For the second assignment in the course Culture of Fashion I had to read several chapters of the book Fashion Theory| A Reader and after that, I had to choose two images of contemporary silhouettes. I choose two images from the webshop Zara because I think they represent trends in silhouettes for both men and women.
Agnes Brooks Young describes in ‘Fashion has its laws’ different cycles surfacing in the development of fashion since the 19th century. She divides them into three cycles by looking at three types of skirts that were fashionable during 178 years of fashion development. The bell-shaped skirt and the ‘backfullness’ skirt, two types of skirts, are mainly seen in the 19th century. When the 20th century makes it’s entrance, we see these types disappearing while the tubular skirt is still in fashion. This skirt, unlike the other two types, follows the natural lines of the figure. In the 1920’s we see this simplification even more with Chanel inaugurating the ”poor style” which includes the simple black dress. Gilles Lipovetsky calls this the democratization of fashion in ‘A Century of Fashion’, which means that fashion of the day became available for a big group in society.
In the female silhouette, chosen of the webshop Zara, we can see this simple silhouette in all its glory. The black dress has a zipper around the neck which goes into a collar. The top of the dress looks very sporty, like it is almost a vest. This is also a trend in the 1920’s, where the idea of lightness and energy of sports are transported to a new aesthetic ideal of femininity (Lipovetsky). The dress is long and falls over the knees and most of the leg. The fabric accentuates the body and follows the lines of the body. This is also an element of the tubular skirt. The dress doesn’t show lots of skin, which I think is really a trend in fashion right now, but also looks comfortable and movable. It shows a perfect simplicity that so much resembles the spirit of the 1920’s: feminine in a comfortable yet covering way.
Young illustrates (small) changes in women’s fashion every season but she doesn’t discuss the male silhouette. From what I’ve seen in fashion history, male fashion has always been kind of the same. Especially the latest fashion trends for men relate to the beginning of the 20th century idea of male fashion. You could argue that the role of women changed drastically in the past hundred years, but the role of the male wearer has been very constant. This silhouette has one connotation for it’s wearer: the businessman. I think a case can be made that the use of the suit is a reintroducing trend for the man as a dominant figure (after years of female emancipation). Ann Rosalind Jones and Peter Stallybrass argue (‘Renaissance Clothing….: Introduction’) that ”clothing is a worn world: a world of social relations put upon the wearer’s body”. With this silhouette, which shows no skin and really portrays it’s wearer as a businessman, we could say that the fabric and silhouette symbolize a certain status within society, which resembles the idea of clothing and fashion during the Renaissance according to Jones and Stallybrass. The suit has a status of it’s own and empowers the wearer. In this case I think the silhouette is modern because it is really narrow around the body and shows almost a sober version of the suit in all black, including the shirt. This creates a new dimension within the suit and with that, a new role for the businessman.
I could talk about this for much longer because I really think both images represent huge changes in fashion and in society. Maybe in another article, but for the Dutch readers I can refer to the article I wrote about ‘The New Man’ in Allop Magazine.