11 February 2013

Your Own Size

Spring/Summer 2013

Yohji Yamamoto is one of those designers whose work can be very problematic in terms of online store presentation. The general rule for online retailers, where any designer is concerned, is to style models using a true-to-size system, i.e. if the model is a standard size small (46), then they choose the size of garment that closest resembles this. It is perhaps the easiest and most sensible system, allowing the consumer an easy point of reference when browsing. True-to-size is after all what they are used to - I wear trousers in a size 30, so I want to buy trousers in a size 30 (vanity sizing and other issues aside). Standardisation removes a certain amount of anxiety in situations where being able to physically try on the garment is not necessarily possible, and it is in these instances that clear information, both visual and textual, is required.

The consumer expects to see a shirt fit a certain way, a jacket to fit a certain way, and trousers to fit a certain way, because they have been told that is how they should fit. We have had over a decade of men's style and fashion magazines extolling the necessity of the perfect fit, often to the point of obsession (the results of which are rather neatly reflected in the contemporary #menswear trend). We are told that in achieving this idealised fit one is able to transcend the barrier from the dressed to the truly well dressed. An expensive suit is made cheap by not fitting as intended, and even something as egalitarian and anonymous as a pair of straight leg blue denim jeans can be made special through alteration to just the right amount by one's tailor (of course what constitutes the right amount is in continual flux). It is then perhaps no surprise that the idea of going against the grain where fit is concerned is met with a sense of (well-deserved) trepidation.

Deviation from the norm can be alienating and confusing for the consumer. Something that does not subscribe to the prevailing notions of beauty at any one time must by definition not be beautiful in the fashionable sense. But that is of course no bad thing, nor does it mean that the object is not in itself beautiful. After all some of the most truly beautiful objects, or indeed people, are those which do not necessarily fit the popular model. The ostensible flaws and imperfections make them all the more special. Indeed one who is aware of those perceived flaws, and can use them to their own advantage, is perhaps better served than the one trying to create or define beauty from some unattainable notion of socially (or universally) accepted perfection.

It is for me in the deviation from the norm that the beauty of Yohji's clothing lies. Where his menswear is concerned it is not necessarily about finding the right size in terms of measurements, but rather about finding the right size in terms of feeling. That may sound like a rather fanciful description, but his clothing is very much about wearing something that makes you feel comfortable and protected, and as such it is about finding the size that works for you. Indeed buying true-to-size where Yohji is concerned is ordinarily not actually recommended, for the majority of garments are designed specifically to be worn oversize. The drape, the flow, the silhouette of the garments are at their best when worn as intended, which is to say, larger than you would initially think.

Sleeves designed to be worn long, trousers designed to be tied at the waist, shoulders designed to fall, it is about creating a dynamic interstitial space, between cloth and body, that is just as important as the overall silhouette. It is only through an intimate knowledge of the body and how it moves that one can create clothing specifically designed to fit in such a way, and so it seems odd not to wear it in such a way. That is not to say that Yohji's clothing does not look good when styled true-to-size, indeed most online retailers are evidence of that, but rather that it does not look as good as it could. As with most clothing, it is about finding the sizes and shapes that work best for you, rather than buying something just because it looks good on someone else or is the most popular piece that season.

The images above are from this season's LN-CC Yohji Yamamoto buys, and it is by far one the better efforts where styling is concerned (in fact I am fan of most of their product styling). They have understandably gone true-to-size, with the model wearing size 3 topwear and size 2 trousers, however I do think it actually works far better than the sizing one usually sees for Yohji's clothing online. The natural voluminousness of the trousers no doubt help the looks, however I am still curious to see how different these would have look with a more typical Yohji sizing.  Given the model's height and measurements size 2 seems drastically small, although they obviously have to standardise the sizing for people browsing.

As I have already stated I do think these looks work well in the sizing given, even though they may not necessarily show the full length and shape the Yohji wearer may display. I think this quite nicely highlights the fluidity of sizing where Yohji's work is concerned and the skill in making garments that suit so many different sizes and shapes. It is about creating a far more organic relationship with the garments, in that it is up to the wearer to decide which size they feel most comfortable with. In offering a wider gamut of potential fits, it provides an option rarely seen elsewhere.

Garments are most often designed with a very specific size and shape in mind, and so even with a range of different sizes being available, the garments may still not necessarily work for everyone, particularly where tailored pieces are concerned. Obviously even with Yohji's work there will be certain cuts or colours or prints that do not work for everyone, but I think there is a far wider scope than one tends to see elsewhere.

In creating garments which are far more fluid in their sizing, it allows room for a far more personal approach to sizing and dressing. Sometimes I think people are far too apprehensive about the issue of sizing or gender divides where clothing is concerned. I like to think of both as a suggestion rather than a strictly defined ruling. What matters most is what works with your body shape, what you feel comfortable in, and what you think looks good. To quote the late Stella Adler, the talent is in your choices.


1 comment:

  1. I like Balloon shape trouser.(Do these have name ?) Very unisex.Combination of black and midnight blue are beautiful as always.I enjoyed Yohji's spring fashion for men.Thank you:)