AKG

Archive for the ‘On Fashion History’ Category

On Androgyny in Fashion

In On Entertainment, On Fashion, On Fashion History, On Menswear, On Muse-of-the-Month, On Style on April 18, 2012 at 7:55 pm

I don’t know about you, but I have heard “androgyny” in various contexts, varying from a scandalous or heated discussion to casual daily use. Androgynous traits are usually asexual or are qualities attributed to the opposite sex. There is physical, psychological, and fashion-related androgyny. To be clear, my inspiration is found in androgynous fashion and styling. Some people accept the idea, whereas many are steeped in traditionalism, focused on the idea that men and women are both supposed to look certain ways that are unique and separate of each other.

A rulebook from the older days for dressing and fashion etiquette (from 1965) includes rules that sound ludicrous today.

“It is disrespectful and unwise to deviate from the norm of those around you. It is not polite to stray from the costume worn by your date. If he is in street clothes, you are to wear a day dress or a dressmaker’s suit. […] You must always compliment your man.” “Mules, open-toed shoes, and ankle straps are in poor taste at all times.”

The writer and followers of this book would probably end up in shock if they ended up in any kind of gathering, party, restaurant, or department store today.

Prince & David Bowie - Challenging Norms

Prince & David Bowie - Challenging Norms

Considering that these were the rules, consider how nonsensical the idea of finding pieces in “your man’s” wardrobe would be. Performers like David Bowie, Boy George, Prince, Grace Jones, Marlene Dietrich, and Annie Lennox challenged the norms back in the 1970s and cross-dressing continued to become more elaborate through the 1980s. Leonardo DiCaprio wore the ‘skinny’ look in the 90s, resulting in a fad known as “Leo Mania”. Marilyn Manson wore female clothing and PVC suits that made him seem genderless. These entertainers started trends so that men and women could think outside of conventional styling and start to explore where they felt at home outside of the limitation of their own department at the store. In high fashion, Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent became pioneers by encouraging women to dress in a minimalistic manner, freeing them from the bind of corsets and stockings. In 1966, YSL created the “Le Smoking” tuxedo, the first of its kind for women. Now, fashion on the street was changing and women were freer to find and wear what they liked most.

There is considerable societal redefinition of traditional gender fashion norms today due to the popularity of these artistes and the trickle-down effect of high fashion. Menswear inspired womenswear (and visa versa) has become commonplace: boyfriend blazers, boyfriend jeans, oxfords, and more.

Androgynous Women Fashion Styling

Androgynous Women Fashion Styling
Disclaimer: All pictures are sourced - not mine.

Experimenting with androgynous fashion doesn’t mean you have to dress like David Bowie when he performed. But it’s certainly inspiring, isn’t it? See Diane Keaton in “Annie Hall” or Cate Blanchett in “The Aviator”. Remember Katherine Hepburn? As current style inspiration, we have Ellen Degeneres, Agyness Deyn, Kate Moss, and Diane Keaton to look to. These ‘celebrities’ incorporate menswear pieces into everyday dressing all the time. In the next post, we’ll talk about how they borrow from the boys. Arshia inspires me to learn to borrow from the boys, and experiment to define our individual style further.

AKG

On P for Peplum

In On 80s Fashion, On Fashion, On Fashion History, On Muse-of-the-Month, On Style on March 13, 2012 at 9:13 pm

I could be slightly jealous of Soumya Parker for her runway model body type; it is especially perfect for this season. Peplum is back, and the Guardian called it the third installment in the trilogy of the hourglass silhouette – “The Waist” (in 2007), “Here Comes the Shoulder” (in 2009) and now “The Revenge of the Hips” (in 2012). Peplum is one of the classic styles that you should incorporate into your wardrobe forever.

To be exact, a peplum is a a short flared, gathered or pleated strip of fabric that is attached at the waist of a jacket, dress, or blouse – it actually started out as a short overskirt attached to jackets back in the 40s. Because Carrie Bradshaw’s body shape is similar to the inverted triangle that Soumya Parker’s is, Carrie was often seen in variations of the peplum style (See image below). Fast forward to this season and the red carpet, peplum is everywhere.

The peplum still forms a flounce over the hips, but it’s no longer in its classic form. Some designers have taken inspiration from the 80s, complete with bold polka dots, color and super-structured shape; others have played with spacey, modern, sci-fi and contemporary designs to create elegant and/or geometric looks. It can be worn soft, with ruffles, or dramatic, with crinoline. The style is excellent – it simultaneously accentuates the bust and tiny waist, while adding curve to the hip.

Peplum is back this spring 2012!

The variety in peplum styles

How to wear peplum:

1) Cinch your waist. Because the peplum style puts a lot of emphasis on the hip area, you must cinch the waist to avoid looking dowdy.
2) Fitted vs. flared peplum. A fitted peplum with emphasis on the cinched waist doesn’t hide curves but instead accentuates them nicely. The fitted peplum is actually more figure flattering than is the flared peplum, since it tends to deemphasize the hips. A flared peplum will create a fuller hourglass figure (it will make the hips look larger), while a fitted peplum uses less fabric and cinches at the waist.
3) Try going monochromatic. If the peplum silhouette makes you shy, consider a dark monochromatic style for optimal fabulousness and flattery. (See above – Blake Lively)
4) Boldly colored peplum styles can add style to this classic silhouette, especially with combined with a standout belt to highlight the waist. (See above – Rihanna) Perhaps liven up the peplum dress with a bright print. (See above – Leighton Meester)

Enjoy experimenting with this classic style! However, a few of caution when wearing peplum:

1) Often, women with larger figures attempt to hide their extra curves with extra fabric; counterintuitively, this only adds bulk. Do not do this with peplum, please.
2) The peplum should ideally start at the waist – when it starts at the hips, it will exxagerate the hips, often unflatteringly so.
3) If you are colorblocking with peplum, make sure the top and bottom balance themselves – neutrals with neutrals, brights with brights. (Emma Stone does this beautifully – see above)
4) Over-accessorizing is generally always a no-no, unless it’s specifically event-appropriate. When wearing peplum, simplicity is especially key.
5) For most body types, a fitted peplum is more flattering than a flared one, since it tends to draw attention away from the hips. Please consider your own body type and experiment with a few different peplum styles before settling in on a specific style.

To my muse: Soumya P., especially for a formal or semi-formal western style, you must try the peplum style. The peplum will add curves that will balance your body type perfectly, and your body type is ideal for every kind of peplum. The cinched waist in the fitted peplum is great for accentuating curves. To create the illusion of a larger hip, flared peplums are your calling – they will project an hourglass figure. Peplum dresses and jackets are intuitive; as ideas for separates, a peplum top can be paired with a pencil skirt to look slick and slim – a peplum belt can be added to a shift dress to take it from work-wear to evening wear.

Be sure to have fun with it. This style was practically made for you.

AKG

On the Bullet Bra

In On Entertainment, On Fashion, On Fashion History on February 23, 2012 at 4:42 pm

I always thought that the conical bra came from Jean Paul Gaultier and Madonna of the 80s. I was intrigued when I found that he was inspired by the “Bullet” bra – a highly structured conically pointed bra that was popular back in the 1940s. Also known as the “Torpedo” bra, it was designed for maximum projection – it was used for the ‘Sweater Girl’ image, the image of a busty, voluminous, ‘girl next door’ whose clothes accentuated her enhanced curves. The outer and under wires were prominent in these clothes – this bra actually has history.

It had all started during World War II, when there was this idea that bras and girdles were protective, and companies often strictly enforced that workers wear bras for 3 main reasons: good taste, anatomical support, and morale. Lizabeth Scott, an actress of the 40s and 50s, remembered also for her sultry voice, was the pinnacle of the lovely Sweater girl – the camera loved her. She had a unique quality – the audience would know what her character is thinking of feeling just be seeing her – no words necessary. Of course, the conical bra became more and more wearable and was featured through many ads. Late 40s/Early 50s fashion. The postwar boom in the economy thereafter obviously saw changes in fabric, padding, colors, and more – fashions changed, and the conical bra was left behind for more comfort and a natural look.

bullet bra - 50s

Bullet Bra, as seen in the 40s and 50s

In the 80s, Madonna brought the conical bra back – and since then, there have been many interpretations of this fashion style. Featured below is the series of sketches of the costumes that Jean Paul Gaultier designed for Madonna for her Blonde Ambition Tour  in 1990 – all with the trademark of the conical bra.

Jean Paul Gaultier's sketches for Madonna's Blonde Ambition Tour

Jean Paul Gaultier's sketches for Madonna's Blonde Ambition Tour

Madonna Blonde Ambition Tour 1990 - feat. the conical bra

Madonna Blonde Ambition Tour 1990 - feat. the conical bra

Rihanna by Zac Posen - Grammy Awards 2008

Rihanna by Zac Posen - Grammy Awards 2008 - reinterpretation of the conical bra

While Zac Posen for Rihanna at 2008 Grammy Awards wasn’t nearly as severe as Jean Paul Gaultier for Madonna at the Blonde Ambition Tour, it makes it more obvious that the ‘bullet’ bra is certainly inspiring, and here to stay. It’ll be interesting to see how stylists and style icons reintrepret and recreate the ‘bullet bra’ in the future. Perhaps, this may be an idea for your Halloween costume this year, or maybe this style will be seen in more street fashion? Regardless, I hope you enjoyed this piece of history as much as I did.

AKG

On R.I.P. Whitney Houston

In On 80s Fashion, On Entertainment, On Style on February 13, 2012 at 5:27 am

There are many reasons to mourn the passing of the regal Whitney Houston, one of the world’s biggest pop stars. Her self-titled debut album (released in 1985) sold 25 million copies worldwide. Since then, she released seven albums and three film soundtracks. Sold over 200 million albums and singles worldwide. Winner of six Grammys. Earned 30 Billboard Awards, 22 American Music Awards and two Emmy Awards. Who knew what she was going to bring us next?

She IS an inspiration; her music moves millions. Close your eyes. Listen to a ballad start slow, build into what some call “a cheesy smooth-pop flourish”, go down a few octaves only to come back to an unbelievably high note, and maybe belt out an amazing ending with her. That is the real reason to mourn her loss.

I feature here, my favorites: “One Moment in Time” and “I Will Always Love You”.

Seriously. Turn the music up. Any of the others even. “Greatest Love of All”, “So Emotional”, “Count on Me”, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”…the list goes on. Sing along with her, sway with her, even if you’re off-tone and singing through your nose on the song’s peak notes. You may feel an incredible shift.

Many of her songs were about friendship, love, freedom – about believing, dreaming, and achieving. This month, remind yourself of why you love you. Dream. Believe in yourself. Walk with your head high.

Much could be said about her style. She was a true diva – her fashion epitomized 80’s glam, complete with the big shoulders, big hair, and glittery sequins. Her shoulders shrunk as fashion changed, but her glamorous style and big hair never did.

But I will remember Whitney Houston more for her fearless style than for her glitz. She was stylish because she was never afraid to be her ridiculously vocally gifted and talented self. In a time when the industry was judging her for cold technique, she brought ballads to a crescendo that tug at your soul.

Oh, R.I.P. Whitney Houston – your stirring music, your unforgettable style – you will live in our hearts forever.

AKG

%d bloggers like this: