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Is the horse dead yet?

February 2nd, 2007 by tatterdemalion

Having recently read a bit about Poiret, I was quite familiar with the subjects mentioned in yesterdays (Feb. 1, 2007) WSJ, in the article “The Shape of Clothes to Come” (in the “Personal Journal” section). By the absurdities of the fashion cycle, designers are getting ready to show their products for Fall 2007, next week. To quote the article,

Among the big looks for fall: the egg-like “cocoon,” a silhouette fitted at the top and ballooning out before tapering back in at the knee or below it. The style, while difficult for some women to wear, emerged in fashion the 1910s in French designer Paul Poiret’s collections and was popularized by Balenciaga in the 1950s.

You’d think it was bad enough doing it once, but twice? Wouldn’t someone mention the emperor has no clothes? Not likely.

“If people are going to be paying so much for clothes, they want something special, sophisticated,” says Valerie Steele, fashion historian at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. “This implies a kind of connisseurship. Women wo are literate about the history of fashion are going to go, ‘Oh, this piece is Poiret or Balaenciaga channeled by this contemporary designer.'”

True, true. But whatever happened to learning from our mistakes? Does it matter who did it first, as long as we know enough not to do it again? Some people are even making faulty arguments for the cocoon shape.

For some of us, coccons can be forgiving. “If you have large hips, it camouflages it a bit,” says designer Carmen Marc Valvo, who will show several cocoon-shaped coats and cocktail dresses at his show Feb. 9. . .

Or, perhaps, emphasize what’s already there?

. . .”If you’re skinny, well, everything looks good on you because you’re skinny.”

That has got to be one of the worst arguments I’ve ever heard. Never minding the realitive “goodness” of being skinny, I think it really is overdoing to claim that skininess has magical purifying properties. Look, if a beautiful person comes along and finds a dead, rotting, maggot infested road-kill carcess on the side of the road, and decides to wear it as fashion accessory, does that make the stinking, filthy, rotting piece of animal look beautiful? Or does it simply look like the beautiful person is wearing something gag-inducing?

Amy Gamber, a 41-year-old personal shopper and bartender, says she is eager to try out the new cocoon silhoutte. “I would like for us to look more like grown-ups again,” says Ms. Gamber, who lives in Austin, Texas. “When you’re 41, there’s only so much babydoll you can go without looking really silly.”

I am sorry to say that I don’t think the cocoon silhoutte will be saving anyone from looking silly, despite other opinions to the contrary.

“There’s a certain strictness in the structure that cause the wearer to walk with a certain pride and elegance, he [Phillip Lim, designer offering the shape] says.

That would be a very delicate way of putting it. I suppose, in this case, “strictness of structure” means “limb-binding” and “walking with a certain pride and elegance” means “not much walking at all”. Poiret was more blunt and to the point when he said he hobbled women everywhere.

Although I’m thouroughly disgusted at the return of this shape, I do doubt (hope?) the RTW (ready-to-wear) variations will wind up being very constricting. The common people can’t spend much time walking with pride and elegance. As the article notes,

. . .others warn that silhouettes that are too extreme could be a hard sell. . .It remains to be seen whether American women will embrace the cocoon.

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