Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.
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Net-a-porter UK

Monday 21 January 2008

Dior: a world of his own

Reports of the first Paris haute couture shows are coming in:

Today's Dior collection was based on the same conceit: clothes that appear girlishly light and frothy, but are in fact based on serious sartorial engineering.

So the torso of a leopard-print ballgown appeared to be wrapped gently around the waist, when in fact the apparent softness concealed a heavy-duty corset beneath; a voluminous opera coat, puffed up and proud as a perfect yorkshire pudding, was fashioned out of silk stiffened and printed to resemble crocodile skin. The art of pulling off dressmaking impossibilities with difficult fabrics is a tradition in haute couture, because it showcases the skill of the designer. Cristobal Balenciaga liked to work in heavy boiled wool because he knew no one else could fashion elegant silhouettes from this lumpish cloth.

But while Madame X wore unadorned black velvet, today's Dior outfits came in jewel-box brights, each encrusted so densely with embroidery that the catwalk resembled a box of giant jelly babies, brightly coloured and sugar-dipped. All the signature silhouettes of haute couture were featured: the cocoon-shaped coats, the mermaid-shaped dresses, the slender-sleeved peplum jackets. The parodic femininity of the tightly corsetted, impossibly long-limbed shapes was emphasised in the virtuoso make-up: feather eyelashes and diamante eyeliner, bringing together the aesthetics of the drag queen with the skill of the world's best make-up artists to stunning effect.

US advertising

In the course of the next week or so US readers will notice more US advertising. I have selected stores which fit in with the overall ethos of this site - high quality, high fashion clothing and accessories. Some of these sites will ship overseas and will offer advantageous prices given the size of the US market and strength of the pound.

Last day of the Thoughtful Dresser competition

I'm going to be picking a winner in the Thoughtful Dresser competition this evening and will announce the winner tomorrow morning. You still have a chance to enter, and check back tomorrow for the result.

Gentlemen's corner

Here is a picture from the Prada menswear show AW8. If you were to take a shirt and slit it down the back and then gird it with some horizontal braces and put it on Agyness Deane, I can guarantee that two things would happen: a) Victoria Beckham would be wearing the self-same shirt the following week b) a month later I would be standing on the tube looking at hordes of teenage girls shivering with cold backs.

And yet I can also guarantee that you are not going to see this shirt on anyone. You will, in fact, never see it again. Why? Because men are not mugs. They don't wear stuff like this, they get women to wear stuff like this.

But at last the worm is turning, according to the Guardian:

Now, female designers are getting their own back. At the menswear shows in Milan last week, two labels built in the image of their female figureheads put out autumn/winter collections that suggested things are only going to get tougher. After her show, Miuccia Prada told critic Suzy Menkes that her theme had been "the things that men usually do to women - it's revenge!"

Prada's male models had walked out in flashes of flesh-coloured fabric, trousers with frilled tops that looked like tutus, vests that stopped at navel height, and pants that poked above the tops of trousers like so many women's g-strings did for a spell in the late 1990s. A couple of days later, Marni, headed by designer-founder Consuela Castiglioni, put men in turtlenecked jumpers that ended just below nipple height and tops that zipped up at the back, ensuring that you would need a good strong woman's helping hand to get in and out of them. The designer even indulged in a bit of pointed name-calling - Marni's fur-coats were made of weasel.

Nice try, Miucca, but all the boys I know in their early twenties are still devoted to the perfectly draped low-slung baggy jeans and the perfect t-shirt. They found their uniform aged 15 and they have stuck to is, as has the man I mentioned yesterday who, having adopted the levis, t-shirt, leather jacket and boots ensemble worn when he climbed into his VW van back in 1968 to drive down to raise the Pentagon with Abbie Hoffman, has seen no reason to alter his style as he nears 60.

The extraordinary conservatism of men and their clothing is a twentieth century phenomenon. For a thousand years men dressed as peacocks. Now they don't. They dress for function. With some colour sense. Personally I find it quite boring, but perhaps it says something about a crisis of masculinity as a response to feminism - butch it out. Or maybe not. Others can offer their own thoughts on this matter, below.

Thought for the day

A policeman in plain clothes is one man; in his uniform he is ten. Clothes and title are the most potent thing, the most formidable influence in the earth. Thy move the human race to willing and spontaneous respect for the judge, the general, the admiral, the bishop, the ambassador, the frivolous earl, the idiot duke, the sultan, the king, the emperor,. No great title is efficient without clothes to support it. Mark Twain