Let’s talk about the spring/summer collections for 2014. Pleated skirts, great froths of delicate pastel colours and metallic detailing are the order of the day for the balmier months of 2014. Marco Zanini, in an almost overwhelming luxurious farewell to Parisian fashion house Rochas, paraded models in lady-like perfection down the catwalk at the French Fashion Week. I could wax lyrical (and in fact may proceed to do so) about the maxi-length, pleated metallic skirts that spun their way down the aisle for Haider Ackermann, layered over business like tailored trousers. This was a feat trumped only by Phoebe Philo at Celine, who debuted asymmetric hemmed skirts in brilliant sheer white with black edging. Haute couture’s current sweetheart, 47 year-old Giambattista Valli, sent out round after round of tailored dresses in milky white, hand-embroidered with fairy-tale patterns of flower wreaths and curving ivy. Valli, along with the hundreds of other contributors to Paris Fashion Week, set the scene for another sublime spring and summer season. What I wonder, reading back over the glowing praise I’ve afforded the fashion crowd, is how many other queer women watch the catwalk with such a keen eye. Fashion has for years seemed the reserve of either straight and autocratic ice-queens, or flamboyant gay men, with little to no place for the non-heteronormative female. How many catwalk shows do we see that represent trends amongst the lesbian and bi community, or reflect the body shapes we know that exist, but are entirely invisible among the likes of Dolce & Gabbana models? How relevant can fashion really be to us? I would refer you to this, the cinematic clap-back of the century.
What the video proves is first, that Meryl Streep truly is magnificent in any role, and second, that the fashion world pervades our own outfit choices at every level. At first, this sounds a rather threatening message: as if fashion houses are trying to suggest that individual choice is extraordinarily out of vogue. I see it as something rather different. Your clothes, bought from the high street, from a designer label, inherited from a friend or relative, or made to pattern yourself are parts of a greater fashion heritage. Fashion is closely linked to time, and to the people that made that time their home. It is an indelible part of our history and culture. Ackermann’s glossy metallics, Zanini’s beaded pastel blouses and Valli’s bloom-burst appliqués will all form part of future generations’ perceptions of what it was like to be alive in 2014. Let the trends filter down to the high street! It is then, standing in front of one of those mirrors – seemingly designed to make us doubt that anything will ever suit us again – that you can select something unique to yourself. Another confusion present in queer attitudes toward fashion and style seems to be that, if you are a woman attracted to other women, it is up to you to communicate that fact through a more typically masculine mode of dress. Stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity aside (why men dressed to the nines in soft summer florals and peep-toe heels continues to be some sort of problem is a source of great personal frustration to this writer), I am rather fed up of attending LGBTQ events only to be told that I am “too femme” to possibly want to take a lady out for a nice three-course dinner. I am sure the same also runs in reverse: just watch hartbeat’s video below.
It seems nearly impossible for a queer woman to get it right, which is why you have to make those catwalk trends work for you, and you alone. Look to female clothing trends in any one of the fashion capitals of the world (Paris, Milan, London, Hong Kong) and you will find that, the presence of pleats and pastel notwithstanding, tailored suits, trousers, dresses and blazers never go out of style. It doesn’t have to be layers of frills and fountains of tulle (though those options are also nearly always open) if you don’t want it to be. Stella McCartney cannot be beaten for beautiful pieces of structured everyday wear, and almost no one does boxy graphic prints better than Christopher Kane. With such a huge variety of designers working to create beautiful pieces of clothing, you will never be short of options. Last week, nursing a headache and the sense of shame only vomiting in your own shower can bring, I walked downstairs in jeans and fitted tee, to be met with reactions of surprise from my housemates. These, my ultimate comfort clothes, were far enough removed from my normal gear to be worth a complimentary comment or two, and that is something I feel perversely grateful for: that there is no need to restrict yourself to one look or another, that how you dress can, and should, be entirely correlated to your mood, and that fashion houses will provide. So settle yourself down in front of this blog, and peruse the fashion page, safe in the knowledge that your every queer clothing need can be provided for.