Monday, 4 June 2018

Dressing Like a Grown-Up.

I love to look at clothes, even if they're clothes I can't afford to buy, or clothes I'd never wear myself. And I usually love how designer collections, and the fashion shows that introduce them to us, are built around a discernible theme or idea. But what gets up my nose are the shows and the collections that depict women in ways that... well... get up my nose. Let me explain.

I recently saw on-line the Chanel 2019 Cruise Collection. And as I scrolled through the pictures of models strutting down the runway in an array of outfits, I couldn't help thinking that Karl Lagerfeld was taking the idea of "cruise" literally when he designed this particular collection. Dressing models in various interpretations of sailor suits, with wide-legged sailor pants, sweaters with the iconic inter-locking Cs that look a bit like anchors, navy double-breasted jackets, white skirts, and what looked to me very much like a sailor's midi-blouse under a couple of the jackets. Don't get me wrong, I love some of the clothes like the pink suit, and the navy jacket, below. But something was niggling away at me as I continued to scroll. 

two models in nautical-style jackets and skirts
Two looks from Chanel's 2019 Cruise Collection

Maybe it was that Lagerfeld seemed to be harking back to the time of Chanel's founder, in his almost literal referencing of the sailor suits of the twenties and thirties. 

vintage illustration from the 1920s of woman and child in sailor suits

I did wonder if possibly Karl might be watching Miss Fisher Mysteries a teensy bit too much. I love the clothes on that series. But I don't want to wear them. Except maybe the hats. Ha. 

woman in 1920's sailor dress
Phryne Fisher does the sailor look. 
No. What was really bothering me, I realized, was all the girlishness. Puffed sleeves, ruffles, girly pastels, very, very short skirts, pedal pushers with A-line jumper/dress/tunics over them, like these three looks. And on almost all the models, white tights with little white or silver mary-janes. Now, any of these elements on their own would not have me batting an eye. But put together, they spell "little girl" to me. Especially the white tights and white mary-jane shoes. More royal-wedding-child-bridesmaid than Paris catwalk, I thought. 

Three shots of girls in outfits worn with white tights and mary-jane shoes
Three very girly looks from the Chanel 2019 Cruise collection
When I found this old photo of two adorable French children in the twenties, I laughed out loud. Seriously Karl... is this what you were thinking? You must see my point here. We're grown-ups; you make clothes for grown-up women. At least I thought you did. 

children in nautical garb in the 1920s
Nautical kids from the twenties. source
Of course, I understand that fashion shows are theatre. That the looks that walk down the runway are not necessarily the way the pieces will be worn by real women in their real lives. I think that some of the clothes in the Chanel collection are exquisite. I'll admit that not all of the looks are super-short, many are midi-length. And the models do look sweet in their berets. But I also think that the Pollyanna-ish looks are over the top. And, if I'm not being too sensitive, slightly offensive in their depiction of women as little girls. 

Gwen Sharp PhD, professor of Sociology and co-founder of the website The Society Pages, which in part examines current imagery in our society and what it says about our assumptions, talks about a disturbing trend in advertising which she says infantilizes women. In a short article on the site, she looks at fashion advertising which depicts women in child-like poses and says that the images "portray women as little girls, as coyly innocent and lacking power and maturity." That's kind of what I thought when I watched that Chanel runway show, with all those models in their pristine white stockings and little girl shoes

Then I checked out what my favourite fashion commenter, Linda Grant says about all this in her book The Thoughtful Dresser. In one chapter Grant is enraged when she spies portly Alexander McQueen in a restaurant. She says she "is tired of fat men telling women whose bones don't show through their skin that they should lay off the doughnuts.[Who are these men] to tell women that they are obese if they [can't] fit into a size six dress?" Then she goes on to examine the idea that high fashion has "turned its back on" women. She says that she believes fashion is "not a desire by designers to dress the body," but a designer's "dream of a beautiful object, the craft process to make it, and its eventual display on the best possible canvas: the tallest and thinnest and youngest human form available." And once these clothes filter down to the high street, it is the disconnect between the designer's dream inside their own head and what women want and need to wear that leads to "all the pain and humiliation of shopping." And what she calls the "heartbreak inside the changing room." You tell 'em, Linda. 

Ergo if Karl Lagerfeld sees charming children in sailor suits as sweet, and embodying the idea he wishes to covey in his collection, then he will doll the models up in white stockings and mary-janes and voilĂ . His idea, the dream in his head, is now walking the runway. Most of the models will have barely left childhood behind anyway.  And if fashion shows are not meant to be taken literally, but should instead be seen as theatre, creative productions, where's the harm? 

But, you see, it's not only the clothes that eventually filter down to the high street, but also the themes and ideas that these creative productions plant inside our heads. If the clothes only look good on tall thin women then, of course, we must all be tall and thin, kind of thing. I know we're all right royally sick of that one. To be fair, Lagerfeld's Cruise Collection is very modest, and seems to convey the idea that the covered-up look can be sexy too. And I'm all for a collection that doesn't rely solely on overt sexuality. But depicting women as little girls... well... that's swinging too far in the other direction, don't you think? Not to mention, just plain weird. And, not to be overly-dramatic, dangerous. In a post #metoo world, you'd think we'd be done with that shit. If you'll excuse the profanity. But maybe poor old Karl didn't get the memo. 

So, I just want to say to Karl that we are grown up women, we don't want to look like little girls, and we don't want men (or women) designers to tell us that that's how we should look. And if I can borrow Alyson Walsh's mantra from her blog That's Not My Age, we want to dress like grow-ups. 

Okay, enough philosophizing.

Here are some grown-up looks that inspire me. I love all of these brands. I'd wear any of these outfits. And I thank the stylists who dressed the models for giving me images that can inspire me, and not images that make me roll my eyes and look elsewhere. You'll notice the Max Mara pedal pushers and long tunic in the lower right corner is similar to the Chanel outfit. But you'll also notice that the cut of the tunic, the colour, and the styling makes it an eminently suitable outfit for a grown-up. 

outfits from Lafayette 148, Fabiana Filippi, Tibi, Max Mara, and Tibi
Some grown-up looks from a few of my favourite brands.
I know I'm ranting today. And acting as if I don't have a sense of humour when it comes to fashion. But imagery matters. It sticks in our heads and eventually affects the way we think and the way we see the world, and each other. 

Okay. I'm done.

Now in the interest of lightening the mood, here is a shot of Hubby back in the day. Doesn't he look sweet in his little sailor suit? And no... he doesn't wear his sailor's midi-blouse anymore, or little white socks in his shoes. He tries to dress like a grown-up. Most days, anyway. 

small boy posing in a sailor suit
Captain of our canoe in his little sailor outfit. 


So how about you my friends? Any ranting you want to do? About fashion or any other topic? This seems to be the place to share it today. Feel free to let fly. We're listening. 





38 comments:

  1. The thing that terrifies me the most is the return of those white tights. Meghan Markle has already worn a pair very similar in colour. The first pair of tights I ever bought was white, when I was 12 (closely followed by "American Tan").

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    1. I'm not opposed to minis at all. I like them, in fact, but paired with white stockings and Mary-Janes they would look ridiculous on anyone over twenty. White tights...remind me of nurses... back when nurses still wore uniforms.

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    2. I remember white tights being popular in the '80s.

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  2. All true but , to be fair , not new . The elegant ladylike fashion of the fifties was dreadful to our young eyes & when the sixties arrived with minis , girlyfrocks , strappy shoes & pigeon toed young models ( especially Twiggy ) we grabbed it with both hands . It didn’t come from Paris though , the kids on the street were making the fashion rules then & parisian designers were not part of our world . It doesn’t seem as healthy when dictated by some old guy in Paris . I feel as far removed from it as I ever was . I don’t have the patience to wade through all the designer ego trips but you’ve manage to filter out some great outfits .
    Love the last pic , such a cutie , hasn’t changed a bit .
    Wendy in York

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    1. You're right, Wendy. Linda Grant references the sixties and Twiggy in her book and how those looks were an anathema to older women.Of course we loved it back then when we were teenagers, or younger. I was in grade five when I first remember Twiggy and how her skinny lags made me feel I wasn't such a freak.

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  3. Paragraphs of agreement from me :) what Wendy said about Stu ... what a cutie! Such a good picture, wondering if Stu thinks so?
    Plus, in agreement, with what you’ve written about designs that depict women as little girls or adolescents. Even allowing for adaptations between the catwalk and the shops I’m not keen on the Chanel Cruise Collection. Other than to say it would look cute on the select few teenagers that can afford it!
    I absolutely love the Fabiana Filippi, long, loose jumper... great style! and chiffon skirt in neutral tones... but again, it would only suit a select few. ie slim and probably tall (you!) Although any age range from teenagers upwards ... an ageless style.
    Another great post Sue.
    Rosie
    ps I’ll try to post a picture my lemon and grey/green tunic dress on IG this week. I’ve decided to keep it ... just need to make sure I wear it ... lots ! :)

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    1. Some of the other looks in the collection, the ones that were longer and more full...were just plain ugly. So it seemed the choice was little girl short or dowdy matron. Just like the bad old days:)
      Looking forward to seeing that dress, Rosie!

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  4. You are leaning in an open door with me on this one. The question seems not to be - what do women want? but - here's what you're getting. Either hyper-sexualised or downgraded to child. Which rather begs the question of - is this how men want to see us? Or, even worse, is this how we want to be perceived? I know there are a lot of questions here but I don't think there is a more relevant time to be asking them. And those images you posted of grown-up looks are spot-on. Wearable, comfortable, allowing women to move but to actually wear sensible clothes that do not spotlight on specific areas. The dress in the top left is my definition of the ultimate dress and I am constantly looking for variations on this theme. The other thing that makes me alternately curious, frustrated and downright furious is the tendency for women to collude in their objectification. If you turn yourself into an object then you can be bought, used and discarded. You can, of course, also be prized, treasured and guarded. None of which are actually related to what it means to be a living, breathing, thinking female. This is timely and a part of the metoo movement that needs to be raised after all the triumphant yelling has died down and the headlines start to fade.

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    1. Of course the other option is the sexualized child, Lolita look...equally offensive.

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  5. A cute little sailor indeed!
    I love some of Miss Fisher's outlooks-hats included- and all of your grown-up selection. Great respect to the brands and designers who design for the "real",as well as"grown up" women-in all categories and diversity
    Dottoressa


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    1. There are some wonderful brands out there. Wish one of them would make a red coat and hat like Miss Fisher wore in a recent episode we saw:)

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  6. I agree with with what you are saying here. How many times must women deal with having to act/look/talk like little girls? Men's fashion never does this kind of crap.

    And I have to tell you, the chapter you quoted from The Thoughtful Dresser was my fave in that book.

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    1. I love how Linda Grant pontificates on fashion.

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  7. Hi Sue
    I agree, KL certainly missed the mark in this day and age. The only thing I like are the colours. Imaginary does matter, I've always felt that way!
    I really like the pics you posted, such as the red Tibi (so me) and Lafayette & flat sandals (very classy).
    The Captains pic is adorable. Good on him to let you to post it
    Robin

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    1. I love all of Tibi stuff. So wearable.

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    2. i don't think I have heard of that brand. I will look into it.

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  8. Thank you for this post and for the references to other commentary on this trend that has been around for far too long. Here is an op-ed piece you may enjoy: http://www.peggynoonan.com/if-adults-wont-grow-up-nobody-will/. I recently started a Pinterest board of fashion images for my own entertainment: I am not a grownup. It is disturbing to see images of grown women looking like they are lurking at the corner of the playground, a finger in the mouth, hair scrunched like they just got up from a nap, feet pigeon-toed in. The motif seems pervasive in our culture; so many pop singers have a hoarse, plaintiff tone that calls to mind a 5 year old who is coming off a crying fit for not getting a treat. I am a 68 year Boomer; the Stones never sounded like that, LOL. In my darker moments, I see this trend as a form of cultural pedophila; men and women should not look like or sound like children, period. On a lighter note, thank you for your blog! I do not often comment on the posts of my favorite bloggers, but I did send you encouragement several years ago when you expressed some doubts about wearing scarves. You have crossed the divide and I love your choices.

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    1. Interesting article, thanks. Reminded me of teaching, in that even though the relationship between kids and teachers is much more informal than when I was a student, the teacher always has to be the adult in the room, being friendly but NOT their friend.
      I went back and reread your scarf suggestions on that earlier post. I should bookmark that post so I can refresh my memory in the fall:) It's so nice to know that there are readers, who while not commenting, are silently nodding in the background.

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  9. I couldn't agree with you more! I'm presently working on a blog post about realism in advertising profiling a company that uses "real" women complete with stretch marks in their intimate apparel advertisements. Needless to say perhaps, the CEO and founder of the company is a not a man!

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  10. Preach, Sister! Well said! Thanks for being so articulate!

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  11. No ranting from me but enjoyed yours. Absolutely agree with the point you're making. Strange place the world of fashion. Am gradually working my way through Linda Grant book on your recommendation and really like the way she writes. Lovely photo of hubby to finish off. Really brought the whole thing together! Iris

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    1. I love Linda Grant's writing. That book wasn't universally loved by my book club. Many felt it was too loosely structured. But I thought she was making many points, not just one, and looked at each new chapter almost as a stand alone.
      The world of fashion is indeed a strange one. The optics of much older designers and editors, thinking of Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour here, deciding what women will wear and then showing whatever they decide on very young women seems a bit out of step with our changing world.

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  12. Count me in as a nodder that agrees with practically everything you have to say! Wait, make that everything! I'm thinking here with these designs and stylings that KL may just be looking for a new twist. Maybe?
    The "babydoll" look was popular in the 60s (yes, old enough to have lived it). Mary Quant was my particular favorite. At the time, young enough to wear these styles, I never thought much about it, other than they were "mod" and I liked them. As to mini dresses, well I think most young legs were thinner then. A quick visual survey of the teens in my neighborhood shows not too many that could pull off a mini anything. And the mini bottoms came with covered up tops. I had read an analysis of that once and it threw out the idea that the women's movement wanted to desexualize women by covering up the breasts. (another part of anatomy that has gotten bigger...check out a high school yearbook from the 60s era). Now, white hose? Well, the younger set refuses to wear any other than black tights so we'll have to see how far that trickles down. Oh well, good post all around!

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    1. Thanks, Jill. I remember those minis too. I was a bit too young, but remember my sisters in their mini-dresses with, as you say, covered tops. They looked lovely. But both were skinny. That style of dress doesn't work on a curvy person.

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  13. This article links in with your post & I know you are a Maxmara fan too . The silky trousers outfit would look great on you . https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2018/jun/05/why-the-man-behind-max-mara-is-the-most-influential-fashion-designer-youve-never-heard-of
    Wendy in York

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    1. Thanks for that Wendy. Great article. I read some stuff on Max Mara a while ago and the article talked about the design team... wouldn't name a specific designer. I guess they've moved away from that slightly. But still doesn't sound as if they will become all about the cult of the designer, like so many others. I mean who really does all the designs for all the collections for Chanel, anyway? Karl Lagerfeld? I doubt it.

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  14. I haven't looked at a fashion show or bought a fashion magazine in years. I tend to look at blogs and Instagram for fashion inspiration, for the very reasons you stated in your post.

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    1. I've moved away from hard copy fashion magazine, especially when Vogue became such a voice for the Kardashians et al. Yuk. I still drift back at times, though. I'm so weak! Ha.

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  15. Related very well to your comments and observations about fashion collections...when browsing through fashion magazines or online collections I often shake my head and wonder who is wearing that particular monstrosity. Fashion has always gone in cycles and everything that is 'new' was once old...the only difference in our modern time is that fashion cycles are much shorter and we see trends repeating much more quickly than they did in the 1700 or 1800's. That is my guess as to why Karl Lagerfeld looked back at Chanel's 1920's styles for his inspiration for the 2019 cruise collection. The lovely thing is that we have the ability to select what we want to wear from each season's trends...an indulgence that I am very grateful for! As always appreciate your insights and thank you for the post...also enjoyed photo of your husband in his cruise wear....Cheers, Alayne

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    1. I thought the outfits which referenced the twenties were quite lovely. That's my favourite era. But so many other elements of that particular show got up my nose. But then again Karl Lagerfeld has always been annoying to me. Ever since he used to talk from behind his fan. Sheesh.

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  16. Hi Susan!
    I really enjoyed your thoughts on the Lagerfield collection and how women are made to look like little girls. Boy, I thought the days of white stockings with mary janes were gone! I used to have to wear those at Easter as a young girl. I agree there is a disconnect with the vision some designers have and what woman will wear. So true! Yes, the Sailor suits on the runway were a bit too literal.
    Love the examples of the designers you enjoy, beautiful classic shapes and lines.
    thank you for linking up!
    jess xx
    www.elegantlydressedandstylish.com

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  17. Wonderful post. Very insightful and en pointe. I worried about what would happen with the fashion trends once we started going back to 70's styles that focus on the wispy flower child. I love your reading suggestions and just purchased The Thoughtful Dresser! Can't wait to read it.

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  18. I realize that haute couture runway shows are supposed to inform, be presentational -- not just a lookbook, display fashion as art, challenge the status quo, yadda yadda yadda.

    But have you seen the Gucci 2019 resort collection? At https://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/resort-2019/gucci/slideshow/collection#1 It makes Lagerfeld's latest "Baby Doll" collection look like Coco is still alive and whispering in Karl's ear.

    If someone gave me $500 thou to spend on pieces from the Gucci collection, I haven't a clue how I would spend it. I'm not sure that Mel Kobayashi at bagandaberet.blogspot.com could either. And I love her eye, even though I don't have her courage.

    Ann in Missouri

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  19. I wore a pair of white tights when I was in my twenties, living at home with my parents, during the 70s. My father told me I looked like a nurse and came home that night with a box of sheer stockings for me, you know, the kind that came in a box. He told me to never wear white stocking again unless I was a nurse. I guess his stay in the hospital during the war was not fun and he needed not reminders.

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All comments, ideas, commiserations, questions, complaints... are most welcome.