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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Fashion isn’t only for the young and the skinny any more

News of Linda Evangelista’s cosmetic procedure trauma has been the talk of the internet, where the former supermodel’s Instagram post about what she claimed were the negative effects of a CoolSculpting treatment sparked an outpouring of support; it has also been the talk of Milan’s fashion week shows, where her tale has been passed from one socially distanced chair to another like a fashion horror storey; and it has also been the talk of the fashion world.

It has once again highlighted concerns about ageism and sizeism in the entertainment business (and society in general), as well as the continuing emphasis on extreme youth. Given the significant advances made on the runways in recent years toward more variety of skin tone — and there has been significant improvement — what is becoming increasingly apparent in Milan is that when it comes to size and age, very little has changed in the last few years.

Indeed, despite some attempts on the New York runways to broaden the concept of beauty to include a more diverse range of body types, the models on the Milan runways are once again extremely young and very skinny. “Wow, you’d never know she’d just had a kid,” says one observer of Gigi Hadid as a new mother. “Wow, you’d never know she’d just had a baby,” says another.

It seems like a step backward, rather than a step forward, as we emerge from the epidemic (or semi-emerge), as many things in fashion do. Of course, there is comfort in familiarity, but not the sort that we are talking about here.

Fashion has always been preoccupied with the young vote and the need to entice future generations of customers to purchase its products. However, as happened at Missoni, where the brand’s new creative director Alberto Caliri (Angela Missoni stepped down as head of the studio in May) seemed to link the need for “fresh” and “new” (as well as TikTok) with a sort of sleazy voyeurism.

Fashion designers paired vintage denim with string bikinis and scarf halter tops that barely covered the breasts, chopped sections out of recognisable knits to reveal the flimsy bra beneath as if they were outfitting an Amazon for a nightclub jaunt, and sequined halter gowns were cut low enough in the back to reveal a permanent flash of G-string. This did not have an empowering effect on me; rather, it was objectifying. Even the models kept a close eye on things to make sure everything was in working order on the set.

Missoni has always been a brand that has recognised the really global, sensuous power of the knit from the beginning. It was possible to replicate the attraction with some basic column dresses (as well as some sloppy patchworks worn over cargo trousers). There aren’t nearly enough of them.

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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