22 Jan 2014

from designer dresses to body image


So, what's wrong with these dresses?
Whenever I see a red-carpet picture of a celebrity the first thing I check is the fit of the garments. Not he total look, the accessories or the colors. Is that weird? One thing I often see is designer garments which somehow seem to be out of proportion, mostly regarding the length. As discussed in another post here designer outfits of celebrities are most of the time samples and not made to fit.

When we see the garments on the runway or in promotion pictures we see the tall and thin fashion models of 5'9" (=180cm) high and taller. Celebrities come in every size, and although they often are (too) thin, because 'everyone looks bigger on screen' (yeah, right...) most of them don't have the height of a runway model. Often, the petite actresses are wearing the prettiest runway designs. This means, when a garment fits them in the width it will be automatically too long as well. Let's take a look at two examples:

Claire Danes wore this Dior S/S 2014 dress about a week ago. The original runway dress below has a fitted bodice and a high waisted pencil skirt with an elegant, just-below-the-knee length. The pockets add an almost sportive detail. The actresses skirt has an odd length which hits her somewhere between the calves and the ankles. (and it is not only because the picture is made from another angle!)

Keira Knightley wore this vintage inspired Chanel dress recently:

Keira's dress looks out of proportion too.  The fit of the bodice is ok, but the skirt is way too long for her. Laura Ingalls, anyone? I couldn't find the runway picture of this dress, but I'm sure it is not intended to look like this. The seam hits her legs at the ankles which gives the dress an oversized, and rather matrony look. A shorter length would be much more youthful and flattering for her. How about a shorter, pretty tea-length?

the intention of the designer
The interesting question is of course, what was the intention of the designer? Would shortening the skirt ruin the total proportions of the garment (bodice vs skirt) or would it help to achieve the right proportions: a skirt with the right length in combination with a well-fitting bodice?
We all are familiar with the never-ending debate about the length and weight of fashion models. Who wouldn't remember the famous declaration of Kate Moss: "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" and the controversial "little too fat" comment of Karl Lagerfeld on the weight of singer Adele. Just look at these idealised design drawings - Miley Cyrus tour costumes by Cavalli and Pucci tour costume design for Beyonce. We know, both ladies have a slender figure, but how ridiculously long are those legs?! Spiderwoman is born...and reborn...

body image and marketing
We are still talking about celebrities, but how does this influence of our,  'average' people's body image? The University of Bath conducted a survey in 2006 about how women felt about thin fashion models in ads. The results were quite surprising (or not?...)
"Researchers from the University of Bath found that two-thirds of women they interviewed reacted favourably to print advertisements featuring thinner female models whereas less than a third liked models of a larger size. Those who preferred thinner models tended to believe that weight can be controlled by dieting or exercise. They tended to think the thinner models were more elegant, interesting, likeable and pleasant."
The population they interviewed consisted of 460 undergraduates, so sadly, this is the way young women felt about beauty back in 2006. I'm sure this image didn't change during the past years.

weight loss
Weight loss seems to be the theme of our times. Not surprisingly, even back in the early 1930's advertisements promoted weight loss all the time. Nothing has changed, they promoted 'simple' methods to lose weight, of course 'without dieting or exercise'. Below two ads from 1934 and 1935. Watch the marketing strategy: While one is quite rude, talking about "unnaturally bulging hips", "unlovely waist" the other refers to health hazards associated with obesity like a high blood pressure... (they didn't tell you don't get high blood pressure from a few extra pounds 'ugly fat' and called their product 'Youth-o-form' which suggested you even could look younger by losing weight:

Did you know that back in the 1940's the shape of the mannequins were adjusted for the new fashion trends? Yes, we are talking of the famous Dior New Look, which I personally don't like because the corseted, unnatural lines. (For me, that was the end of my dear, 1940's fashion era) If you read the article you'll discover that the mannequins were made taller and thinner because that was what 'average' women wanted to see. 70 years before the survey mentioned above!

there is hope
Personally, I don't feel good when I try on an outfit which looks fab on the thinner than thin mannequins in the store and looks ridiculously different when I try it on. I'd really prefer to see those outfits on a more 'average'  sized mannequin, and often wonder how would those garments look on an XL body? Don't you? On the bright side, the English department store Debenhams unveiled their size 16 mannequin for a trial in 2013:
"Like most retailers Debenhams generally uses standard size 10 mannequins in window displays. But with the majority of women in the UK either a size 14 or 16 it was time for us to take notice and try something a bit different. Our Head of Creative, Mark Stevens, told us about the idea behind this trial: “We are proud to offer a broad and varied choice for women of all ages, shapes and sizes in store. So we thought we should reflect this in our window displays. If it’s popular with customers we would love to roll it out.”
Wow, what a difference! I'd love to see those mannequins everywhere, don't you? Sadly, no other department stores are planning to follow this example. Wonder, what would it take to make that happen?
Anyway, it's time for a recap on the designer outfits and celebrities we started with. We can conclude, that being thin doesn't mean that an any expensive designer outfit would look great on you. I also believe that any garment that is made to fit could look great on you, even if it's not an expensive one.
What are your thoughts on the subject?

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