Saturday, January 31, 2015

Scatter #42

    Its hard for me to believe that I've been doing these scatter posts every week for this long now, But there it is.  So without further ado,...
    Here's one of the first African American models to make it to the big time. Naomi Sims.  Her Presence, and the appearance of other models who were not Caucasian signaled a massive change culturally.  Japanese Hiroko Matsumo, and the imperishable Iman, made being a woman of color into something we wished, finally, to elevate rather than ignore.  Sure, these models were still few and far between, and there's still a great deal of work to be done before the reality of the human populace is reflected on runways, but progress is being made.  And this image, like so many of its ilk, was a harbinger of that change.  Sometimes fashion, all unknowing, presents us with such needed changes, in ways we can grasp, and in so doing, performs a useful function far beyond its stated goal.  Naomi Sims in Pierre Cardin, for Harper's Bazaar, December 1968.
    Two models in a shoot for Wonderland Magazine.  Two things in this appeal to me. One is the color combination.  That serene tan with that intense royal blue is a wonderful juxtaposition.  The coat on the right has some interesting things going on, though it is clearly massively over-scaled, probably on purpose.  Its also clear that the lower sleeve, and the funnel collar both are tied on extra pieces, which could be used or not as the wearer wishes.  Its a cool notion and one worth further exploration.  Such an idea could easily move into the ready to wear, and be translated into practical usage as a part of the Attire language.
    Alexandre Vaulthier sent these Capri pants down the runway of his S/S 2015 showing in Paris.  As a piece of high voltage glamor, they are remarkable.  As an item for the real world, not really, no.  But what strikes me most is the embroidery work which is in a style that 20 years back we simply wouldn't have conceived of.  This is another example of how the design community reaches into the collective subconscious, and brings to life ways of thinking, and seeing, that exist there as ideas belonging to their time, and no other.
    Body proportions shift and blur constantly, especially these days, with so many designers able to put their ideas out in the world.  This menswear effort by Boris Bidjan Saberi is from the F/W 2015 collection and subtly plays with proportion for men by shifting the apparent waistline inches above its normal position.  What keeps it from looking awkward to my eye is that all the other break points are spot on at the position we are most visually comfortable with.  The coat ends at the base of the hip. The tunic ends at the knee. The pants are rolled to mid calf.  All of those are logical places for garments to begin and end in our minds, so we are willing to accept the one thing that does not stay within that range.
    This beautiful object is a head ornament from Iran.  It was made in the early 19th century and bears a portrait of Fath Ali Shah.  The gold ornament has rough cut topaz stones, small rubies and Baroque pearls, and seed pearls.  Can't you just see this pinned on a beautifully wound turban?  Ahh, the human creative impulse.  Wonderful.
    In the 1740s this incredible piece of artistry was created.  Its a court mantua.  What makes it remarkable is that there is hardly a part of it left uncovered by some of the most beautiful embroidery work around.  The whole of the skirt, the border of the bodice, and its cuffs, are all densely and riotously embroidered with a botanical garden's worth of different flowering plants.  The skirt, which by the way is near 5 feet wide, is held out by rigid panniers, and the bodice has vestigial folds down the back which would have been an over skirt in another time. The work is done in sliver thread, purl, and strip, with many different colors of silk thread for the flowers and leaves.
    Oh those rascal punks.  This image brought me up short.  I find it both challenging, which is of course the point, but also beautiful in an otherworldly way.  Human as insect.  That this fellow has shaved his eyebrows only adds to the visual power of what he has achieved here.  Some people have the chutzpah to bring the most aggressive of Attire statements to visual life. Bravo, sir. bravo.
    Though it is no longer considered in good taste, there was a time when a necklace like this would have been a blaring fanfare of wealth, status, and taste.  This massive necklace of sapphires and diamonds comes from a time when more was most certainly more, the late 19th century.  Though the titled might have demurred from wearing such things outside of state occasions, the newer wealth and the wives of the new industrial giants felt no such constraints.  It was an instant reminder of their position.  And, never for a moment forgetting the horror of how these rocks were acquired , the result of the artisans labor is a thing of magnificence.

    We have often heard of the Bright Young Things of England's 1920s and 30s.  Here are three of them, all got up in gender bending style.  One of the things that marked the mostly wealthy, and highly educated Bright Young Things was their willingness to experiment with all sorts of social conventions.  So they got themselves togged out in frocks and amalgamations of oddments to create a fluid sort of surface image that defied definition by the terms of the day.  Here we have first, George Rylands, then Boy Lebas, and finally, Cecil Beaton tricked out as an 18th century dandy.  You scamps, you.
    Oddly, the corset was not, for most of its long history, the last garment a lady removed.  In fact, there was yet another thing beneath, her shift, or chemise, which among those of lesser wealth usually served as sleepwear.  This example is of French make from 1907.  Its covered in cream silk satin, with blonde Chantilly lace, and a large satin bow. This is also one of the s bend corsets, which pushed the torso forward and up, creating a higher bust. The large satin bow also served another purpose aside from being decorative.  It could aid a lady who was less ample up front to create the illusion of more.
    It must be said.  Not all experiments work.  Though I'm fully on board with the mix of houndstooth check, and houndstooth plaid, the red tartan miniskirt thingy looks slapped on randomly, rather than being contributive to the whole.  And that lips tattoo?  Just plain tacky.  Perhaps I might be more positive if the red plaid had been used in some other place, drawing it into the whole design. And surely the proportion of it with relation to the rest of the outfit is off. It needs to be longer.  Harumph.
    The coat dress is an article of clothing I envy women for. Its easy to deal with, gives the wearer a polished look and boom, you're done in one go.  Nothing like that for us men folk.  Here are two contemporary coat dresses to round out this session of Scatter.  The green was printed on Vogue Italia, and though I'm not convinced about the blue ribbons on the sides, the color and shape of the coat are spectacular.  The red one was designed by Vika Gazinskaya for her F/W 2014 collection, and I approve, unreservedly.

So that's this weeks pile of stuff for you to sort through.
Have a wondrous weekend, everyone!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Oh, Monsieur Gaultier!

    I have a number of favorite designers from the classic to the wildly avant garde.  And one who manages to go in all those directions, is Jean Paul Gaultier.  Monsieur G has made a career of bending gender, breaking rules, and never for an instant forgetting one vital thing; people want to be beautiful and enticing.  So, however wildly he may experiment with form, or materials, or decoration, he never forgets to make it beautiful.  Sure, its sometimes a challenging beauty, a different way of seeing ourselves, like when he gets decidedly kinky in his designs, but there is an overarching theme of respect for the human spirit, blended with an irrepressible sense of fun.  There is a boyishly naughty aspect to what he does that I find charming.  And he loves poking fun at us, and our tendency to take ourselves far too seriously.  I applaud his relentless creativity and his desire to blur the lines, and then paint outside of them, while still making all his humans sexy as hell, and probably fun at a party too.
   So here is a selection of things from his S/S 2015 collection for women and men.  There are several things that, if I had the cash, I would be ordering up right now.

I'll admit that he's on my fantasy list of people I'd love to hang out with over dinner. Jean Paul?  If you're reading this, lets grab a glass of wine and chat a while.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

From Beneath The Fantasies

    The first posting I did on facebook yesterday sparked a thought I wanted to expand on today.  We allow that the couture is a realm of fantasies and experimentation, that operates, essentially without any limitations.  As such its capable of presenting us with thoughts, and emotions we do not usually encounter.  Now, there was a time, 50 years and more back, when the couture was a reverential profession, and the presentation of a couture collection was treated with the utmost seriousness, and restraint.
    During the past half century that situation has changed immensely.  Now it is typical for a collection's showing to include model styling that oft times pull attention away from the very clothing that is supposed to be the point of the entire exercise.  But that said, there is something else in play here.  There is a deeper, and sometimes darker revelation exposed by these intense and and operatic shows.
    More and more often, when I look at the way that a couture show is styled, I feel a sense of unease.  Partly, I suppose, because I am a man of a certain age, and these things can be quite challenging.  But partly, and I think chiefly, because there is a dystopian set of images that are getting presented with greater, and greater frequency.

    I am all for testing the limits of what we call beauty, and I have often written about the avant garde and its essential role in the Attire language.  Too, I am also often struck by the eerie beauty that can be brought out by couture runway styling.  What I find disturbing is that we seem to be relying more and more on this dark aspect, this discomfiting aspect as our default, for how to bring these expensive and experimental garments to the world.

    What does this say about us as a culture?  Surely the industry that is the Couture, and the larger retail clothing industry, do not only present ideas for us to pick from, but respond, as we all do, to the subtle shifts of the mass consciousness.  So, that being true, what is coming up, and out of our collective subconscious that is so murky, and uneasy?  Is it simply a reaction to the growing stresses of an over-populated planet; and a populace that does not seem to be able to come to terms with what we have wrought?  Or is there a still deeper layer of meanings?
    I cannot pretend to be wise enough, or have enough knowledge of psychology, to get to the true root causes; though I'm certain there are many reasons for this.  I can only say that I find this disquieting; this growing darkness that seems to peep out on the runways.

    I will be looking with depth, and consuming interest, at how we choose to show our wildest fantasies of ourselves, to see if this continues.  I suspect that it will.  We are a global culture trying to be born, but with most of the power elite working desperately to keep it from coming to fruition, outside of their tight-fisted control.  Perhaps that's the answer.  Our personal sense of dismay at what we are racing towards, is making itself manifest, even on Couture runways.

    Who knew that there could be serious revelations to be had in such a rarefied climate as the Couture?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

One Honest Thing

    However we may choose to dissemble, whatever superficial goals we have in mind to promote one image of ourselves over another, something happens that we cannot entirely control.  No matter how carefully we craft our personal vision by sculpting ourselves, literally, into a perfected version of us; no matter how much we spend on whatever apparel, and accessories, there is an ineluctable part that emerges that will be seen, regardless of how we attempt to conceal it.  That thing, that essential element, that base line statement, is us; the reality of who we are.  We cannot escape it, no matter how much we attempt to, no matter how much money, effort, and time we expend, we cannot escape our own true selves.
    Nor, frankly, should we wish to. Our essential self, that inside part of us, vulnerable, hurting very likely, and often frightened about rejection, yet ever hopeful of approval, should, in a perfected world, the world I personally want us to move towards, be unafraid of stating out loud, and in the most emphatic Attire language, "I AM ME". That always, and I do mean always, manages to get to the surface.  Often, especially among actors, politicians, and other professional persons whose livelihoods depend on the opinions of the public, it is difficult, without careful observational skills, to suss out the truths.
    For those people, there are folks, who make sure that the Attire statement presented to the public is exactly what is desired to achieve the goal in mind. Dressers, and style gurus, make sure that we, the public, see what they want us to see.  But, those personal truths exist, nonetheless; and can be observed by the observant.
    Whatever skill set an actor may bring to the table, on the red carpet, under the scrutiny of dozens of photographers, and acres of watching writers, and fans, hardly anyone would be able, or even fully willing, to conceal their true self. We get glimpses, always.  The same is true for or politicians.  If we are willing to look, really look deeply at what we are seeing; not just the requisite navy blue suit and red and blue tie, but REALLY see, the truth comes out, however they might wish to conceal it.
    And here's the thing, the One Honest Thing.  The Attire language, about which I speak endlessly, is an adjunct, only to our essential selves.  It is our essence which speaks loudest, no matter what we do to hide it from the world.  Better for us, better for everyone that we speak our truth, rather than some delicately crafted falsehood.
    So, when you see someone on the street, and you're ready to pass negative judgement, as nearly all of us do routinely; me included to my shame, look more deeply, if you're willing.  Try and see the center point, the soul point, if you will, of that person you were about to dismiss. You may be surprised, and pleased by what you find.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Man Glam

    When I coined this post title, it appealed to me because of a certain alliterative quality. But what I was really going after was something that expressed male attire in a different way than the term dandy.  To me, especially now, with things changing so much for men about how we dress ourselves, I thought I needed a term that conveyed a greater level of intensity than simply being excessively fashionable. So, Man Glam, which to me encompasses the need to be more outrageous, more visible, more definitively Luxe, and more experimental that the word dandy can contain completely.

Concomitant with the shifting away from the older, long held notions of male apparel, in terms of fabrications, fit, and color, the outer edges of the menswear donning populace are allowing themselves more freedom to play with texture, volume, and with embellishments and jewels.
What this says to me is that we are, as a culture, becoming more comfortable with men having a broader, freer range within which to express themselves, and that men themselves, are getting the point too; that they needn't feel constrained by navy blue, and worsted wool. They are beginning to understand on a deeper level that their maleness owes little to their apparel, but rather something different: that their sartorial decisions can reveal the extent of their confidence in themselves.
    Too, and I think we boys owe a debt of thanks to the rockers of the past several decades, we have been allowed, through them, to experiment, and also, for the first time in a very long time, to see what fun dress can be; and the wild breadth of thought, and feeling that it can reveal.
    Living and working in San Francisco, I get regular hits of Man Glam coming into my view.  I freely admit that means that the place from which I'm viewing all this change is not the center point, but one of the outer realms.  That acknowledged, the point I'm making remains valid.  We are a changing culture, certainly far more rapidly changing than a good many can handle with comfort.  And those changes are not going to be avoidable. When we make an internal choice as a culture, or a species, to shift away from some long held position, there is nothing, and no one, who can make us change course back again.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Lure of the Unexpected

    One of our many hard wired traits as a species, is an unquenchable curiosity about things we don't understand, or that we find surprising.  This is a characteristic that fuels a good deal of what Attire as a language accomplishes routinely.  Whether its a splash of brilliant color in a place we didn't think to see it, of a complete re-visioning of a known idea into something utterly new, we find ourselves powerfully drawn, even when we sometimes don't like what we're looking at all that much.
    It is that element of surprise, that delicious feeling of pleasure on seeing something new, something we didn't count on, that lays at the heart of so many of the choices we make as regards our apparel.  If we don't make those choices for ourselves, because we prefer the back ground to center stage, then we look for it in others.
    It is also one of the prime drivers of what we might define as visual drama in apparel. The volume, texture, pattern, or colorations of the entirety, or even of a single element, can, often do, take what might be a bald and uninteresting sartorial remark, and turn it into a visual haiku.
    The images I'm including below speak far more eloquently than I can about this.  Take a look, and winnow out the most important thing about each one. What is it that takes what you're looking at from the mundane, to someplace more unique?  And in the long run, we can use all the things shown here in our own ways, in our own world, to enhance our ability to communicate ourselves to others with our Attire.
    And please, tell me what you found!