According to the August issue of Vogue UK, fashion this autumn represents the return of real clothes. Lisa Armstrong writes that
"[t]he longest bull market in history ushered in a school of design that became consumed by theatrical change, with dramatic mood swings between (what it's only fair to describe as) prozzie dressing and princess dressing. It was quite a party, with quite a hangover."
"The more women worked out, starved, Botoxed and lipo´d, the more designers felt tacitly encouraged to design for teenagers. If the role of designer was once to make clothes that formed a carapace that turned a woman's body into the prevailing ideal, in the past decade the onus has fallen on women to somehow mould their bodies to fit the clothes."
This season, clothes do appear to make more sense: longer skirts instead of micro-minis, well-cut trousers instead of so-skinny-we-can't-breathe, chic overcoats rather than leather jackets with shoulder pads, and even kitten heels rather than 10-inch platforms. Designers say they are now designing for "real women". Whoever the real woman is, the current developments probably make her happy (even though circle skirts are actually a lot more challenging than you'd think).
As usual, my take on these types of things is all about more questions than answers. Who is the real woman? If it is you or me, won't she feel at least a little cheated now that her latex-leggings, flashy tunics and studded boots are all of a sudden labeled teenage-wear, and she is told to celebrate her curves in camel and gray? Will she settle for the explanation that designers were consumed "by theatrical change", which resulted in years of her wearing unreal clothes? What is real anyway? Isn't fashion all about change, dress-up, even role play to some extent? Who is Marc Jacobs fooling when he wants to address, in his words, "a beautiful and a womanly quality that's universal"? Are heaving bosoms on the runway any more real than my flat chest? Haven't we, the real women, been here all along, and why do we play the game of fashion at all when for the most part it doesn't even address our needs? Isn't it a little unfair that we are supposed to celebrate the return of real clothes and spend money on timeless classics now, as if the hundreds, heck, the thousands of dollars we have been spending before didn't mean anything, and neither do the clothes that we have packed into our wardrobes recently?
Of course, despite the rantings and ravings of fashion magazines, a lot of women are (and have been) able to decide independently what they want to wear. There will always be a certain amount of fashion victims, but my guess is that the majority of women stay away from the be-trendy-or-die type of mess. Younger women still looking for their personal style are probably a little more prone to the changing trends, or that is at least my personal experience. Having done my share of trend-hopping (and aren't I experimenting with circle skirts as we speak) I understand the appeal of fashion: it offers the type of escapism that is, as simple as it sounds, just pretty and fun. That is why the comeback of "real clothes" seems suspicious to me. If women only bought rational classics that last a lifetime, the fashion houses would very soon be out of business.
The thrill of the new is ingrained in many of us. Recently, my 14-year-old nephew told me how happy a new toy car made him when he was little, and how sad it makes him now that he no longer gets that feeling from buying anything. That, to me anyway, might suggest that the future generations are increasinly attached to the high of buying, and it starts earlier than ever before. The expanding high-street market banks on our need to buy, and the notion of trend walks hand in hand with that. As long as new trends keep coming, the option of getting the latest fix exists. I have a feeling that the return of "real clothes" might just be another marketing gimmick to make us buy more clothes. This season we are perhaps told that the camel coat we buy is forever, and it will seem like a reasonable investment, but come next year, that same coat might be considered old-fashioned lady-wear, circle skirts matronly, kitten heels unflattering and simplicity just plain old boring. So what stays?
Well, real women do. Not the styles we wear, not the clothes we buy, not the body types we admire. We do.
T-shirt: second hand H&M / recycling centre
Trousers: second hand / Aino flea market
Necklace: second hand / Aino flea market
Ballet flats: second hand / UFF
Also here to stay: the appeal of a cat in a box.