Reactions to Pop-Fashion

I stay out of it, readers. I don’t look, I don’t care, and I don’t follow pop culture- more specifically, “pop-fashion”. However, I was confronted with this Nastiness as I had my coffee this morning. It is fashion week in Melbourne, and this is part of the Winter 2010 collection put out by the enormous super-department store chain Myer. Think Macy’s. The beautiful Jennifer Hawkins models a god-awful red thing in the above picture- she’s the top model in Australia at the moment. (Miranda Kerr having defected to LA)

I’m not talking about “esoteric fashion”. I rather enjoy the way some designers sit in ivory towers and play with textures, silhouettes and occasionally come up with downright bizarre creations you might never see walking down the street. I find that sort of fashion to be interesting, at least. Occasionally inspiring. Compare the Myer 2010 collection above with similar Lanvin styles from a few seasons ago:

Unspeakably more interesting, though of a similar palette and style. That is the difference between “esoteric fashion” and “pop-fashion.”

Pop-fashion exists to clothe the masses, or at least those who can afford to swipe their credit card at Myer.

That first picture, and especially this red dress neatly sum exactly why I sew for myself, and why I stay out the black hole of being pop-fashionable.

Issue 1, Fit: Wrinkles, wrinkles, wrinkles. Mass-produced clothing never seems to fit anyone, and definitely never fit me. They can’t even get it right for a dress that a very famous model will wear. She’s shoved into one of their RTW sizes and we’re supposed to lap it up. The only place that fits smoothly on this tight number is the shoulder straps. I’d love to get a look at the back.  Tight does not equal well-fitted. It means cheap, easy, quick, disposable.

Issue 2, Quality: I can’t get inside the dress, to turn it out and look at production values, but I am sure they must be lower than my own standards of production. For example, look at that Nasty dart-dimpling.  That one glaringly awful detail on the dress is enough to tell me about how it was made: cheap, easy, and quick for a disposable dress.

Issue 3, Aesthetic Control: This is a huge reason I sew.  Exactly what about the 2010 collection for this supposedly upscale store is fresh, new, interesting, or flattering? Are we all meant to wrap ourselves in ill-fitted red pleather or else don some pseudo-80’s-greek-revival micro-mini dress with an elastic waist for the next 3-6 months? Really? What if the colors and cuts simply don’t flatter our individual coloring, or our shapes? Again, it screams cheap, easy, quick and disposable.

Pop-fashion must be cheap, easy, quick, and disposable in order to exist. A great deal of our economic system relies on satisfying created needs. Fashion is the same. Chances are that splashy little number will fall to pieces after a few washes. If it doesn’t fall apart, it’s passe after a few months. Either way, you have guaranteed repeat customers.

Changing fashions are created in part to satisfy our human desire for novelty.  Notions of “fashion” and “being fashionable” mainly exist as fantasies, dark fantasies contrived to line pockets. There’s nothing exceptional about that, the word for it is “business”.  I don’t want to be involved in a business based on creating need, exploiting workers, and making everyone outside the “average body size” range feel excluded.

I enjoy novelty and variety as much as the next person, so I tend to explore my own stylistic inclinations.  I see creating my own clothing as a way of expressing parts of myself that I generally find inexpressible. I strive to make my clothes strong, tough, durable, and beautifully cut. As a general rule, my clothes last a long time.

A side effect of the business of fashion: poor body image. Too many truly beautiful, lovely, unique, and otherwise strong-minded women feel they are to blame for not fitting some randomly proportioned designer’s idea of what they ought to wear. Through media we are coaxed into believing that we must be the flawed ones:

  • If what is “in” doesn’t look good on you, then you must be the one to blame.  You’re too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, your boobs aren’t big enough, your boobs are too big, on and on and on.
  • If jewel tones make you look sallow, too bad- go get a tan you pasty faced cracker.
  • If you can’t cram yourself into a badly made size 6 dress that doesn’t even fit the model properly, obviously you’re a fat cow and should never eat again.
  • If the thought of wearing a flowy off the shoulder mini with an elastic waist (!) makes you vomit a little in your mouth, you’re hopelessly unfashionable.  The problem is with us, not with the system. That’s the message.

We are individuals. We are all individuals. Of course we don’t all fit the mold.

I say break the mold and spit on it, and love who you are.

One last thought: What does it say about a woman to wear something cheap, easy, quick and disposable? What does it say about attitudes society projects onto women, and women likewise enact? The designer of the red thing is a woman, but I don’t have a whole lot of respect for her.  What message is she creating by wrapping a beautiful woman in a “dress” that I could have pulled out of my ass?

I don’t want to be coerced into wearing what is “in” even if it doesn’t suit me. I don’t want to be irritated by inane stylistic choices. I don’t want to feel bad about my body. I don’t want to hear one more story about underfed models. It makes me mad.

I want to stay out of it. So generally I do.

Don’t be involved if you hate it. Just say no. It’s a simple choice. Just ignore it: underfed models, unattainable body shapes, horrible color choices, nasty cuts and all.  Eventually it quiets down to a dull background noise and only occasionally intrudes on your morning coffee.

As sewists, we have the power to stay out of it all. And we can look damn good doing it.


  1. That dart dimple is the so glaringly obvious. Ugly, shiny badly fitting dress. Even the gorgeous woman in it can't make it look good.

  2. I wanted to use the check off block but was unsure if I would rate your article (in favor of sewing garments) or what I thought of the clothes the models were wearing. Just to be sure, I agree with you and think that the runway clothing is RIDICULOUS! Retro is so much classier than what designers have been coming up with.

  3. Whenever I see crap fashion and poorly-made garments in stores I remind myself that when the fashion industry lowered the bar on quality, they actually did me a service. Now my minor errors in home-sewing are barely noticeable to viewers as we have all become used to seeing shabby construction details on clothes purchased from even high-end stores. After my first flash on indignance I try to remind myself of this and go merrily on my way. I agree that we have the wrong end up as women when we think something is wrong with us if we don't fit into a particular style or garment. Human flesh is not made to order, but garments are. Clothes should fit us, we don't fit clothes. However, I do understand how a woman could get the impression that it is she who is flawed if her experience is of trying on a gazillion items in ugly glaring dressing rooms, and seeing the poor fit – how else can she feel but miserable? None of us like to wear clothes that don't fit or flatter and she is forced to subject herself to that very process if she wants to maintain a wardrobe. As a sewer I know that my neckline is one size, my shoulder another, and my torso still another. After I get done tweaking that pattern I am not any size. Having that experience has helped me a lot and knowing first hand how much fabric can be manipulated makes me question what I see in the stores.

  4. Quite right. All of it. Thankfully, I've never thought much about fashion and mostly ignored it. It probably helped that we've never had TV.I do see a long-term advantage in fashions, but not the disposable fashions of today. Fashions in the past helped advancement in sewing and construction techniques, brought new patterns and shapes, new ways of setting in the sleeves etc… Sadly, the fashions of today are mostly working with the same slopers over and over again, without any new ways of fabric manipulation. That's why I look back at the past. It's more fun, and educational.

  5. Pingback: Happy Body Image: Clear Your Mind « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

    • Thanks! “Venceremos is a Spanish word meaning “we will overcome”, or “we will win”. The word can also refer to: Venceremos, a battle cry and the name of a few …” Thanks for that, really. :) I like it.

  6. Pingback: In Defense of the Full Skirt « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

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