Balenciaga 2011-2012, ready-to-wear collection stayed true to its name and was in fact “ready to wear.” The term was not used as a euphemism to describe clothes that had absolutely no scope of being translated or transgressing even to the hi-fashion streets of London, Milan or Paris.
Long flowery silky skirts, boxy jackets, bright neon body-contouring dresses worn with cigarette pants and coats inspired by the actual archives of Cristobal Balenciaga. Even the description is redolent of every day wear.
The latest collection of Balenciaga is an amalgamation of my prior blogs focusing on taking risks in fashion and non-conformity in order to fully explore our creative potential. It has been the running theme of my blog entries.
A twist on the traditional suit. Note, the textured grey cigarette pants and structured coat, worn with a long dress inside. Yes, a dress, a tad bit longer than the coat. Imagine a dress worn inside an almost traditional suit. Some of you may scoff and say dowdy, not fitted enough, too loose. You have to open your mind and treat fashion as art. Truly, it is all about structure, lines, forms and individuality. Notice how the pants are fitted in order to pare down the volume of the coat. It is almost as if the famous architects Frank Gehry or Zaha Hadid drafted the designs. I am getting goose bumps typing this piece as the potential of fashion is so unlimited. The suit is not fitted or restricted. Yet, its structure, ease and layering makes it über modern and stylish. Imagine walking down the streets of Paris in this outfit, or in the alternative, dressed for a corporate boardroom meeting. It makes a forceful impact on the viewer in any setting. Can a skin-tight fitted dress have the same effect? Maybe a lascivious one, but the wearers of Balenciaga are not vying for such an effect.
Look at the above photo. A much below the knee torrent of fuchsia dress worn with muted grey pants. The perfect combination of bright and muted colors. Nicolas Ghesquiere did not feel compelled to make this dress in a body hugging, thigh high silhouette. It was not needed as despite its length, the impact is style, coquettish sexiness and grace. Imagine the juxtaposition of these elements and the result is sheer fashion combustion.
A boxy color block sweater made of what appears to be the sponge used in surfer’s suits worn with an almost ankle-length patent skirt. No revelation of chest, back, arms, legs, except the ankles. What is the effect? It leaves the interpretation to the viewers imagination.
This is what I call “ready-to-wear.”
Just read a line on style icon Carey Mulligan: “She’s got great taste; carefully avoiding anything above the knee, tight…” Buck, Joan Juliet. “The Talented Miss Mulligan.” Vogue. 2 September 2010. http://www.vogue.com/magazine/article/the-talented-miss-mulligan. 30 September 2010.
As a lawyer, it set the wheels of my analytical legal mind in action as to what exactly is the definition of “good taste.” Is it subjective or objective? Can it be loosely interpreted by each individual’s own sensibilities, or do certain established standards apply to define good taste? Are being sexy and having good taste synonyms, antonyms or both? Is the good taste of one the obscenity of another? After all, there can be art form in pornography as well.
For some, an above-the-knee short (or very short) dress is taste. For others a tight fitting (even better if skin tight) dress is taste. For yet another demographic it’s chest-baring dresses, and for others if a woman wears all the above rolled into one it is the epitome of style and sex appeal. Conversely, for some (not necessarily the puritanical ones) it could have the opposite “turn off” effect.
Believe it or not, there is law on the issue of interpreting what I will call “good taste,” for the purposes of this blog. It is outlined in a 1973 Supreme Court case, Miller v. California. No, I will not belabor you with the case as we are on to something more important and interesting here.
The Court analyzed whether a certain form of art (style/fashion are forms of art) would be offensive to an “average person” applying “contemporary community standards.” I question the test, as the definition of “contemporary community standards” has significantly changed from 1973 to 2010. As a lifelong observer and student of style and fashion I have observed that any style that is not form fitting or body baring to some extent is not appreciated by the “community.” Loose clothing, no matter how stylish, is considered matronly and homely. (Right about now I can hear Stella McCartney, Alber Elbaz and Nicolas Ghesquière scoff!)
As a personal observation, and nothing against the opposite sex, I have noticed the tighter and shorter my clothes are the more admirable glances I get from my darker halves. I could run around in the most stylish and tasteful Balenciaga or Prada dress but somehow fail to pique the interest of men.
So, if we follow the above logic is it appropriate to deduce that our “community standards” adhere to a blatant exhibition of a woman’s curves? Unless a woman succumbs to such exhibitionism will she not be considered stylish? Is that in keeping with “good taste?” Has there been such degeneration in our society that style and taste is all about body-baring sex appeal?
The sad part is that we are talking about “community standards.” Most of us human beings are gluttons for approval and such approval will obviously come from a “community.” And to please that “community” we will continue to comply with the “acceptable standards of the community,” i.e. body baring tight clothing, conformity and lack of imagination!