Fear and clothing: What a lot of hemming and hawing
A weekly column on the vagaries and charms of fashion
Hemlines are like barometers. I am not claiming originality here. This has been said before but I will say it again. Look at the hemline and you can take the temperature of the season. Are people feeling confident, free, hopeful, youthful and up- beat? Up the hems rise. If on the other hand the mood is sombre, bleak and fearful ... down the leg the good old hems go. We now find ourselves in a solid mid-calf moment. Demure is our battle cry. Over the knee and far away.
I will give you this: bits of flesh have cropped up in recent seasons, the midriff and the shoulder have both made a brief appearance, but the legs? No, not really. What is happening now is a 1970s moment. It’s all camel, and polo necks, trench coats, jean flares and calf length skirts. Why, you cry? Is it all the fault of Mamma Mia 2 and Abba revivalism? Must I now also embrace a Farrah Fawcett flick? No, no, you really don’t. Please don’t. Really.
But there is something in the air and I call it symmetry. A Nixon–Trump nexus, with the same old villains: China, Russia, Turkey, Korea, all aflutter with poisoning plots, smoke and mirror operations and totalitarian regimes. The daily news reads like a 1970s spy novel, with a wicked plot twist. You could not make the stuff in Istanbul up. And arranged on the other flank are the forces for good, journalists who think they are Bob Woodward, the Black Panthers, Ziggy Stardust in all his gender neutral glory, glamour, disco escapism and a sense of general disappointment with the world at large.
For all the hedonistic, acid-dropping freedom of the 1960s, the cocaine-fuelled 1970s brought an adult hedonism and Barishnikov to Studio 54. Warhol summed it up in his 15 seconds of fleeting fame. Sounds all rather familiar to the Instagram generation of 15 seconds of influenza? That’s right, we are all back where we were before. But the stakes seem higher now that the tide is rising so fast.
Some people, namely Hedi Slimane, bravely decided to take a stand against the hegemony of the hemline and camel. He presented minis for his debut collection for Celine in Paris two weeks ago. He was roundly shamed. A short skirt? Anathema. He was promptly called a misogynist and slated for not giving women what they want.
Fashion is like a savant, an unwitting soothsayer of the times. Designers channel the global consciousness and express it unfailingly, giving people what they really want – except for Hedi, apparently. Seems that if you really want to understand what is happening in the world, just look at the clothes. I for one choose Hedi. Give me a mini any day; it would bode well for our future.