The shapes and volumes found in what we wear today are not the result of mere chance. They are the result of ongoing cultural transformations, historical plot twists and newly created needs and concepts that offered a greater protagonism to the woman and that have been, eventually, being added to our dress code and wardrobe staples.
As in the field of architecture the noun structure is used to define the essential system that supports weights to balance volumes and define the shape of a building; when we talk about fashion design, this structure translates into the appearance of darts, interfacing materials, shoulder pads, buttons and eyelets, among others.
Just like the beginning of the 20th century saw a revolution and a turn in the conventions of logistics, business or design aspects, shortly after, a response was obtained from movements such as the German Bauhaus School, looking to recover more traditional and artisanal ways to produce. The ever changing aesthetics and aspects that may seem superfluous compared to major political transformations, are actually linked to cultural, social and economic changes. These also have been translated towards the perception of women.
This cultural change was also reflected in a paradigm shift in the perception of women and femininity. So, could we say there’s a way to structure the fashion silhouette through contemporary landmarks, just like the appearance of reinforced concrete revolutionized the construction of structural vaults and shells in the early 1900s?
left – Gauchere Spring 2019
right – World Tride Center, NY
by Amanda Ramón
In less than 100 years of history, we went from wearing corsets and crinolines, petticoats and other elements that made extremely difficult not only fluid movements but also changed the perception of women’s body. In 1917, Cristóbal Balenciaga opened up his first atelier in San Sebastián and along him, other western entrepreneurs were ready to change and revolutionize fashion design as it was known until that moment. So much changed, that those shapes that pleaded for simplicity, for easy openings in collars and sleeves, and the fabrics used until then for different uses such as twill or knit were incorporated little by little into our wardrobes and they have not left us to this day.
As in the times of armed conflicts, the difficult socioeconomic situation was translated into simple and functional constructions, always trying to obtain the maximum performance of the few available materials. The introduction of women in the workplace during these years inspired looser silhouettes that allowed free movement and then, after the 1950s, when the world economy returned to a certain stability women’s silhouettes were cinched in tiny waists again.
Afterwards, the woman’s silhouette was veering towards a breakthrough moment and to an androgyny look: the indeterminacy of wide shoulder pads and tight waists from the late 70’s until the mid-80’s; jeans and men’s sweatshirts combined in looks with lycra tights and fishnet stockings that accentuated the female body of 1990. Thereby, to this day, where the ways of understanding women’s fashion have been mixed to convert our way of dressing into some kind of eclectic cocktail, where elements from different periods have been mixed without a very clear criteria.
So, how can we define the contemporary silhouette? I think that, despite the many opinions on this, we could define it as:
the result of a constant evolution of garments that embrace the figure and accompany us in our daily activities.
Silhouettes with very defined shapes and volumes, even strict (if we see, for example, the shape of a structured blazer with a bold v-neck lapel and a cinched waist) that allow us to intuit the body under the clothes, while covering and showing what we desire. The contemporaneity is reflected in the fall and weight of the materials, the definition and adjustment to the body, and the freedom of movement without too many restrictions.
left – Givenchy Spring 2019
right – Central Station, Rotterdam
by Amanda Ramón
center – Loewe fall 2017
background – Gaudí’s Chimney,
Barcelona, by Rachel Gumm
What we should ask ourselves is how this way of seeing what we wear will continue evolving, turning into unexpected directions or if it will remain more or less static, as it has happened for decades. If at some point will have a greater role in our way of understanding how we develop in our daily lives thanks to our wardrobe choices or if it’s nothing but superfluous elements, without much importance.
So, regarding to fashion and the female silhouette, have we acquired, once again, a vision of times more related to the conflict or, instead, are we closer to the ostentatious characteristic of the stable moments we live in the world nowadays? Perhaps, the only way to understand it’s to assume that living in times of change implies surprising dynamics, contrasts between the classics and the excess or the taste for strong effects brought into our own way of dressing.
Fashion is currently living in confused, almost baroque times.