza)
Yesterday’s post on fashion cycles reminded me that I have these photos sitting on my computer. These are “oxford bags” - a style of ridiculously baggy trousers that was popular in the early 20th century. They were often made of flannel wool, and originated with undergraduate students at Oxford University (hence the name). At the peak of their popularity in 1925, the bottom hem of men’s pant legs was almost always under 20 inches in circumference. (For reference, most “fashionable” trousers today have a circumference of 16 to 18 inches for suits, and maybe 15 to 17 inches for odd trousers). Oxford bags, in contrast, sometimes measured 40 inches or more.
You would not be wrong to think of them as the gentleman’s version of Jncos.