As a New Brunswicker of Irish descent, I have been known to use a little hyperbole for the sake of a good story. A story is always made better with a teensy bit of exaggeration. Is that an oxymoron, do you think? A teensy bit of exaggeration? Well, never mind. New Brunswickers, especially the Irish ones, love to tell stories. So if I do resort to hyperbole to make a story better, well, it’s not my fault really. It’s in my genes.
But sometimes I just despair at the hyperbole on the internet, especially in fashion posts. Sigh. If I read one more time that some poor girl in a pair of ripped jeans and a tee is “insanely chic” … well, I may have to resort to… sarcasm.
And that tendency to hyperbole extends to more that just words. I mean… what’s with sleeves these days? The exaggerated cuffs that totally cover the hands… what’s with that? This shot was taken outside an event at Paris Fashion Week last year. I understand that fashion shows themselves are theatre, and as such present a creative idea or theme; the clothes and, often exaggerated, hair and make-up all working to create that idea. But we’re talking real life here; these are street shots. Seriously folks, what do you do with those cuffs if you’re going out to lunch?
Of course today’s hyperbolic sleeves are not the first time that sartorial exaggerations have been fashionable. Not by a long shot. See? It would definitely be tricky to eat soup with these cuffs.
And we’ve all heard of other examples of historic fashion hyperbole: hobble skirts, crinolines, bustles, corsets and their ilk. Not to mention the more modern trend of shoes with two inch platform soles and six inch heels. I confess I’m guilty of wearing something similar in the seventies. Along with flared jeans that dragged on the ground. Kind of like these, as a matter of fact.
And maybe even the ones below. Although these pants look like an accident waiting to happen. At least with a floor length dress or skirt one can elegantly hitch it up in order to go up or downstairs. And speaking of elegant, look at the woman in white cropped pants in the background of this shot. Compared with her chic sandals and black coat, the outfit in the foreground just looks plain silly to me.
Now, this outfit below really did make me laugh. Those leather pants are too bizarre. How can that woman even take a step? And how sad for those pants; they’ll be a mess by the time she gets home.
And don’t get me started on the socks with sandals thing. Okay, so maybe that trend can’t be called hyperbole, strictly speaking. And maybe an attractive ankle sock with shoes and a skirt might be okay. They’d be comfortable, at least. Ah, who am I kidding? I think they look ridiculous. I haven’t worn ankle socks with dresses since I was six. I know that menswear inspired fashion is big this year… but men’s dress socks with platform sandals? Really?
I’m normally a big fan of Stella McCartney’s designs. But what exactly does one do with a heavy fisherman knit, turtleneck sweater that has only one sleeve? Be honest now… do you ever get the niggling feeling that sometimes the fashion industry is having us on? Just messing with us?
That maybe those hand-hiding sleeves, and pooling hems, and weirdly architectural sweaters make us look a little bit silly? That maybe we’re infected with “The Emperor’s New Clothes” syndrome?
Now don’t get me wrong; I’m all for people wearing whatever makes them happy. As long as it does make them happy. And isn’t just capitulation to some designer’s idea, or even worse, some CEO’s idea, of how they should look. Or a slavish attempt to get noticed by those street-style photographers who seem to be everywhere these days.
I know, I sound cranky don’t I? But, bear with me. Since I’ve been working on this post, I’ve been thinking about fashion shows and fashion lay-outs in magazines, and the ideas or themes, or sometimes the narratives they depict.
Take this photograph for example, from a fashion layout
entitled “Fashion Without Borders” in the October 19 issue of W
magazine. Shot in Istanbul, the photographs are lovely. And the clothes are wonderful. There’s a Dior coat in an earlier picture
that I would love to own. But this image of model Julia Nobis striding across the cobblestones, skirts flying, in those red carpet slippers stuck in my head. Why, why, why did that image seem so familiar to me? Something about it… the running figure… the skirt flapping… the slippers.
Of course. Wee Willie Winkie. That old nursery rhyme that we read as children. You know…”Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town. Upstairs and downstairs in his night gown…” And in the illustrated version we had as kids, Willie has on carpet slippers just like Julia Nobis’. I’m sure. Put a candle stick in her hand and she’d be the very picture of Willie Winkie.
I get it… the narrative of that fashion layout in historic Istanbul, with the outlandish hair and the exaggerated poses and, of course, the carpet slippers is a tale of how old and new, modern and traditional, can work together. “Fashion Without Borders” … blurring “the line between East and West, orthodox and avant-garde.” Cool.
So maybe real life fashion tells a story too. Maybe what we choose to wear tells our own narrative? And a little hyperbole just makes our story better? For instance, maybe all those older models and bloggers who love layers of bright colour and mega jewellry and bold lipstick are simply saying: “Don’t put me in an old lady box! I am who I am. And I ain’t afraid to show it.” If so, more power to them.
So, I concede that people who wear clothes that make me cringe, just might have a different story to tell than I do. But I also think that to avoid “The Emperor’s New Clothes” syndrome, we need to make sure our fashion tells our own story, and not someone else’s.
I’m afraid I’m way too conservative fashion-wise to wear my hyperbole. But when it comes to words, I won’t apologize for using it to make a good tale even better. Now let’s get back to those “insanely chic,” ultra long cuffs and pooling pants… for the life of me, I still can’t figure out the story there.
What about you? What the heck do you think is going on with those cuffs? Any thoughts on fashion hyperbole? Feel free to narrate, analyze, philosophize, whatever.