Saturday, October 17, 2015

Bodily Geometries

It's an interesting thing, our relationship with our bodies; even this construction implies them as separate entities our cerebral selves have some uneasy and often tenuous discourse with. And yet of course we are corporeal - the reminder often unpleasant to academics. Is it why they are so often dismissive of fashion, because fashion is so obviously embodied, and thus stands in opposition of intellect and art? It is certainly not artful by the Kantian standards, for it is entirely too immediate, corporeal and female (Kant's aesthetics, on the other hand, sees art as exclusively cerebral, appreciated only by remote senses of vision and hearing, and unambiguously male.) So contempt for fashion, often couched in language of triviality of such pursuits, seem to stem more often than not from the contempt for the feminine and the embodied, illustrating how entwined the two are to this day in collective psyche.
So anyway, bodies. I wrote before about how we present, highlight, conceal our bodies through dress; I wrote about flattering and not-sexy dressing. But I don't think I ever talked about my perceptions of my own body and how the idea of it shapes much of what I wear and how I wear it.
However, first things first: another designer I recently fell in love with is Lara Khoury who hails from Beirut, Lebanon.  Her latest collection is beautiful, softly draped with an occasional punctuation of deconstructed elements and structured shapes. The collection speaks to and of a multitude of experiences - softness and rawness, immigration and staying behind, severity and excess. The pleated dresses juxtaposed against heavy coats, wide woolen pants next to tulle, the plurality of shapes and hemlines. High necks and exposed backs, sweeping and draping, this collection is about cleaving, in both senses of the world: the designer's  description speaks of the experiences of the Lebanese diaspora and their families who stayed behind, of tearing away and hugging close. The collection miraculously hangs together (cleaving again) despite its seeming contradictions of pastels and stark black and whites, modest necklines and exposed skin. Leaving and staying, torn raw and sealed in a beautiful lantern of pleated tulle.
As I said, in love.
Contrary to my instinct, I didn't go for the structured pieces - partly because I wanted to try something new, partly due to my realization that I might have more than a reasonable number of sculpted white tops. Instead, I went for a different shape altogether, softly draped and voluminous. 

The piece is beautifully made and constructed, in cotton gauze with subtly arresting unraveling edges and interesting shape. And yet, my first reaction was, "Is it supposed to fit like this?" (The designer was kind enough to reassure me that it was indeed the right fit).

I am no stranger to oversized fits. Figure flattery is not high on the list of my dressing priorities. The top is gorgeous and I love it to bits, but seeing it on myself was an interesting if unfamiliar experience. It felt different somehow. I had to wonder what's  going on.

Of course, most of my oversized pieces are quite sculptural, often in stiff woven fabrics like this Cin+Oko top and Litkovskaya pants:

(Shoes are rag&bone mules)

The volume these clothes create is a separate  space in which my body exists without filling it.

 It is a carapace, an exoskeleton, a shell that does not suggest softness. And this angularity is actually what I am used to projecting by the way I dress, and I think it is rooted in self-perception. Conflating femininity and softness is a cliche; I do wonder about it though, only because I perceive my body as fairly sharp, fairly angular, with bone and muscle defining its shape to me rather than breasts or hips. In my self-image, I am never soft (even when I am).
I can do slouchy as well:

Even though this cashmere sweater by Protagonist is fairly soft, it has enough weight to create its own shape, with my body maintaining its separate distinct identity  underneath. The skirt is a nice counterpoint in another substantial knit (merino wool, Iris&Ink). Proenza Schouler boots work here, I think, instead of more expected pumps. They feel more grounded against the shades of white, heavy and flat.

And finally, here's the Lara Khoury top: it is oversized and yet drapes close to my body, neither following its shape precisely as a tailored fit would nor making a shell for it. Instead, it imposes its softness over my contour, and I suspect that this is why it felt so alien at first. 

(I'm wearing Lara Khoury blouse with Isabel Marant pants and Carin Wester shoes.)

I love it, and it does something different from my usual clothes. I wanted to try something  new but didn't expect the novelty to be so conceptual, so dizzying at first. This single piece made me realize that even though I think of dressing in terms of silhouettes,  I have failed to recognize the importance I've assigned to angularity and stiff shapes, basing my entire wardrobe on it. Even the strictly feminine pieces I wear tend to be sharp (such as high heels in the otherwise masculine look) rather than floppy and soft. But now I think I  am ready to play a bit with softer versions of femininity.

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