dressing up, fashion, style, vintage

Changing shape

It occurred to me when I was looking at the designs at the V&A that the desirable women’s shape has altered a lot since the fifties for a more androgynous masculine shape, it was clarified when reading slip of a girl’s blog, where she discussed Vanity Fair’s double page spread on lingerie advertising.

What strikes me the most is that modern lingerie has none of the glamour of previous decades, mostly because the models have very small hips, the style does nothing to enhance the body of anyone who is less than ‘ideal’


Compare the two shapes and you will see that the vintage model is more curvaceous. The modern model has a bottom half that cuts across the widest part of her body, which is not very flattering when you are more than a size zero.

You can see this even more in this version there is a small dip in the waist but it is very small compared with the vintage model – you can tell more by the inside curve, the modern model’s body is almost a straight line. The vintage lingerie enhances the shape, finishing at a narrower part of the body, where as the modern version, while the panty line is slightly higher, still does not emphasise the waist. Also the bust is pushed out in the vintage model where as the modern bra pushes the bust upwards.

It is almost as if the female figure has lost its curves and become almost masculine in its shape. This drive for size zero causes a lot of anxiety for women and I am not at all sure that men find it equally appealing. What was noticeable mostly when people watching is that clothing has become androgynous too, jeans and tee shirts are the norm and it seems we have lost our differences between the sexes.

Become sexier than this?
I am not for one minute suggesting that one shape is superior to another, but I think each shape had its decade in the last century. When you consider the first line of women in the picture above they would suit the flapper style perfectly – it was a decade where women minimised their busts, and emphasised the hips, leaving the waist hidden. However, fabrics such as silk and chiffon softened the effects – together with rich embroidery – it was all about drape and flow. 
The next three decades from the 30’s to the 50’s returned to enhancing the waist once again. 
Then the sixties were about showing legs hemlines were high and A line skirts and dresses skimmed the upper body rather than drawing attention to it. It was also when we began to see thinner models such as twiggy becoming the desirable shape. 
The seventies and eighties seemed to nod back to romantic periods, the seventies in particular was looking for a folksy style of dress, with gypsy skirts and smocking. The marriage of Diana and Charles heralded a whole retro victorian/romantic style for the eighties and Laura Ashley with her reinvention of victorian style was extremely popular.  
What is interesting about today’s fashion is that women are free to decide how they want to dress choosing self expression over the high street. Most women want their own individual look, and are having the confidence to put an outfit together themselves. In fact it is all about creating your own style and if necessary making things, or re-inventing the old, to reflect your own sense of style. 
beauty is in the eye of the beholder
While advertising may present an image of the ‘ideal’ woman it delights me that women are now having the option to accept they differ from the norm and love themselves as they are without fighting their natural shape with dieting or exercise. Beauty does begin from within and knowing your body shape and working with it, rather  than trying to fit into a style that just isn’t you, is a whole lot less stressful. 
I believe that glamour is all about emphasising your best features, and we all have them. 
“Why change? Everyone has his own style. When you have found it, you should stick to it.” Audrey Hepburn. 

body confidence, body shape, dressing, dressing up, fancy dress, fifties, life lessons, sewing, steam punk, style, vintage

Style with a smile?

I was reading Afua Hirsch’s article in the newspaper this weekend and I was completely in agreement with her, in this country we all try and alter our body shapes to fit clothes that often don’t flatter or simply distort our shapes and accentuate our least loved features. What madness is this?

Where did we get to this position where women really struggle to accept their bodies and love who they are? I have to admit I often visit clothing stores when the season’s change, just to keep up with what is on trend and often I leave without spending a penny. I look around and see women wearing ‘this season’s colour’ or ‘this seasons’ look’ without giving it any regard to whether it enhances her or not.

I am not bashing women and what they wear, I feel saddened that we all have pressure to fit in, I remember my svelte daughter wearing low slung jeans and a teeshirt that exposed a middle that did absolutely nothing to enhance her beautiful shape, it just made her look like her body was spilling over.

Thankfully the current trend for retro styling has allowed women to express their own sense of style – even if it is the vintage forties with victory rolls, rockabilly chic or fifties flair. There never is a better time to sew because not only can you chose your clothes and fabric that reflects who you are, but you can make clothes that don’t make you feel like you are ‘too big on the hips’ or ‘too busty!’ which is often why I have to return lovely summer dresses, they simply make me look trashy!

The great thing about making your own clothes is that you can choose everything right down to the cut or the weight of the fabric. It takes me back to the dressing up box and the most favourite item of all, a circular elasticated waistband skirt – the waistband moved with me, and it was simply glorious to spin and feel the fabric flow around my legs. That is how clothes should make us feel.

I am just back from Austria and came across shops full of dirndl dresses when I put one on it was like a childhood dream come true! I finally had a dress that I spent my childhood drawing after reading Heidi!  Not only that the blouses can solve my summer dress difficulties, they look gorgeous and feminine without exposing more than I am comfortable with.

My daughter got married and had a ‘steam punk’ wedding it was terrific fun, everyone dressed up in what they wanted to wear and I have never seen so many broadly smiling faces! We all went to the park after the ceremony for the pictures and many people thought we had come from a film set. Dressing up is fun!

If there is one thing I am passionate about it is the desire for every woman to dress to please herself and we can all take part. Next time someone is dressing ‘outside the norm’ encourage her confidence! it might just be me.