Monday, January 12, 2009

Trends I Won't Be Wearing, S/S '09

I'm giving a talk tomorrow to a women's group on how to dress for daily life, so was delighted to find that this month's British Vogue features an article on women who wear the same uniform, daily, as part of their job. It's a great piece, sharply written by Alex Bilmes and superbly photographed by David Bailey. I especially loved the first paragraph:

Clothes, as we know, are more than mere slipcases for our bodies. Fashion allows freedom of expression, and most of us have the right to exercise that freedom however we choose. What we wear, the way we choose to present ourselves, gives off a series of complicated codified signals. Clothes make us feel a certain way, and they make other people feel a certain way about us. Most importantly perhaps, we use clothes to demonstrate our individuality. What you wear is who you are.

All the more jarring then, is Vogue's Catwalk Report for Spring/Summer '09, illustrating the major trends for the next season. Direct quotes are in italics:

Exposure: Designers play with contrast, crafting sensual see-through fabrics into buttoned up blouses and demure dresses [illustrated with frocks you could read the phone book through]

Skyscraper Heels: Spring's shoes are real works of art, bedecked in ribbons and feathers, beads, metallic ruffles and sharp studs. This season's styles are extreme [translation: plaster casts forecast for Autumn/Winter '09]

Exotic Eyewear: Maverick designs are key. Crystal-encrusted geek frames, small goggles and futuristic visors cast no uncertain style shadow. [the word 'maverick' justifiably sets off alarm bells here]

In brief, the trends could not be more out of touch with reality. And it's not only the economic climate, dire as that is. It's the geographic climate as well. In the land where these see-through, 5-inch-heel, visored sunglassed looks are worn, it never, ever rains. For British fashion lovers especially, that is the ultimate fantasy.


  1. Oooh (sharp intake of breath!)I have not read this Vogue article yet but feel that the commentary you quote is ingenuous and sloppy with rehashed phrases. "Fashion allows freedom of expression, and most of us have the right to exercise that freedom however we choose." No, really?

    "Clothes make us feel a certain way, and they make other people feel a certain way about us. Most importantly perhaps, we use clothes to demonstrate our individuality. What you wear is who you are."

    I don't think so. The whole fun of clothes is that they are essentially a disguise! You can change who you are in the flash of a changing room. Hooray!

    Look at the corporate environment where women in particular, but also men more recently, are subject to unwritten dress rules being quite strictly policed. I know of a provincial law firm which had to introduce a paid for 'uniform' for the team of receptionist/telephonists in order to avoid the problem of 'unacceptable' fashion (i.e. barely there T-shirts etc) being worn by staff who are the first contact for clients.

    Three examples from my own personal experience which span the decades:

    1. My mother in 1949(?) was insulted by an English naval officer for wearing smart tailored trousers (a la Katherine Hepburn whom she resembled) in a fashionable hotel lobby in Allied occupied Germany. (Luckily my RAF officer father was around to teach him a lesson - another story!)

    2. While wearing a mini-skirt in 1966 in central London, I was accosted by a woman who tried to pull my skirt down to cover my knees while screaming abuse at me.

    3. In 1970 whilst we were working in the PR department of a major international food producer, a colleague and good friend, was admonished for wearing trousers to work.

    4. In 1981, working at a leading PR company I was advised by a director not to wear trousers if I aspired to become a board member. (I didn't stay around long enough!)

    And in 2009? My son and daughters each wear clothes appropriate to their corporate environments to make other people feel a certain way about them but not necessarily as an expression of their own personality.

    Me - semi-retired - I wear clothes I love to be seen in, including vintage if I can fit into them. But my main rebellion these days is against hair dye - after years as a highlighted blond I have come out as silver grey - could that be platinum? I like that!

    Oh, and see-through clothes - mmn that would be a 1970s revival then? Been there, done that on a happening boat with members of the Young Friends of the Tate, among whom was the present director (of the Tate Gallery).

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  3. Good points all, elegance! I agree that the author overlooks the many situations where wardrobe has been/is de facto regulated. What I appreciate, though, is her (his?) forthright affirmation that clothes speak volumes about the wearer. There was a very interesting debate on the American website Jezebel a few weeks ago, regarding a recent Newsweek article in which the author lamented the state of American daily dress. I was shocked by how many commenters were outraged by the idea that their wearing sweatpants around town signified anything about them apart from the fact that they enjoyed being comfortable, and to be defined by this was outlandish . . .

    Like you, I love changing guises with changes of dress. But many of the women I work with wouldn't dream of it, because it would attract unwanted attention. No see-through dresses for them, I assure you.

    Speaking of which, that boat trip must have been a hell of a party.

    Thanks again for commenting.

  4. American Vogue is out of touch with the real world,real women and reality as much as Anna Wintour is out of her depth and out to lunch. She needs to go the way of the Bush administration....back under the rock from which she crawled.
    Fluff Chance