This Sunday, forget Bill Keller’s frothing at the mouth about Westerners “kowtowing” to Beijing – not only is McCain bringing back Teddy Roosevelt but the whole glorious vocabulary of his time, which is like steak tartar in the mouth of our adorable, bloodthirsty MSM-ists! – and make a beeline to Caroline Weber’s article, The Belle Curve. There are those who have criticized LI’s obsession with the 18th century – but apparently we were simply mindmelding with today’s hottest fashion designers:
“But every now and then, a trend comes along whose sheer, unalloyed improbability startles even fashion’s strictest devotees. A case in point: the return this season of the amplified hip. From panniers at Louis Vuitton and Charles Nolan to crinolines at Alexander McQueen to peplums at Chanel, the fall/winter looks encourage women to channel PJ Harvey, who in ‘‘Sheela-Na-Gig’’ sang of her shapely charms: ‘‘I’ve been trying to show you over and over / Look at these, my child-bearing hips.’’ Incongruous as it may seem in an industry better known as an enemy than as a friend of female curves, today’s designers are bringing back the hourglass shape in all its bulging, bottom-heavy splendor.”
That’s right – panniers are back!
“At 18th-century Versailles, the panniered skirts of female court costume reached such vast widths that women had to enter rooms sideways. So great was the fear of getting stuck in doorways that young noblewomen trained for their first day at court with an exacting old gentleman who donned a ‘‘ridiculous, billowing skirt’’ of his own to lead the tutorial, according to the memoirs of the Marquise de la Tour du Pin. But one woman’s challenge is another woman’s opportunity. Just imagine the figure you’ll cut wedging your way onto a crowded N train in your new McQueen tutu. ‘‘Stand clear of the closing doors, please!’’ As the subway doors jam against your layers of stiffened tulle, all eyes will — I guarantee it — be on you. That’s what they call making an entrance.”
LI likes a jaunty skirt, but McQueen’s fall line doesn’t understand that billowing and jauntiness aren’t the same thing. Although we give McQueen a lot of points for that much commented upon gray mohair jacket dress worn by Rihanna in Elle. This is how McQueen explains his fall collection:
"I've got a 600-year-old elm tree in my garden," he said, "and I made up this story of a girl who lives in it and comes out of the darkness to meet a prince and become a queen." After a trip to India, the designer worked like a fiend for months in his studio, with images of Queen Victoria, the Duke of Wellington, and the Indian Empire running through his mind. They were transformed into ballerina-length multi-flounced dance dresses, each more insanely exquisite than the last: A miraculous red-feather-fronted number turned to burst into a froth of creamy frills in back; another came covered in baby-fine knitted lace; a third had a pair of peacocks—again fashioned from cutout black lace—with their tail feathers fanning out over ivory tulle petticoats.
Interspersed were rigorously cut military tailcoats with taut pants detailed with military frogging, and slim brocade and cloque pantsuits with crisp white high-necked shirts. Then there was a stately parade of imperial-red and velvet jackets bedecked with millions of dollars' worth of antique Indian diadems and diamond neckpieces, and yet more incredible rich Empire-line saris and wispy dishabille transparencies. These were followed by a sequence of gold-encrusted, ermine-coated glory, echoing the heyday of Norman Hartnell and Hardy Aimes' fifties British couture as worn by Elizabeth II.
Whatever had triggered this new lease of inspired design, it went further than the mere rendition of fanciful costume for the sake of telling a story. Importantly, McQueen finally found it in himself to quash the confining, uptight carapace that had held back former collections, replacing it with a new sense of lightness and femininity.”
Queen Victoria, the Duke of Wellington, and the Indian Empire, did you say? I’m sorry: that’s a no go. As for the fifties British couture worn by Elizabeth II, where are my vials of wrath? I had them here a second ago...
One nice thing about this new trend is that Ysa Ferrer was obviously prescient, last year, in her mix of French Maid and Pompidour waif, as per To Bi or Not To Bi. It is a puzzle to LI that Ysa just doesn’t export to this country. I’ll never understand Americans.