During the past few months, I’ve struggled with writing under 250 words on topics I could write for hours on the topic of. I could have gone into so much detail I could easily have written 1000 words without thinking. It’s made me re-evaluate how I write, knowing that I need to be short and to the point, whilst helping me develop my style and address the issue at hand.
Although I do wish I’d been given one specific topic and been asked to write about that as an essay, I appreciate how much I feel I’ve learnt through this experience. I dreaded writing my blog posts, knowing I’d have to write, and then edit twice over to reduce my posts to the 250 word limit, but now I have a better understanding of several topics that I’ve covered, and a better understanding of myself through discovery of my own opinions.
Urban Outfitters is primarily known as a ‘hipster’ shop. With a wide range of clothing and lingerie, it has several target audiences, ranging from young teens up to mid-30’s. The store itself uses several different display methods, always utilising furniture of a ‘vintage’ style persuasion. This is definitely an appealing aspect of shopping at Urban Outfitters for their target audience, who don’t want to shop in department stores or less elegantly presented high street shops like Primark, New Look and H&M.
Urban Outfitters are deliberately selling an aspirational lifestyle. With a new store having opened in Leicester, I visited and noticed that they aim for their shop floors to have a similar style to Topshop in the sense of marketing themselves as being a high end shop, without producing high end stock, this gives the illusion of quality, whilst making a huge profit.
‘The Urban [Outfitters] customer, we always talk about, is the upscale homeless person, who has a slight degree of angst and is probably in the life stage of 18 to 26,’ revealed Hayne, adding, ‘The Urban customer is really dressing to attract a mate.’ [Fig2]
This quote from CEO Richard Hayne demonstrates the company’s apparent distain for the Urban Outfitters customer.
Urban Outfitters doesn’t advertise on television, so relies on word of mouth and the attraction of the store fronts to bring in customers. They use bold, graphic prints and colours on their promotional material (such as bags and store information cards), which are eye-catching and demand attention.
The price point can vary intensely, but, like Topshop, they offer promotions on items, such as 3 knickers for £15. This means that despite many items being overpriced, Urban Outfitters ensure that they keep specific, in-the-limelight items on offer to exercise psychological advertising – tricking customers into believing the garments are on a good offer when they had been priced up just to be put on offer to generate revenue.
I, for one, am not a fan of the word ‘modest’. As someone who too often sees women being objectified, and have also been on the receiving end of it, I can understand dressing in a specific way so that certain groups of men won’t catcall, so I feel safe and unthreatened. Despite this, I understand the word ‘modesty’ to be completely unrelated to clothing – a woman could be wearing a burka or a bikini and it would have no relation to how much modesty they have.
To me, modesty is much more about the kind of person someone is, a lack of vanity and unpretentiousness about their work, appearance, personality qualities etc.
“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewellery, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” [Fig1]
Saying this, I need to come up with an outfit which could be deemed ‘modest’ by the public eye. I find the 1950’s style comfortable and elegant, and although I am rather short at 5’4”, I prefer wearing knee length skirts which pull my waist in. I chose a pencil skirt which falls to just above knee length with a slit up the back, and paired it with an ever so slightly sheer, black camisole. I frequently wear camisoles and feel comfortable in them. They’re not too fancy, but also show my décolletage whilst hiding (restraining) my cleavage.
Skirt – Papaya at Matalan – £17
Camisole – River Island – £9
Shoes – New Look – £19.99
Alongside these, I chose a pair of black, square heeled pumps with an ankle strap. They’re comfortable, and not too tall. To me, this is quite formal, reserved for cocktails, or dinner with my family.
A woman’s self respect and modesty is not inversely proportionate to the amount of clothing she is wearing.
I’d followed Hopeless Lingerie’s adventures in creating beautiful lingerie for around a year before I purchased this piece, the Olivia harness. One of the many reasons I admire Gabrielle Adamidis’ work is due to her making the most of what she has at her fingertips. She mentions in an interview that she is limited by living and working in Melbourne, Australia, she doesn’t have as much access to a wide variety of wholesale trims, so most of her collections are black, but she works with those problems to create collections which look effortless, chic and are very comfortable.
“…I use black trims a lot because it is all that is available here in Australia to purchase wholesale. So this black edging and framing that runs through a lot of my work is more than just aesthetic.”[Fig3]
Gabrielle sources her elastics from Japan – high quality satin elastic is one of her most commonly used trims in her harnesses, and some of the softest I’ve ever found.
As Hopeless Lingerie is a small (very small) brand, their materials are commonly sourced wholesale from the country of origin.
The satin elastic began it’s life as a polyester and cotton blend, which was woven into the satin elastic. Next it would be dyed, black in this case, and after this it would be folded and stored in boxes until it would be purchased, and shipped to Melbourne to be received by Gabrielle.
From then, after my order had been processed, Gabrielle would cut and assemble the elastic for the harness, and within 6-8 weeks it was dispatched, flown to the UK and delivered to me in north wales via the Post Office sorting office in Chester.
Lingerie and undergarments have varied drastically over the last 100 years. What interests me is underwear of the last few decades. Men’s boxer briefs are designed to be comfortable, to support and protect, and to fit snugly underneath typical male clothing.
The difference between womens’ lingerie is drastic. Many bras and knickers are designed for the aesthetics, not comfort. Underwires dig into breast tissue, power mesh panels at the back of bras cut in and create a ‘muffin top’ effect, and knickers are often designed with too narrow, or too low a gusset – leaving specific places to be rubbed the very wrongway.
The question I’d like to pose is – ‘Why do so few women wear men’s boxers?’
One of the main answers is of course the societal view, they are a masculine item. Another being a question of ‘Visible Panty Line’.
Ranges of womens’ boxers, created by the brand Foxers, have experimented with creating shapes similar to boxer briefs, but adding a feminine edge by using stretch lace all-over, or lace trims. As much as I appreciate the effort, these styles still look considerably uncomfortable. If a gusset were introduced to the typical shape of boxer briefs, I believe they would sell very well, and would save many women from an uncomfortable fate of the ever-dreaded front wedgie.
Women are expected to squeeze themselves into garments designed to restrict, smooth, flatten the stomach and push the bosom so far up the chest it looks like implants, which makes me wonder, how much have we changed in our use of undergarments since the Victorian or Edwardian style, 100 years ago?
The UK fashion industry is massive, with a total UK household consumption on clothing and footwear priced at £59 billion per annum[Fig1]. With this in mind, most of the clothing purchased in the UK is manufactured in USA, Japan, Russia, France, Italy, Middle East, Hong Kong, and China [Fig2]. The kind of working environments within these countries are over very poor, using methods such as child labour and underpaying their employees severely.
With this in mind, H&M recently (2013) began introducing their ‘Conscious’ line to stores. Whilst also reducing their CO2 emissions through factories, H&M are working to increase their in-store electricity efficiency, use renewable energy such as wind power and solar panels, and equip the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ idea to recycle old garments into new collections [Fig3].
Landfill is a primary target for H&M’s concern, with signs around the stores rewarding customers for handing in unwanted garments by the bag, and by creating recycled plastic shopping bags.
H&M’s conscious denim line, whilst being a brilliant idea, has struck the dull chord, however. Many of the collections pieces are beautiful, but they’re almost all basics. Plain t-shirts, staple denims and unimaginative lingerie seem like a safe bet to begin with, but to create attention for H&M with the ‘Conscious’ line, it would be to include statement pieces.
By creating several maternity garments, they’re targeting the ‘new mum’ group, which will always be a massive consumer, as many families aim to eat organic and dress sustainably, but maternity lines will never be frontrunners for a multi-billion pound company such as H&M, and I believe the company needs to broaden their horizons and target the faster fashion aesthetic with their ‘Conscious’ line, else their sustainability won’t be sustainable formuch longer.
“I think the consumer ultimately wants more ethical products, but they’re not willing to sacrifice what they’re used to and what they like,” said Jason Keehn, CEO and founder of Accompany, a fair-trade and philanthropic online retailer. “The consumer will grab the ethical item as long as it’s not a trade-off.” [Fig6]
Fig 1 & 2. – Facts and Figures in the UK fashion industry – statistics about the fashion business in England – size of economic activities. 2014. Facts and Figures in the UK fashion industry – statistics about the fashion business in England – size of economic activities. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.fashionunited.co.uk/facts-and-figures-in-the-uk-fashion-industry. [Accessed 10 December 2014].
[F] What made you pursue creating your own clothes during the 70’s?
[J] Because I couldn’t afford to buy clothes, basically! My mum sewed lots of clothes for us when we were little so she taught me how to sew. If I wanted a dress or trousers to go out in, she would help me fit the patten. By the late 70’s I’d make my own patterns, I’d copy things I already had that I liked the shape of and change them to whatever I wanted. Being able to buy simple patterns from the shops was a really big help, too, and meant I could keep up to date with fashion even when I couldn’t afford to buy clothes from a shop.
Can you describe one occasion where you were glad you could sew your own clothes?
When I was a teenager, I was very tall for my age. The problem is, when you’re 14, the boys haven’t had their growth spurts and I tended to be taller than most of them. At the time, long skirts were popular, and I used to make my own out of old curtains and things. That meant that when I was with a boy that was a bit short, I could walk with my knees bent mostly all the time and nobody could tell!
Can you give an example of a garment you made?
I’d always said I wanted to make my own wedding dress. The dress I made was like an Edwardian walking dress, as I really loved that style. It was made from an apricot colour cotton fabric which was Broderie Anglaise, and it had really expensive Guipure lace for the collar. I had little tiny lace fingerless gloves to match and a parasol too!
Fig 1. – Piper, Michael (1974) Portrait of E.Judith Piper [Accessed 09 December 2014]
Fig 2. – Lyons, Irene (1973) Family Portrait [Accessed 09 December 2014]