Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Maxi memories

I'm disconcerted.

The maxi skirt has resurfaced. People are actually wearing them - well, in blogland anyway. And I cannot remember the last time an item of clothing made me feel so uncomfortable. The jumpsuit, the 80s shoulder pad, the leggings - these were all remnants of a decade long gone, but for me they held no personal memories. I knew that they were wrong (until they were right again) but I had no personal issue with them. But the maxi is another story.

I'm trying to pin down what it is about this garment that seems so alien, so out of time and place - why does it make me uncomfortable? My first glimpse in years was on another style blog. My first thought - "Why would you do that?" Then on Off the High Street, a member asking how to wear one. And indeed, they have been all over the catwalks, though they escaped my attention entirely. Ann Demeulemeester and Max Mara sent them down the runways last year, and the fall '10 catwalks were awash with swishy skirts, sweeping the dust from beneath the models' shoes.

My memories of the skirt are mixed and frequent.

1994: aged 12, in a long dark green tube skirt with a Chinese print on it. Think there was a matching shirt.

15 years old, still indulging life-long hippy tendencies (now quashed forever) in a purple satin C&A floor-sweeper and vest top. There was also a black jersey version.

Aged 16, seeing one of the cool girls in college rock a ballgown skirt to the Christmas dance, teamed awesomely with pink basketball vest and Vans. The ballgown skirt flounces its way insouciantly through art classes for the next month.

Aged 16, shamelessly copying her in a pale grey jersey Topshop maxi with back slit, Converse and red basketball vest. The look is infinitely less successful on my pale, bony, sort-of-brunette body.

Aged 17, still enchanted by that one look, attempt to team under-netted gunmetal maxi (more ballgowny, see??) with corset at indie/rock clubnight. Oh dear. The end of my career in maxi skirts.

The 90s ends.

And here's Ann Demeulemeester, with a rufflier version of my grey jersey tribute skirt, to remind me of what I did not look like.

Yet fashion is so contextual, and even now, seeing the new maxis with fresh eyes and surrounded by new opinions, I have no idea what I think of them. I recoil, but not with a familiar "Ugh, how ugly" reaction - I think it's just simple, personal confusion - "Why is it back?" How did I actually feel in my long skirts? I think I felt elegant, flowing, otherworldly, TALL. All the things I was not when I was an insectoid teenager. Looking back, I know I was merely deluded, and the thought, and these reminders, leave me uncomfortable. (Maybe I tried so hard to make this skirt work, with such rubbish results, that I resent its return.) Could I feel elegant now in a skirt like this?

And could I get through the day in one? Floor-length feels all wrong in this bustling city. I'm not Sienna Miller, nor do I have a meadow to frolic in. Even my beloved long grey strappy chiffon Jigsaw dress, bias-cut and perfect with a tough brown belt and flat red sandals, feels bizarre in smoky London. What would I wear a maxi with? How does one look defined and sharp in one, without losing half one's shape or looking out of one's time? Fashion has become so sexualised, culminating in last year's body-con; am I ready to sartorially silence half my anatomy?

No, I do not trust the maxi skirt.


Make Do Style said...

It is a tricky one - I'm going to try again tomorrow. I think things look alien at first but thankfully it is never the same cut.

Dylana said...

Lovely blog!


WendyB said...

I've been loving them for years! Maxi dresses too....I think they're very sexy.

Charponnaise said...

Make Do - It's true, they do... but I think I'm scarred for life!

Dylana - Thanks! Welcome, hope you continue to enjoy it!

WendyB - I like maxi dresses, though I still rarely feel quite right stomping around London in one - so many feet to trip over! But I find the idea of maxi skirts so much more difficult. Maybe it's the simplicity of a maxi dress - its sexiness is that for all its modesty, you can fling it on and off quickly?! It's nonchalant, which isn't quite as true of a long skirt with a top.