“Oooh Madge, love those whorts! Where did you get them?”

March 14, 2011 § 5 Comments

We’re not keen on negativity here at Mannequin World. If you don’t have anything nice to say, and all that… But anything that makes it all less exclusive and wanky is alright by us. I’ve always thought that style shouldn’t be the realm of a clique of skinny, monied harpies, or those who seem to roll out of bed and ooze style (when actually all they’ve done is run through Urban Outfitters smothered in glue).

Dressing oneself isn’t rocket science, but there are those who would have us believe otherwise. Take this trend of creating new garments by sticking two together – the legging that looks a bit like a jean is a ‘jegging’ and the skin-tight, stretchy trouser is now a ‘tregging’. It all bands together to create an “it’s all Greek to me” ethos, which is not what fashion should be about. It should be fun, frivolous, creative and daring – not something that means you need a thesaurus before you open your wardrobe in the morning.

Not that I’m condoning this, but purely for illustrative purposes, here’s a list of cut’n’shut clothes that we’ve have made it onto the high street:

Jeggings: Leggings that looks like skinny jeans (specifically, they have faux jean pockets and sometime **vom** zips)
Tregging: Leggings that looks like trousers (not to be confused with jegging)
Coatigan: Cardigan with a coat appearance – not to be confused with the Cardigown
Cardigown: Cardigan, usually long and belted like a dressing gown. “Like a dressing gown” is the key phrase here, when wondering whether to purchase or not.
Mackets: A cross between a mac and a jacket
Shacket: Jacket that looks like a shirt
Shoots: AKA shoe-boots – I’m actually quite a fan as these are far more flattering to one’s ankle than ankle boots
Mandles: Sandals for men
Skorts: Shorts that look like a skirt  – otherwise known to sensible folk (and those who grew up in the 80s) as culottes
Whorts: Thick shorts, normally worn with tights in winter – “Oooh Madge, love those whorts! Where did you get them?” “I got them from my OH the other week!” I don’t think so. Again, I actually love the shorts n tights winter combo, I am merely pointing out the superfluous nature of these definitions.

And let’s not forget the cosmetics: manscara and guyliner; marketing (as Punt & Dennis point out in their new tour) purely by inserting the word ‘man’ into already established products. Genius. Or not.

So this is why I love this glorious sketch the OH found on YouTube the other day. Watch and giggle…

Style en pointe

January 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

A few weeks before Christmas, I was in a pub with a few friends and friends-of-friends when a very drunk Frenchman leant over and said, “Are you a ballerina? Because you move like a ballerina.” As I’ve got a distinctly un-sapling-like BMI of 25 and was at that moment sucking down my third Jägerbomb, I’m confident that this comment was inspired by neither my physique nor my startlingly graceful movements (I may have missed my mouth slightly with the fourth Jägerbomb).

Instead, it was either a testament to the Frenchman’s refusal to be impeded by reality when thinking of a chat-up line, or (and I prefer this option) evidence of the Awesome Power Of Clothes. Because, in a plain off-white racer back vest and full black skirt, I was dressed a bit like a ballerina that night. And as ballet psychodrama The Black Swan is coming out shortly, with exquisite Rodarte-designed costumes (see Natalie Portman as the Black Swan above, and the designer’s sketches below), I’ll probably be working the tutu and tulle even more this year. The good news is that, if I can be mistaken for a dancer, you won’t need to be Portman-petite to pull this look off. More ballet style coming up soon.

Kirsten Schaal gets her claws out

November 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

It’s a shame the online version of The Guardian’s Kirsten Schaal interview doesn’t have a full image gallery – there’s a much better shot in the print magazine that shows off the full outfit. A grey marl (we’ve already established that I’m into grey marl) flapper dress with a scallop-trimmed bodice, worn with Ribena-coloured tights. Simple, attractive, pleasingly odd. What really makes it work, though, is the giant crab balloon, which calls out the reddish tint of Schall’s hair and stops the palour of the dress from engulfing her. There’s a precedent for the crustacean-as-accessory look, you know:

Isabella Blow in Philip Treacy

Call me a Doctor

November 4, 2010 § 1 Comment

It’s been two seasons since the fashion world squawked about how Doctor Martens were coming back. The 90s revolution was being touted on the back of the 80s revival – remember those bum bags and cycling shorts on the runways? *shudder* Thin hipsters would wear them with their slinky evening dresses, and Agy wore her black skinnies with a pair of bright red skinhead types. Isn’t she edgy.

This week heralds 50 years since the DM was introduced to the UK, and you can read more about that here.  When I was 11, DMs were the uniform of the cool kids. Grunge was about to engulf me, and all I wanted was a pair of purple (or green, I wasn’t fussed) 10-holes. Mum got me a pair of black 8-holes for my birthday, but I drew CNDs and Yin Yangs on them in Tip Ex, so it didn’t matter that they weren’t the regulation colour of my peers. I lived in them and (even though they were apparently atomic bomb proof) went through three pairs by the time I hit 16, discovered Siouxsie and the Banshees, and New Rocks became the only boots that mattered.

As infatuated as I was as a teenager, naturally I’d never dream of wearing them in my late 20s. They’re clumpy and clowny and far too uni-sex for my taste now. Aside from their look, they remind me of being a gawky and bullied teen – why the hell would I want to revisit that era of sartorial suffering? But bitten again by curiosity – “I wonder what they’re up to now?”  – I had a quick check on their site and I found this preppy pair of DM shoes. They didn’t make me grab my credit card, but I am rather glad there are some feminine designs that bear the DM black and yellow tag – ones that don’t scream nursery-school-teacher-cum-hippy-dippy-flower-girl, anyway. This pair is a bit more fierce, and would look cute with a little kilt and opaques. So for now, DMs and I have made our peace. Yes, I know they’re not boots and so this make-up is a tad fake. Shut it, or I’ll get you with my steel toe caps. Happy anniversary, Herr Doctor.

Too many clothes?

November 2, 2010 § 7 Comments

An astonishing comparison of modern day wardrobes with early C20th ones:

Material abundance, it turns out, produces economic resilience. Even if today’s recession approached Great Depression levels of unemployment, the hardship wouldn’t be as severe, because today’s consumers aren’t living as close to the edge.

Take clothes. In 2008, Americans owned an average of 92 items of clothing, not counting underwear, bras and pajamas […] Then the economy crashed. Consumers drew down their inventories instead of replacing clothes that wore out or no longer fit. In the 2009 survey, the average wardrobe had shrunk – to a still-abundant 88 items. We may not be shopping like we used to, but we aren’t exactly going threadbare. […]

By contrast, consider a middle-class worker’s wardrobe during the Great Depression. Instead of roughly 90 items, it contained fewer than 15. For the typical white-collar clerk in the San Francisco Bay Area, those garments included three suits, eight shirts (of all types), and one extra pair of pants. A unionized streetcar operator would own a uniform, a suit, six shirts, an extra pair of pants, and a set of overalls. Their wives and children had similarly spare wardrobes. Based on how rarely items were replaced, a 1933 study concluded that this “clothing must have been worn until it was fairly shabby.” Cutting a wardrobe like that by four items—from six shirts to two, for instance—would cause real pain. And these were middle-class wage earners with fairly secure jobs.

Virginia Postrel, via Wall Street Journal

I like to think of myself as a fairly cautious clothes buyer – a collector rather than a consumer if I’m being really precious about it, which I’m usually not. 92 items of clothing strikes me as a hell of a lot of things to own, but if I totted up my own inventory, I’d be astonished if it didn’t come close. Without checking, I can tell you that I’ve got four “occasion” dresses, three denim ones, and four different coats for starters.

What am I doing with all this stuff? Is it time to start my own Little Brown Dress project (artist Alex Martin worn the same brown dress for 365 days, only taking it off to sleep) and purge some of this ravening appetite for stuff? Most of my outfits involve some element of second-handedness, but even that can’t acquit me entirely of greed and waste: I’ve still got too many things, even if they are largely other people’s cast-offs.

What do you think? Is it time to cut back and wear things out before I buy more, or should I see my monthly clothing splurges as a civic duty to save the economy? Leave a comment and help decide my fashion fate.

Fashionable democracy

October 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

This interview with Burberry creative director Christopher Bailey from spring this year stuck with me, because it’s such a flat-out example of fashiony double-think:

“The trenchcoat is the perfect example. A trenchcoat is so democratic. You can have a guy who works in the city, who maybe has his pinstripe suit, and his red socks and tie – you know, very formal, very sartorial – then you can have some young cool girl running around London wearing the same trenchcoat. You can have somebody who lives in the countryside, who goes into town in her Range Rover in it. You have aristocracy, you have pop stars, you have men, women, children – it’s this one thing, but it’s the attitude of the different people wearing it.”

But a Burberry trench doesn’t come at a democratic price, does it? “It depends. How much everybody can spend is very different. You know? And there is not one thing that is right for everybody. And nor should it be – I feel very strongly about it – this nonsense that everything should be for everybody – it’s not.” So it’s theoretically democratic but actually exclusive? “I don’t think it’s exclusive. I think it’s … I prefer to say it is aspirations. It’s saying that actually, I might love that, but today I can’t afford it – that’s OK, too. I find that word exclusive – it suddenly says “you’re not good enough for us – it’s a different thing.”

Via The Guardian

The examples of demos he gives don’t come close to covering everyone until he gets to the super-vague categories of “men, women and children”. Pop stars, city boys, people with Range Rovers: they’re all basically rich. (A Burberry mac like the one above costs £850 at Net-A-Porter.) The language of clothes is everywhere on everyone, and some garments – like the mac – work in several dialects, but a Burberry one always comes with the undertone that the wearer can afford the very best. Everyone can understand, but participation is a bit of an issue.

Fashion in “not revolutionary” shocker

October 21, 2010 § 1 Comment

Saying that fashion isn’t revolutionary – like Laurie Penny does up there, querying blogger Tavi’s feminist credentials – is a pretty empty thing to say. How empty? Well, you can try subbing in any other cultural form. The novel just isn’t revolutionary. The movie just isn’t revolutionary. The breakfast cereal just isn’t revolutionary. And then when you’ve tried that, you can try not saying duh.

No form is inherently revolutionary. Obviously. But fashion can be a part of a revolution:  the existence of sumptuary laws, designed to control what people could buy and wear as a proxy for social control, says that the ability to choose your own clothes and identity can be powerfully disruptive. (The itch among European governments to outlaw the burqa comes from the same repressive believe that controlling dress is a means to controlling behaviour.)

That doesn’t mean that shopping a lot is the way to demolish the patriarchy or smash global capitalism. Again, OBVIOUSLY. But it does mean that it’s a bit daft for anyone to assume that being interested in clothes is the opposite of being a feminist – especially if the clothes say FEMINIST in multicoloured caps all over the front.

More about Tavi’s sweater on her blog, along with some brilliant stuff about why she doesn’t want to look like someone who cares about fashion, and why her idea of fashion is about inventing new kinds of beauty rather than conforming to types.

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