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DECODING THE GREAT FASHION SILHOUETTE

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In April, Pyer Moss designer Kerby Jean-Raymond appeared on our weekly fashion podcast The Dropcast. “The hardest thing for a designer to do, and be successful at, is to establish a fashion silhouette,” he said. “Very few designers are able to do that shit out the gate. I would say the only one that’s successfully done it in the past 10 years is Demna [Gvasalia], and Thom Browne to an extent.”

He went on: “If I describe Vetements, it’s oversized. If it’s Rick Owens, it’s a sleeveless top, three-quarter shorts, and gray colors. Who else? YEEZY. [Kanye West] does not get the credit he deserved for coming out with a fashion silhouette and keeping it, so much so that if you saw that shit in the window of ZARA, you’d be like, ‘YEEZY!’ Very few designers are able to do it.”

When it comes to designers showing memorable collections, silhouettes are everything. The immediacy of a garment’s outline is a counterpart to the subtle details that can only be seen up close or touched to be appreciated. For example, Yohji Yamamoto has made loose and flowing shapes in black part of his signature, meaning his work is recognizable without needing to check the label or see a logo. But fashion silhouette can signify identity beyond brand or designer.

“Probably not since the New Romantics has menswear been as creative, fluid, and diverse as it is today,” says Gill Linton, CEO and editor-in-chief of online vintage outlet Byronesque. “Rick [Owens], Gucci, Thom Browne et al have, in their own ways, shattered the norms of what makes a shape suitable ‘menswear.’ But men have always used clothing as ‘code.’

“Way back to the ’80s skinheads, shapes and lengths were used as signifiers of belonging, in this case to a certain class or gang. Skinheads showed their allegiance through the lengths of their jeans, for example. In the same way, albeit less organized or ‘official,’ men today show their allegiance to designers in drop-crotch pants (Rick Owens), cropped suits (Thom Browne), or masculine frills (Gucci). These silhouettes are codes of social belonging. More so in menswear than womenswear because these silhouettes are still relatively new and in stark contrast to the traditional ones.”

In the past decade, menswear has been dominated by heavy graphic signifiers and brand logos, thanks, in part, to the rise of social media and the fact clothes are often bought with the intention of being shot, shared, and liked than they are for being worn in the day-to-day, which is where a silhouette can really come to life. In that sense, it would be remiss for any menswear enthusiast to underestimate the value of a memorable and emphatic form.

With that in mind, and using Jean-Raymond’s examples as a launching point, we’ve examined six of the most powerful and enduring fashion silhouettes of our time.

FASHION SILHOUETTE DEFINITION

A common word used in the Fashion world is  FASHION SILHOUETTE. When referring to the fashion silhouette, they are talking about the OUTLINE of the CLOTHING.  Throughout time, fashion eras have been defined by the fashion silhouette (the outline of the clothing).  If you look at the picture above, you will see lots of different silhouettes that have different shapes. Each Silhouette in this picture represents a different FASHION ERA.  Each silhouette has different areas that are accentuated in different places to define the silhouette. Below are the basic Silhouettes.

4 BASIC FASHION SILHOUETTES

1.HOURGLASS SILHOUETTE

​An HOURGLASS SILHOUETTE emphasizes at the SHOULDERS and the HIPS.  The waist is cinched in.  This silhouette gave the prada boots garment a very feminine appearance, emphasizing NATURAL feminine curves.

The early 1900’s hourglass fashion silhouette cinched the waist in unmercifully using a CORSET, and sometimes women would have lower ribs SURGICALLY REMOVED to achieve this unrealistic silhouette.

2.S-CURVE FASHION SILHOUETTE

An S-CURVE SILHOUETTE still has emphasis at the SHOULDERS and the UPPER HALF of the body. The WAIST is cinched in, just like with the hourglass silhouette.  The FULLNESS of the skirt is brought around to the back of the body, creating what is called a BUSTLE.

3.TUBULAR SILHOUETTE

​The TUBULAR SILHOUETTE is the simplest fashion silhouette of all.  It is STRAIGHT up and down from TOP to BOTTOM.  There is not a real emphasis anywhere.  The idea of the tubular silhouette is to SIMPLIFY the shape of the clothing and make the lines simple.

4.INVERTED TRIANGLE SILHOUETTE

​The INVERTED TRIANGLE SILHOUETTE EMPHASIZES the shoulders and SIMPLIFIES the hips.  The idea of the inverted triangle silhouette colour block dress was to offer a BUSINESS-LIKE silhouette to women.  

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