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Regression in fashion: A child or a woman?


Image: Chloe Collection S/S 2007 

In the passionate debate about too- thin models, no one has really reached the nub of the matter: Why would grown women yearn to resemble pre-pubescent girls? Yet one of the Olsen twins boasted from her front- row perch at the Dior show this week that she was wearing a child's jacket; and the streets of Western capitals are filled with women well past middle age squeezed into drain-pipe jeans.

The answer lies not with fashion designers, whose vision only mirrors the complexities of their times, but with a psychoanalyst who has to decode the reasons for this strange desire to eliminate a natural womanly shape, to the point that the greatest compliment paid to the young mother Katie Holmes was editors cooing that she had got her figure back.
The recent success of Chloé, when it had a young woman designer, Phoebe Philo (who left a year ago for motherhood), was both to play with pregnant volumes and to capture a world of innocence in which a woman seemed to get in touch with her "inner child."
Since this was played out at a time when "girly' looks, pulsating with in- your-face sexuality, was the leading fashion culture, Chloé acted as a fashion counterpoint.
But Chloé's regression into infancy this season was a step too far into the thick-heeled version of Mary Jane shoes. (They are, of course, footwear that no self-respecting kid wears in a world of sneakers).

The program notes cited the American heiress Gloria Vanderbilt as a primary influence, but then specifically stated that the show was "inspired by childhood." Hence, there were pants suspended from a high waist below a flat chest that seemed grotesque for a grown woman, while a jumper dress over a blouse with billowing sleeves was charming.

By Suzy Menkes International Herald Tribune

Published: October 8, 2006


Reader Comments (18)

I would like to say that I am a woman that was born with a naturally thin body style. I have always been thin and am in my 40's now. I struggle with the fact that there are thousands upon thousands of media focused on catering to the larger woman, The clothes in all the stores are cut larger now due to the ever growing larger populus in the United States and I would like to know if and when someone is going to offer some tips on style and fashion for those of us who are naturally thin, or skinny and struggle with those issues?
January 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMary Kay Cooksey
I agree in some part with the comment from Mary Kay. In our condemnation of the fashion industries obsessive use of tall, thin models, we musn't forget that some women are naturally thin. (However, I don't agree that the media cater to the larger woman, unless by "larger" Mary Kay means "taller". I am average height, have small breasts, but large hips, as well as being overweight. I find it very difficult to find clothes: apart from not having my size, clothes seem to be made for tall, wide-shouldered women with no hips. And when I do buy plus-size clothes, they are too large in the breast area.) Anyway, the point is that women come in all shapes and sizes and, like clothes, fashions in women change. In the end, women should be appreciated and accepted for who they are naturally, and to say something like "a flat chest that seemed grotesque for a grown woman" is just as bad as saying only tall, thin women are beautiful.
February 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterEmily
Mary Kay, if you can't find clothes that are tailored for thin women, I have no idea where you live. Everywhere I go shopping, clothes are designed for small busts, narrow hips and overall petite frames.I'm a size 5 but most clothes still don't fit me. And the reason there aren't as many "tips" for thin women as there are for bigger women, is because thin is already deemed as beautiful. That is like saying "There should be tips on how to make beautiful women look even more beautiful". And you should not need someone to tell you how to feel pretty anyway.
And the real problem is that overly thin women are being portrayed as the epitome of woman perfection, when most women could never naturally look this way.
May 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterfizzwizz
I think Mary Kays comment shows beyond doubt that the fashion industry caters to an incredibly narrow band of women, so narrow that even a woman like her - whom the rest of us would automatically assume IS catered for - cannot find suitable clothing.
Mary Kay though I have the opposite problem to you (I'm a UK size 22) I sympathise and can well believe it.
It seems to me that the fashion industry caters mostly to itself, and it gives us just enough crumbs to keep itself afloat.
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I think grown women yearn to resemble pre-pubescent girls because of two reasons, namely the underweight models and also the fashion designers. Designers think that "tiny" or "girly" is the best - hence, they design for super thin models and their designs also look very girly.

A mature, full figure woman would look "unattractive" in some of the dresses that are designed for thin models.
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