The last couple of entries were all about gentle, feminine beauty playing with fabrics and proportions to forge an athletic silhouette and blend into the modern gender-bending aesthetic. Here, here, and here you can find a lot of hands-on advice on how to disguise a fouetté thigh for a marathoner’s gam.
Yet, all that was about adapting a feminine beauty to athletic standards. What I truly want to talk about is how to build a look that fits into the modern landscape while staying true to an authentic feminine beauty, which I define as a Siren type.
Maurice Rentner 1954.
This will be my Formula #2 and I base it on “The New Look,” a signature silhouette from the 1950s, which represents the epitome of femininity, something that has been both missing and missed in the modern landscape. It is hard to imagine something as uptight and prim as the 1950s New Look in today’s laid back, informal world and yet modern designers have been using it as a base for casual everyday wear.
Donna Karan has been praised for marrying soft and structured, which is exactly what gentle, feminine Siren beauty needs. Many Donna Karan looks are a play of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s silhouettes executed in jersey. The 1950s “New Look” is most commonly associated with a circle skirt and heavily boned, tailored corset top. While this is true, it is also a bit limiting. “New Look,” a term that then Vogue Director Carmel Snow used to define fresh silhouettes introduced by the young Parisian designer Christian Dior, actually featured several silhouettes including a snug pencil skirt, full circle skirt, and another voluminous item, a tulip skirt. It was a step up from the war limitations of the 1940s characterized by a more subtle outline.
The key features of the “New Look” are:
* Exaggerated proportions of the female body
* Lush mid-calf length
Deeper into the 1950s the hems started climbing up closer to the knee and prepping the soil for the sporty moods of the 1960s. But all freshly pressed “New Look” skirts featured mid-calf length: the most feminine, sensual, sultry length, and a solid base of any Siren’s wardrobe. With stretchy jersey fabrics Donna Karan nails the body-con effect that in the bygone era was achieved by artful tapering and tailoring.
I took cues from the designer’s vision and did a little DIY recreating the 1950s “New Look” silhouette, to fit the modern laid back, informal way of life. My workhorse is a Haider Ackermann sweater skirt. Here is the closest version I have found from Maje. To get the desired results, aim for a generous mid-calf length and a really snug model. In the beginning it may feel a bit like vacuum packaging, rather than an easy jersey, but you just need to treat it like jeans. When you aim for a good pair, you always want them a bit tight in the dressing room. The tight, snug jersey will help mimic the tapered effect of the 1950s painstakingly tailored pencil skirt.
SHOES: You know those ankle-booties that have been idling in your closet for years because they are just so good at truncating legs? The snug, body-con, mid-calf jersey skirt will finally give you a chance to wear them. Just make sure the skirt is long enough to turn the gap between the hem and the bootie into a little sliver of skin. This will modernize the classic silhouette while keeping your legs runway model long. Keep the skirt and the booties in the same hue family, ideally the same color. I like suede booties better than leather, because suede is more laid-back and blends in with the inherently sporty jersey. Also, once you swing from the “New Look” back to jeans, you will notice how much better job suede complements denim.
As if this is not generous enough, jersey fabric on a snug mid-calf skirt opens the door for a variety of shoe choices outside of the inherently feminine “New Look.” They range from slip-ons, sneakers, and spectators, to combat and rubber boots, whimsical pumps, or sandals over cashmere socks. All of these fashion-forward, gender-bending combos thrive in the company of jersey, which brings the required modern component into this eclectic look.
TOPS: For more athletic and tomboyish beauties for whom I’ve developed my Amazon badge, soft jersey fabrics are exactly what allow them to sport the “New Look” without looking matronly and stumpy. Amazons do not need a tightly tapered hem to look swell; they can go for jersey skirts with more give. They typically have no problem finding something to pair it with as most jersey tops will work.
But it is not nearly as easy for Sirens with their soft, gentle torso lines. “Formula One: In His Shirt” aimed to disguise the gentle S line of the feminine torso. Forthe “New Look” these exact lines are key. They need to be highlighted and/or exposed. Most tops that have been available on the market up until recently are either too long, their necklines are too loose, or both. This is not the cut that complements a well-defined waist and long, elegant back curve. Siren types are in need of cropped tops with crafty necklines as they help mimic the bolero or cape-like jacket from the 1950s, which often accompanied the tapered mid-calf skirt. One way to recreate the look with 21-century ease is a chunky cropped sweater. It is great to source one with the neckline structured to the point of a medieval helm, not a relaxed cowl-neck. Another way is to go in a completely different direction and pair the snug jersey mid-calf skirt with an off the shoulder sweater, which will evoke the image of Bette Davis in All About Eve. Remember that the “New Look” is all about exaggeration. For a soft, feminine, Siren type beauty, an off the shoulder sweater is not a hot trend, it’s a wardrobe staple.
Bette Davis as Margo Channning in “All About Eve” (1950)
A piece of jersey peeking from underneath a fully closed coat is a poor sight. But put the entire jersey garment generously on display and everything changes. This is when cropped, tailored, or swing down coats with lavish necklines and sleeves gracefully shortened for longer gloves come into play and help your modernized “New Look” fit right in the middle of busy 21st century life. Don’t torture these 1950s inspired puffers with jeans tucked into boots. Pair them with a mid-calf, snug jersey skirt and ankle boots and enjoy your modern, feminine silhouette to its fullest.
Getting closure on a skirt that did not fit a wardrobe, a mien, or a lifestyle
Going back to Sophia’s skirts. The whole story started when a Russian reader named Sophia sent me a question about ‘a particular type of skirt’ and sent two pictures along. Instead of clear directions I broke out with a novella about how various godets turned milestones of my life. Now that I’ve gotten it […]