Saturday, July 14, 2007

kiss my capris

deposing the rules of fashion

When Tim Gunn was a guest on the "Oprah" show, he provided six fashion rules for "mature" women (mature = over-40). Older women should never wear:
  1. Pleated pants
  2. Low-rise jeans
  3. Horizontal stripes
  4. Jackets that hit at mid-thigh
  5. Double-breasted blazers
  6. Capri-length pants
I call bullshit.

First of all, since when did being old start at 40? Jeez! This puts some women who are having their first child into the same age category as great grandmothers. This isn't the 1950s. Age groupings for women have changed considerably. Women are very active -- working, athletic, travelling -- well into their seventies today. In some fields women are just getting their careers going in their 40s.

I confess that I have always hated any sort of these lists of rules. Dos and don'ts. Like most of these kinds of dictates I have an innate tendency to see them primarily as there to be broken. They are a mainstay for hack copy in fashion magazines but there is nothing original or fresh about them.

These specific six rules are about what is flattering to body shape as well as what is in fashion at present. Pleated pants and double breasted blazers are not overly youthful. They are just not especially flattering or currently fashionable. Horizontal stripes are widening. Based on the assumption that no woman under age 40 buys clothes from Liz Claiborne, I will use summer fashions from Tim's new employer to demonstrate the problems with these rules.

1. Pleated pants - no one should wear these. Ever.

2. Low-rise jeans : women under 22 shouldn't wear these--and not very many of them can get away with it either. I'm not convinced that they are a particularly attractive look for even the best of figures. It is just a cut that can't quite get away from the idea of "cheap and slutty":

On the other hand, Liz Claiborne is well known for perpetrating the style crime of mom jeans and those are just as bad.

3. Horizontal stripes -- This rule is ridiculous. The principle is one based on body shape not age.
Here is the thing with fashion rules: even the people who make them don't follow them. Tim's very own Oprah makeover selected a dress with a horizontal stripe pattern for a woman who had just given birth to twins:
And a striped top can look fine on a larger body:

Omygod! Is she wearing capri length pants?!

In fact, it would seem that this season's Liz Claiborne plus size collection breaks every one of Tim Gunn's rules.

4. Jackets that hit at mid-thigh : Frankly I don't even understand what this rule is about. The look would depend on the particular outfit and the cut of the jacket:

Here is an example from LC's plus size collection:
This is a fine casual or light exercise outfit but the problem I see with the LC collection is that it is dowdy and it hides women's curves rather than highlights them.

It will be interesting to see how Gunn will approach this area at Liz Claiborne given Tim's well-known "issues" with the bodies of zaftig women (i.e., any woman over a size 4 and/or any woman with fleshy curves).

And that place needs some help. After a while the LC collection started to really depress me. The idea that they wanted women to dress this way. I think they got some of their fabric ideas from somebody's great grandmother's old davenport:

Yes, it's metallic too!

If you must have a rule how about this one: don't wear fabric that might be used to upholster furniture at a funeral home. But I digress . . .

5. Double-breasted blazers: these aren't in fashion now. Just as with pleated pants, the "rules" don't have to do with age. There is nothing overly youthful about a double-breasted blazer, mid-thigh jackets or horizontal stripes. They have to do with style, cut, and shape and what is in fashion.

6. Capri-length pants : This is the one that really gets me. I thought about naming this post: "kiss my capri wearing ass." Sure capris are not the best for short legs. But capris are a fashion staple -- there's no getting away from them either at the gym or in the summer (especially at the beach). Even with short legs capri-length works especially if you are wearing the same color on the top. So shoot me.

Here are LC's cropped pants selections.

I don't care what age you are.
These pants are fugly!

On the other hand, here are Eileen Fisher's:
To die for... and they come in petite.

Eileen Fisher targets the same age group as LC and is similar in price range (slightly higher but not by much). Nonetheless, Eileen Fisher has a much more youthful and fashionable and versatile look.

It is one that is not beset by the kind of mindset that has fashion "rules" about what you can and can't wear at a certain age. In fact the company is based on thinking about women and fashion in a manner that is opposed to these kinds of restrictions.

Frankly, if Tim Gunn really wants to reinvigorate LC he is going to have to change the way that he thinks about fashion... and women.

two posts from 02.05.07:


eric3000 said...

I have to agree with both you AND Tim: the rules are actually pretty good, basic tips (though all rules have exceptions). But you are absolutely correct in that they have nothing to do with age; those rules should be followed by everyone.

As you say, pleated pants should never be worn by anyone of any size, age, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, or profession. No exceptions. Ever.

I think the jacket length is also a very good rule, however. Although cut can make a difference, jackets that hit mid-thigh like a man's blazer almost never look good on any woman. A couple of inches in either direction can make a huge difference; but there is a certain spot that just look terrible.

Low-rise jeans and horizontal stripes look fine on some people but it's not a bad idea to avoid them when possible.

And, even though they only look good on Audrey Hepburn, go ahead and wear capris! They should be worn for comfort and they are generally more flattering than shorts.

Fun post! Have you read his book? I haven't.

Ms. Place said...

Black capris pants that skim one's figure and flatter one's legs and show up one's bum; a simple white blouse with three quarter sleeves that skim's one's waist; sexy strappy heels; a boffo bracelet; a great, swingy hair cut; and voila! One is ready to shop at the grocery store, go to a barbecue, work at the office on casual Fridays, or simply walk around a small European market looking casual and elegant.

What in tarnation is Tim talking about? The rules of fashion are made to be broken. This is the rule Tim: if the outfit (regardless of stripes or fabric or cut) makes one look slim, tall, and 10 years younger, then for Crissakes, Buy IT!

Great post Trixie. I so totally agree with everything you said.

Anonymous said...

Give me capris over shorts any day of the week!

But, then, I guess Tim wouldn't go for shorts, either.

I love Tim, but...

This whole thing is just a recipe for disaster. He's got a bitchy side. We like his bitchy side. But...

We don't want him targeting the average woman.

We don't want him targeting us.

Not that we're average. Not that anyone is.

I had a bad feeling when I saw who was producing the show (same as Top Design...) It's also got a bit of a rush into broadcast, I think. September.

I was so hoping he'd have a show where he visited the clients at their homes. Different parts of the country. Different closets. Different ages, and backgrounds, etc. A conversation. A survey of the American Woman. But, the producers are cheap.

And, I fear, dear Tim is a bit of a snob.

-- desertwind

PS - Robin Givhan had a good piece on Liz Claiborne. They blanched when she mentioned "mom jeans".

I heart Robin Givhan! (she had a lovely appreciation of Lady Bird.)

Anonymous said...

PS - What's the diff between capris and clam diggers?

-- desert

Hmmm... that sounded like the setup for a joke... "I don't know. What is the diff ..."

mumblesalot (Laura A) said...

Nice post Trixie, I agree, fabric and cut are the decisive features.

Ms. Place yes! That sounds classy and sassy.

Sewing Siren said...

I haven't read his book either, but I'm sure there will be plenty of signed copies on the $1 table at the used book store next summer (snark).

Sewing Siren said...

7. duros

Jodi Michael Horner said...

I am on the train that concurs with the notion that Tim's rules are more about body type and what's in style than overarching age rules! However, let's not and not throw caution to the wind here!I really do think capris are suited to a specific body type--lean! I don't wear them and people think I am thin (the fact is I am a bit hippy.) Go into most Walmarts and you'll see 50% of the women in capris and looking very much like they've given up on themselves.

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