“I don’t know why some people treat fashion like it’s a shallow interest; I think all the decisions that go into a garment are so closely related to all the decisions that come with applying paint to a canvas. I see fashion as being a very high art form…You’ve got to play with fashion and push it around and be a bit fearless with it. Ultimately, I think those that do make for the most exciting dressers.”
— Louise Olsen, Artist
“The whole consumer myth that there’s only one way to look good is toxic, violent, manipulative, boring, and fundamentally untrue. If you have a strong personal style, you can swan or bulldoze your way over any trend. Authentic self-expression comes in no “correct” size, shape, or price tag. Fashion only turns you into a victim when it bullies, conceals, and exploits you. When used consciously, fashion is almost magic in its ability to reveal you to yourself, and empower you.”
— Cintra Wilson, Writer
“Fashion represents the collective psyche; style represents yours.”
— Amy Shea, Style Blogger
It’s the official kick-off today of 2016, and I am thrilled to see evidence that fashion has awakened from it’s long disconnected sleep, and wants to show you the result of its fragmented and random dreams.
All fashion revolutions are marked by ideas that ricochet off light poles of expression. It’s lazy to simply report that this ten-year nap has been good for us, giving us all a myriad of options, from body-con bandages that would not allow for actual food consumption (ding!) to oversized canvas-tent garments that could stand up without us occupants (ding!).
But fashion should, like all art forms, contain the kind of revelatory magic that Cinta Wilson writes of in her masterful book, “Fear and Clothing.” We should be able to identify, among its varied palate, a reflection of ourselves within our time. All art exists within its era, despite our ego-assuaging declarations that certain work is ahead of it. That is only us rationalizing what we failed to see, most especially among the work of those reflecting it to us the most clearly.
But there is finally good news, a rumble that this extended fashion nap is over. And its awakening is recognizable because it is connected to us, reflecting us, right now.
The up-front gender identity conversations of 2015 were the walls falling—walls that have been up for years for women, and men. This blog would turn into a book were I to connect all the dots of even the last ten years, but suffice to say that recent examples are everywhere of women having given away their last fu*k over being labeled as “complainers” and “difficult,” and who publicaly spoke up—from the Academy Award stage to the university campus to forcing indictments of rapist celebrities. A woman kept from school and maimed by acid not only went on to win the Nobel Prize, but walked back into school—reminiscent of a time in American culture when a black girl dared to do the same, and began the long road we are still on to change our racist world.
This did not happen easily; it did not happen smoothly—nor is it over. It has merely begun. But it has now gained a momentum and force that prohibits us from blindness, either accidental or deliberate. And this event has shown up in fashion, as it should, from the artists who show us ourselves.
For women, this has resulted in what I am categorizing, on this first day of 2016, “weight/transparency.”
A substantive quality to fabrics has been paired with women unreservedly showing up as they are, as women, claiming their full spectrum of expression. There is no rule, nothing off limits, no offense at being female—there is a collective consciousness that has emerged to speak of our time, through this fashion. And it can offer the ingredients and perhaps tools for self-identification that will be used by women as they choose…and create their personal style.
If there is one image that captured for me this intersection it is this, from Chanel:
Photo courtesy of Regan Cameron and Chanel Haute Couture
This photograph by Regan Cameron is labeled “Zuzanna Bijoch channels Scarlet O’Hara.” Exactly. The heft of fabric and sculpted form meets the white-gloved woman of Eliot’s poem “J. Alfred Prufrock.” Except these women ‘come and go’ of their own accord and talk about whatever they want: steely-eyed, substantial and sexy as hell.
But it is everywhere, when you see it:
Above photos courtesy of Vogue
And this is reflected in men’s fashion as well, as we see the most adventurous of males putting on skirts and bow blouses, insisting their access to what has been reserved for women. Even if this will exist on the bleeding edge, and it will, it is telling of the impact of this gender revolution on all of us.
And from this new fashion, dear reader, I have one wish for you: that you create your style. Your. Style.
May you find in 2016 fashion exactly who you want to be.