Friday, October 17, 2008

Ladies Dress: Texture Recognition

In part two of my three-part series, I will talk about the importance of texture in addition to shape and how to recognize appropriate textures.

Texture Recognition

For the most part, the discussion of texture relates to making the fabrics in an outfit harmonize with each other in order to achieve a beautiful effect (though I have come across a discussion linking fabric texture and modesty, I don't think you can make an argument that certain textures are inherently immodest). Usually, you don't have to worry about texture if you choose a dress or suit with only one type of fabric, as shown above. There are exceptions, however . . .

Granted, this dress has shape problems as well, but the point is that some textures are just not going to look fitting for an entire outfit. Another example is that feathers, except as a costume, do not achieve a serious effect:

Now, one might think that recognition of the texture of clothes relates to the sense of touch. Actually, the feel of the fabric is largely irrelevant. What matters, as always, is how it LOOKS. Congruity is the main point. That doesn't mean you can't experiment with textures, though. Sometimes a bit of texture will make a gown exquisite:

Generally, we know that silks, satins, sequins, and chiffons go together: we see them ubiquitously on formal wear. What about more everyday choices? Again, the textures must harmonize. Here's an example of a slightly incongruous fabric pairing:

Yes, the colors and shape aren't the greatest either, but what makes it look especially odd is the heavy textured dress against the silk printed blouse. Are there hard and fast rules in this area? Probably not. Nevertheless, you can develop a sense of it from the bad cases. I just can't resist giving you another texture nightmare:

Resist dressing in rafia and popsicle sticks! Other than that, don't be afraid to be creative. Maybe a couple general rules could be not to pair two "loud" or heavy/prominent fabrics with each other and not to pair a more formal with a more casual fabric--like cotton jersey with chiffon, for instance. In these cases, I'm talking about the two main fabrics used for an ensemble; oftentimes, an accessory or accent in an oddball or not strictly matching fabric (maybe even feathers, who knows!) may work. For ideas, you can look at reliable catalogs or online shopping sites. This one and the one at the top of the post come from j jill:

As you can tell, the suggestion of texture does a lot for overall effect. Whether soft, smooth, shiny, nubbly, lacy--one can't ignore the textural quality of the fabrics of dress. Here is a final example that brings together shape and texture with very appealing results:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ladies' Dress: Spatial Reasoning

In this first segment of a three-part series, I hope to get the creative and analytical juices flowing with one of my new favorite topics: how to dress! I truly believe that it's not rocket science, but it does take some thought. Specifically, an analysis of the knowledge necessary to dress well reveals three primary factors: Spatial Reasoning, Texture Recognition, and the Color Spectrum.

Spatial Reasoning

The first kind of knowledge you have to have to dress well is spatial reasoning. You have to know what fits where, and to know this you have to know the nature of the thing you're dealing with: the female body. The shape of a woman's body is a unique one; thus, the dress used to ornament such a shape must harmonize with its underlying structure. That is, a woman is not a rectangle:

She is not an oval or blob shape either:

Finally, though having natural curves, a woman's body does not have bulbous growths:

Sorry for the immodesty of that last picture, but that brings up the point that, once we recognize the basics of our body shape, we also have to recognize that dress serves to camouflage a bit as well as to reflect reality. It basically covers up but this cover has to be in keeping with the thing. Luckily we don't have to start from ground zero, because the earliest forms of dress necessarily had more to do with function than anything. We can use traditions of dress to find out what shapes really work to highlight natural beauty.

By now, you are probably asking, what are the concrete rules of this spatial reasoning game? Well, rule number one has got to be that the shape should draw the eye to the face. This is because the face, especially with the eyes, is the window to the soul. There are various ways to do this, and you can experiment for yourself what works. It can be anything from this

to this

Rule two is that your waist should look smaller than your hips, because that's how it really is. The two above dresses are also good examples of that. Why, one might ask, are we trying to end up looking like a triangle from waist to ground, when we are not really shaped like triangles? Well, the triangle shape is one expression of dress that goes in at the waist, but you can also use tailored, straight skirts to achieve the same effect. It's also important to remember that the rule does not work in the same way for everyone--one person might emphasize the waist by wearing full skirts that come in at the waist, while for another it might be more effective to wear a straight skirt with a tailored blouse. Again, this is where experimentation comes in.

Finally, as a third rule, dresses should not be too short--and not only for reasons of modesty. Too-short clothes result in the strange shapes seen on the models above. It's hard to create smooth, clean lines without a space to work with. Some dresses I look at in stores just seem abridged: I wish there were more to them. For thin people, they also emphasize the legs in a way that can make them seem boyish. For not so thin people, it's just a bad idea all around. Here's a reasonable, mid-length dress that bridges the gap:

There's a lot more that could be said, and the discussion can definitely become a lot more particular, but I hope these are some good starting points to muse upon. Basically, I think a lot of fashion designers out there don't exercise responsible spatial reasoning when it comes to the female form, and I think it's something we should be cognizant of in our attempts to look beautiful.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Creative Genius

An important aspect to the feminine character is our need to create. All people have the impulse to participate in God's creative work, but women desire not just to make something new but to make something beautiful. Throughout the ages, women have put their talents to good use in making clothes, accessories, and objects for the home. Now, however, we see a crisis in which shopping rather than crafting is the default expression of our urge for loveliness. There are entire stores built on this principle alone: it would never occur to men to shop here!

Nevertheless, along with men, we do want the satisfaction of making something with our own hands, of producing out of a lesser form something greater and more perfect. And it's not simply our desire but our duty that we carry this out. This doesn't mean that anything we make must be solely ornamental, nor does it mean that all women are called to be exceptional seamstresses, knitters, painters, upholsterers, sculpters, embroiderers, beaders, spinners, crocheters, quilters, pastry chefs, decoupagers, paper mache artists, typographers, and jewelry-makers. That list is as exhausting as it is exhaustive. It does mean, however, that as women we should fulfill our desire for realizing beauty by exploring a creative outlet: we all have the ability to do this, and the only thing that prevents us is a lack of proper motivation.

For instance, as of this moment, I can type, I can organize, I can put on jewelry--and that's about it. I see my friends envisioning, designing, and executing the most lovely and important work for themselves and each other, and I have no place in it. I want to recapture that ability to see and to make, to give something I myself made; and, recognizing this want, I will proceed in that direction.