Readers, do you believe in objective truth? Do some ideas live in the universal mind and transcend both history and geography? Are some concepts simply not up for discussion?
I believe that, despite changing fashion trends and cultural differences, the human eye finds -- and has always found -- beauty in the natural silhouette of the human body, and humans have chosen to attire themselves in garments that closely echo that silhouette. There are different body shapes, certainly, but the differences are relatively minor.
When we examine women's fashion of the last hundred years or so, we find that fashion has often followed or sought subtly to enhance, the natural lines of the body. But we also discover trends in which the "ideal" silhouette presented is in conflict with the body's natural shape, putting the waist at the hips, say, or the shoulders as high as the earlobes. Worse, "fashion" has sometimes reshaped the body into no clearly identifiable shape at all! This is all likely due to the fashion industry's need to increase sales, a desire among fashion designers to court controversy, and downright misogyny.
While no doubt considered the height of fashion at the time, we often revisit these silhouettes in horror. How could we have been so stupid not to see what is (now) so obvious?
Friends, today I would like to share a group of such dress patterns with you. Depending on your age and eyesight, some of these dresses may look appealing. Rest assured, these patterns were not chosen arbitrarily, but rather derived from a complicated algorithm. This is science, not opinion.
Below are a few highlights. You can view the grouping in its entirety here. Occasionally, one view on the pattern envelope may look acceptable. Discount that and seek out the view that is a nightmare -- it's there.
As you can see, the biggest culprit here is the ruffle. This detail, used sparingly on an apron edge or petticoat hem, may charm. Used in excess however, or intentionally applied to a part of the body where gathered fullness distorts our natural human proportions into something freakish, they are an embarrassment.
Unless you are 1) square dancing, or 2) reenacting the Charles and Diana wedding, please use ruffles sparingly. (Infant-wear excluded.)
Another blemish on the fashion world is the effort to impose exaggerated geometry on the human (primarily female) body. Few of us are truly rectangular, and yet in the 1980s, many dresses might just as well have been cardboard boxes, perhaps with Old Gold written across the front.
These patterns look wrong because they were wrong -- wrong according to taste, truth, and a very sophisticated algorithm I cannot share with you.
Finally, there is the attempt to create the panted version of every dress, no doubt in an attempt to court the casual, comfort-minded consumer, regardless of what the result might look like. I can only say ugh, or rather ugg-a-wugg.
In closing sophisticated readers, do you agree with the basic thrust of my argument (and my top-secret algorithm)? Can you see how attempts to distort the natural shape of the human body fail every time, and are met with little more than derision in hindsight? Are you hiding any vintage nightmares in your closet?
Please complete the following poll:
NOTE: An ugly rumor has been circulating in the blogosphere to the effect that I hate orange. I do not hate orange. On me, it is an atrocity, but if you like it, more power to you. Tangerine Tango, on the other hand, may end up being the Eighties knee-ruffle of tomorrow.
What is your favorite silhouette and are giant shoulder pads and parachute pants involved?
I'm a native New Yorker and self-taught sewing fanatic! I've been sewing obsessively since 2009 and today make all my own clothes using mostly vintage patterns and vintage sewing machines. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!