Baggy Chic

Bulk is not a word that endears itself to fashionistas. They prefer oversized. It is further proof that fashion folk cannot bear too much reality.
The reality of fashion shifts, however. The invention of the “American teenager”, with its youthful looks and figure, for example, came in the 1940s, when elegance was causing much distress for the women of middle America. What looked effortless on the backs of pampered ladies required a lot more sweat from the matrons of Poughkeepsie. Teenagers had no time for such formality. They wanted casual and sporty, so they invented the sloppy joe sweater: bulky and shapeless – as were so many of the young girls who wore it – to camouflage their still-developing figures. It didn’t take long for Italian knitwear manufacturers, excited by new, thick yarns, to realise that oversized could be made fashionable in a new style climate. Big-collared, loose, chunky sweaters looked so great with narrow trousers that they became a fashion cliché that lasted for more than 20 years. They morphed into parkas and bomber jackets, neither of which worked if they actually fitted. The look was everywhere in the 1970s and 1980s.
And in the early 21
st century it returned, as young and fresh as ever in the hands of Stella McCartney, who gave us big parkas and giant sweaters that have so much style, you wouldn’t think of, let alone use, the “b” word. But, life being what it is, even they look better with a swanlike neck rising out of them.
(First published December 2002)

Picture. Mens Fall Winter 2008/09