It must have been tyranny for women living during the time of corsets — first brought to court in France to ban thick waists (seriously), the corset continued to make breathing a grave effort for at least 350 years. That’s a hell of a long time to be constricted. And yet, even as the boned bodice of torture was unlaced in the 1920s to give way to more comfortable brassieres and girdles, women always had the uncanny ability to regress to past aesthetics and move into the new.
Each decade in this century has promised — well at least, tried to offer — some sort of freedom from previous fashion oppressions. The fall of the corset resulted in the waistless silhouette of the liberal flappers in the ‘20s, and as a backlash to all that daringness, the ‘30s saw a counter step towards the more feminine again, with the waist back to its proper position. The ‘60s saw another rebellion from all the properness — and reminiscent of the ‘20s, ultra short skirts and A-line shifts were back with a vengeance. So on until the ‘70s, where the bohemian peace community favored anti-fit flowing tunics, flared bell bottoms and chanted the no bra and make love not war mantra. When the ‘80s came, it was another complete turnaround: all about excess, power dressing, and moving in the man’s corporate world.
Looking back, there was always a battle for women to be competent. A fight for sartorial independence. But what is fashion, if not a reflection of the times and a mirror of a decade’s culture? A quote from the French poet Jean Cocteau, an avant-garde hybrid ahead of his time, a poet, novelist, dramatist, designer, boxing manager, playwright, artist and filmmaker, said: “Art produces ugly things, which frequently become more beautiful with time. Fashion, on the other hand, produces beautiful things, which always become ugly with time.” Not that I would go as far as to say that it becomes ugly, but in present-day vernacular, I would like to think that that would mean the saturation point. Like gladiator heels, where it all became too much, having something become mainstream is only good for consumerism, but individuality chafes and balks at the thought of such obvious fashion clones. Hence — we find in fashion today an unhesitating reversal of design and aesthetics.
Which brings us to the now. At the turn of another 10 years, the turnover of fashion doesn’t take 100 years as it did in the 19th century, nor does it take decades as with years past with style compartmentalized in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, but instead, fashion now is democratic and fast. Sometimes a season is all it takes for a trend to survive. Dissimilarity is the subversive movement of the style army, and liberation from the tyranny of fashion means working on no rules at all.
The recently concluded Philippine Fashion Week provided the alternative platform for style revolutionaries to show off their own brand of ruling party, and each one clearly demonstrated a personal revolution. So with the theme of Independence as the basis of freedom from everything, these few represent total style emancipation.
1. Liberation from the predictable event uniform: Forget off-the-rack pieces, designers provide a deeper range of clothing choices — ones that definitely avoid that awkward Samantha Jones and Miley Cyrus moment. Celebrity Carla Abellana is in a pretty sheer and high shine cocktail dress by Sassa Jimenez.
2. Liberation from blending in: It takes courage to stand out with statement pieces, this tiered summery maxi dress would look pretty normal just by itself, but amped up by a wide brim floppy hat, its goes from blah to beautiful.
3. Liberation from taboos: Lace and lingerie aren’t relegated to boudoirs anymore; instead, innerwear as outerwear is a sexy way to adapt to this merciless heat wave.
4. Liberation from neutrals: Liz Uy painting the tailored way to colors, fuschia, reds and oranges all tempered by a khaki focal point
5. Liberation from leather not being Manila appropriate: Who says you can’t wear leather in this climate? Spring’s version in warm chocolate brown in a high-waisted pencil shape definitely says otherwise.
6. Liberation from minimalism: Stacking on those rings, wrist jangles and harness necklaces lend a very rockstar rebellion chic to this layered slouchy-con outfit.
7. Liberation from rules that need to match shoes with your bag: Though Lissa Kahayon plays with a lot of contradictions here, from the uncoordinated bag and shoes to the off-colored belt, black camisole, and gold gloves, she still looks pretty put together to me.
8. Liberation from pairing prints with solids: Prints on prints have never looked so good. Stylebible’s Isha Andaya’s key to making it work is through scale and gradation, tiny dots are offset by huge spots. Making it complementary instead of clashing.
9. Liberation from the ubiquitous white shirt and jeans combo: Seriously, denim in all its reincarnations, provides a plethora of choices. So why go basic when you can look as fabulous as Eloise in ultra-skinny cargo jeans paired with a romantic pirate-sleeved blouse — buttoned all the way up?
10. Liberation from gender: This masculine shirt paired with a tailored jacket is a look clearly borrowed from the boys. But the streamlined fit and long length unmistakably lends it a feminine touch. Paired with sporty slim track pants and statement footwear, this look seamlessly blends genders.
11. Liberation from black and browns faux pas: Long a favorite rule of the fashion uptight, matching black footwear with a brown belt is a serious no-no. But Nina Lacson debunks this dated decorum with an unapologetic tan leather cincher to go with her playful day dress, structured piped jacket and laced up flat booties.
12. Liberation from velvet as evening wear: Luxurious and rich, it’s easy to think that this fabric should only be appropriate for evening, but reworked in this tailored blazer shape, it can be worn in the day as well as transitioning effortlessly to night. Preview’s EIC Pauline Juan wears hers with sheer harem pants, contrasting the velvet’s inky opaqueness with filmy transparency.