Cathy Horyn made a comment on the overall mood of the collections at London Fashion Week being decadent, over-the-top and dramatic. Is it the spirit of the current ‘Age of Couture’ exhibition at the V&A (I’ve yet to go but will report laden with pics!)? Is it paying a respect to fashion originals like Isabella Blow that fashion excess was seen at designers like Giles and Christopher (quite literally, there was an excess of ruffles at the latter’s show)?
These factors may all play a part but how does this impact upon London’s streetstyle then? I noticed that the overall level of effort put into outfits was seriously notched up this season at fashion week. Dressing-UP was out in force and there was a distinct penchant for the dramatics. Pale blue Cinderella gowns with mini-white top hats. Heels of the most vertiginous proportions worn with luxurious hoisery. Edwardian dandy looks on guys complete with breeches, brogues and even walking sticks. My eyes were feasting…preying even!
We single things out as ‘dressed-up’ quite instinctively – hats, the way a person is made-up (yes, guys and girls BOTH get in on the cosmetics action), shiny magpie things, exaggerated shapes, historical period features. The list goes on as they all fall under the cateogory of being ‘ostentatious’. The traditional glossies and probably many amongst you, revere the ‘effortless’, the front row editors dressed immaculately in expensive, on-trend but not overly-so, tasteful outfits and the people who don’t look like they’re ‘trying.’. I’ve always had a bit of a problem with these oft-used statements of ‘effortless’ and ‘people who try too hard’. Is it a crime putting effort into an outfit? Is it wrong to give some sort of calculated though to an outfit? Are people like myself to be burnt on the fashion stake for scouring vintage stores for the perfect veiled hat, for painstakingly sewing an extra veil on it and then co-ordinating it with a two-toned dress, matching the fabric colours of the two veils (fuschia pink and navy if you must know…). So that is effort. When worn, it can have attention-grabbing effects. It did take thought behind it. Is that all wrong then?
Unluckily, whilst sitting down at a show (in my Day 5 outfit aka ‘Circus Extra’), behind me I heard two Taiwanese girls (could tell by the accent) who, thinking I couldn’t understand Mandarin, said ‘She’s just wearing those tights to get attention and get photographed.’ I’ll be honest, the words did sting a little and grate the ears. I wore those stockings (why is my hoisery always getting stick I wonder…) because I wanted to add a ‘funny’ element to my black dress, something off-kilter. It certainly wasn’t to get snapped in and if you see the constipated expressions on my face when I do get photographed, you’ll see that I have no love for the camera.
What I’m really griping at here is that the people I’ve been seeing who have upped the level of ‘dressing-up’ and get inadvertedly snapped for doing so, may be misunderstood by others and seen as ‘try-hards’ or ‘posers’ when they could have been dressing to their tastes, their heart’s content.
Perhaps what we need is acceptance that what qualifies as ‘dressed-up’ to most is normality to others. Perhaps our eyes need to be readjusted/retrained into seeing a hat for instance for what it is; a hat and not ‘that crazy accessory that eccentric woman is wearing.’ You might say this is all subjective and dependent on who we are talking about but I know that a certain ‘decorum of dress’ exists and I know people use it to heap judgement upon others. It is no wonder that fashion is feared when the industry have people that people take pleasure in uttering ‘WHAT is she wearing?’ in disgusted tones, yet those same people will happily declare a John Galliano collection as genius.
As usual, my rant has become convoluted, but faced with so many points to make, it can’t be anything but confusing. I guess in my head, I’m thinking that we have nearly reached the point whereby we are ushering in this new mood of ‘dressing-up’ but perhaps we don’t have to call it that anymore when for most, it’s just ‘getting dressed’.