A Tighter Season With a Looser Look – S/S 2011

14 Dec

“Fashion is born by small facts, trends or even politics – never by trying to make little pleats and furbelows, by trinkets, by clothes easy to copy, or by the shortening or lengthening of a skirt.”

— Elsa Schiaparelli

I recently attended the FGI (Fashion Group International) Spring/Summer 2011 trend forecast at the MFA.  It was, as always, a wonderful presentation by a wonderful organization.  A major topic of discussion afterwards was that the collections for next season are cleaner and more tightly edited than ever.  There are, as always, a myriad of looks and silhouettes, but the general feel of the season is decidedly simpler.

There seems to be a new sobriety in fashion – not that everything is dark and dreary, there’s still plenty of color and print – but that designers on the whole showed less eclectic, more focused groupings.  One trend that swept the shows is of particular interest – volume.  Slouchy jackets, fluid trousers, loose tunics, skirts long enough to be deemed ‘shoe toppers’ – in all, much more coverage for the body.  And, surprisingly, it’s been heralded by viewers and critics alike as a refreshing change.

There has been a gradual build towards looser, less structured shapes for a few seasons now, but this is the first time fullness has been such a hallmark throughout the collections since the early 1990s.  But why volume?  Why such an increase in proportion? And why now?  Is it a reflection of our times?


A frenetic economy, a socio-political climate fraught with international conflict, internal security leaks and rampant distrust don’t lend themselves to a particularly optimistic worldview.  And as always, fashion follows society’s lead.

Historically during times of crisis fashions are always more somber, less conspicuous.  One need only examine the Edwardian period in dress during the turn of the 20th century, overshadowed by WWI and the suffragette struggle, to individual style a mere ten years later.  The end of a world war, the beginning of the industrial revolution, a burgeoning economy and bright outlook ushered in an era of jazz and nightclubs, hope and prosperity that was reflected in fashion – makeup became de rigueur and bobbed hairstyles commonplace.  Hemlines rose above the knee for the first time in human history.

Though the rise in both hemlines and economy were fairly short-lived, they are prime examples of the intense connection that society and fashion share.  When businesses thrive hemlines rise, when conflict is at a minimum skin exposure is at its maximum. So, it’s not surprising that we’re seeing this major shift in a more understated direction.

It’s evident in other ways as well – there was hardly a miniskirt to be found in any of the Spring/Summer presentations, and when designers did show legs, they featured high-cut shorts instead.  Though the same amount of skin was shown, there was something less forward and sexually aggressive about a mini-short.  (Frankly, with the micro-minis that have been shown in recent collections, one wrong move and the world is your gynecologist.  Micro-shorts, on the other hand, give a more reserved impression that is in step with this new era of modesty).

There are certainly other notable trends for Spring/Summer:  A strong 1970s groove involving every aspect of that decade from disco to punk, nods towards classic staples like crisp white shirting and khaki trench coats, and a consistent nod towards one of the great masters of the 20th century – Yves Saint Laurent, recently the subject of a major museum retrospective.

But to me, this new play on proportion and demure sensuality is the most fascinating.  It is not something that will fade away soon, and has interesting ramifications for the future.

So one must beg the question — Is this concept of softer silhouettes and longer lengths, greater space between body and cloth essentially the couture equivalent of Teflon?  Does it bestow a sense of protection, safety, reassurance?  Perhaps we see this as armor against our tumultuous socio-political surroundings – a security blanket for the soul.

And even more importantly — What will these new proportions do to the zeitgeist of fashion going forward?  Will it affect the unrealistic ideals of body image we currently hold?  Will we begin to see a move towards more womanly curves, and away from the unrealistically whippet-thin models dominating the runway?

Because this new volume does not require the boyish, fat-free proportions of previous trends, might it begin to reverse the disturbing epidemic of eating disorders that currently plague our society?  Will young women finally be allowed to perceive themselves in a more healthy, realistic and positive light?

Time, and fashion, will tell…


One Response to “A Tighter Season With a Looser Look – S/S 2011”

  1. Louise Riemer December 17, 2010 at 5:38 PM #


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