on fashion / by laurel

This weekend I had an interesting conversation with Josh (see his good! Sartorial! Choices! here) ...about women's fashion.

I don't remember exactly how we landed on the subject, but I'm fairly certain we spent a good amount of time hovering over the vast and mysterious landscape of the High Waisted Pant.

Image courtesies to Sophomore NYC.

Josh questioned its aesthetic and asked me my thoughts on the subject. I preempted my answer by exempting myself from the high waisted fray because, as I pointed out to Josh, not everyone can wear a style that completely re-proportions one's torso, and I wouldn't let myself within ten feet of a pair of high waisted trou. Some people (Jessica, Kathleen, I'm enviously talking to you) are able to make it work--and not only that, but make it work well. Dare I say, it's flattering?

I might. But I suspect more than a few guys would disagree with me. Fellas are generally a few steps behind on the fashion curve, and really, who can blame them? Even Roberto Cavalli agrees, recently saying, "Men today don’t have any personality because it’s not permitted. Men want to dress differently but they’re afraid." [FashionWeekDaily]

Men's fashion doesn't go through as many drastic changes as women's fashion does, and what's more, the overall silhouettes in men's fashion have remained nearly the same for decades (with notable exceptions for the fabulous Thom Browne and Hedi Slimane), so a man's opinion on the matter (I'm talking normal average Joe friends of mine, not ferocia Project Runway winners here) is decidedly different than a woman's. But it begs the question: Just who do you get dressed for? And why?

For many of us, the reasons aren't cut and dry: I don't always get dressed solely to please myself, nor do I only dress for other women, and likewise, I'm not constantly dressing for men. Many women fall into one of those three categories almost exclusively, but most of them don't. For most, it's a combination of all three. 

But what's more, when it comes to fashion, why do we adhere to the style we've adopted over the years? Why do we buy what we buy? What attracts us to certain items over others? Josh's observation was that much of fashion today isn't about dressing necessarily to flatter the body or to attract men. It's about challenging proportion, silhouette, and trends. In that, there are many styles that I'm drawn to that aren't particularly flattering, sexy, or visually appealing. Yet I appreciate their aesthetics, and so, throwing caution to the wind, I'll wear something that many people deem 'ugly' or 'weird.' 

In fact, some of my favorite garments from the past year aren't at all geared toward attracting attention from men OR women, but about the silhouette or avant garde proportion. What Balenciaga did for the jodhpur in Fall '07, Phillip Lim took one step further for a Spring '08 forecast that recalls all things Arabian Nights-inspired. Bunchy thighs, baggy crotches...neither pant instills confidence in me that they'll do any favors for my lower half, and yet, I'm drawn to both silhouettes because they're just so interesting to look at. 

There are many designers who make clothing for women that appeal to men. Valentino and Versace both come to mind. But frankly (and with those two venerable fashion empires excepted), I tend to find those designs to be quite boring. One need only look around at a party or bar or restaurant or anywhere public and see that by and large, we all dress pretty much the same. A dress is a dress is a dress, right?


Not necessarily. 

Neither silhouette is particularly 'flattering' or even 'appealing' in the more commonly held sense. And yet, both are exceedingly beautiful and fascinating examples of two designers' vision for what fashion could be. To me, fashion is nothing if not hopeful. I should also note that I'm purposely eschewing more avant garde designers from this post (like Junya Watanabe or Viktor & Rolf) because what I'm showing you are things I'd actually wear--not to demonstrate what fashion can necessarily inspire, but what I choose to aspire to. It's certainly not what I'd imagine most guys would want to see their date wearing, and yet, the question I always come back to in this case is: Do I care?

At the end of the day, I can only speak for myself, one girl who happens to love getting dressed in the morning. Sure, it may not be in the most conventional of terms, but my eye isn't drawn to something like this:

It's drawn to something more like this:

(all images courtesy of style.com)