Your clothes fit­ting prop­erly? So 2015.

Is the XXL Trend sily or sub­ver­sive? Clara Young ex­plores the story be­hind this con­tro­ver­sial style.

ELLE (Canada) - - In­sider - By Clara Young

Over sized fash­ion

comes in many shapes and forms. The most crowd-pleas­ing it­er­a­tion is the boyfriend jacket or boyfriend shirt, which has be­come a pop­u­lar item in to­day’s sar­to­rial ver­nac­u­lar de­spite the fact that the man-size item cre­ates a lit­tle-girl ef­fect when worn by women. There is noth­ing be­lit­tling, how­ever, about this sea­son’s take on over­sized cloth­ing. Fall/win­ter 2016 col­lec­tions have been cut and tai­lored so big as to be ab­sur­dist. But­tressed shoul­ders jut out well be­yond the shoul­der blades at Vete­ments and Jac­que­mus. A com­ple­ment to this NFL­linebacker look is the one-but­ton hobo coat at Marc Ja­cobs with ex­tra-large shoul­ders slop­ing into sleeves that slump past the fin­ger­tips. At Cé­line, trousers as wide as the sea and as long as the day pool around the shoes. They make the short, skinny shrunk­en­ness at Saint Lau­rent and Louis Vuit­ton look un­gen­er­ous.

“The over­all out­line is larger,” says Va­lerie Steele, direc­tor of The Mu­seum at the Fash­ion In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in New York. “The body is tak­ing up more room. It’s an as­ser­tion of pres­ence and sub­jec­tiv­ity.” That’s an aca­demic way of say­ing that these are big clothes peo­ple will give a wide berth to. No one is go­ing to get cud­dly with Mil­dred Pierce shoul­ders, the padded be­he­moths Joan Craw­ford wore in the 1945 film of the same name. It’s an ag­gres­sive sil­hou­ette that goes with the prickly self-pro­tec­tive­ness of dom­i­nant fall trends. The glossy-hard patent leathers at Hood By Air and leather mo­tor­bike out­fits at Chloé pro­ject the same mes­sage: “Watch out.”

One can read other sub­texts into the over­sized trend: Big clothes are comfy, there­fore not suf­fer­ing for fash­ion is fem­i­nist-minded; big clothes ob­scure sex by con­tin­u­ing the an­drog­y­nous trend; and big clothes are sex­u­ally ret­i­cent, which puts them into the po­lit­i­cal arena of mod­est fash­ion and the pref­er­ences of con­ser­va­tive re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties. But pol­i­tics of size aside, the pumped-up vol­ume draws more at­ten­tion to the cloth­ing it­self. It’s not just there to cover the body or glo­rify it; it’s there to stand out in­de­pen­dently of it. “I’ve al­ways loved over­sized,” says Lutz Huelle, a de­signer who worked for Martin Margiela be­fore start­ing his epony­mous la­bel in 2000. His dropped-shoul­der, ex­tra-long-sleeved dresses this sea­son are true to his aes­thetic while hit­ting the trend dead cen­tre. “I’ve al­ways dressed peo­ple who do not have an ideal of the per­fect body. Over­sized cloth­ing moves on the body in a dif­fer­ent way. It has a life of its own.”

The new big is not an in­dis­crim­inate muumuu. These are not big drafty tents to wal­low around in but in­trigu­ingly con­tra­dic­tory gar­ments. “Re­ally tai­lored clothes tend to be fit­ted to the body whereas other shapes, like those re­sem­bling the let­ter T, loosely hang around the body,” says Steele. “These fol­low more of an Eastern tra­di­tion, like ot­toman robes and Ja­panese ki­monos. Al­ter­ing the shape [of a gar­ment] is one way to cre­ate a shock of the new.” Maxwell Os­borne and Dao-Yi Chow, who have bor­rowed from the an­drog­y­nous de­signs they are known for at Public School to cre­ate an up­dated aes­thetic at DKNY, agree that the mes­sage is in the shape. “It’s more about cre­at­ing ten­sion with the fit,” they ex­plain. “The ex­tra vol­ume helps to cre­ate more room both fig­u­ra­tively and lit­er­ally.” The dis­con­nect be­tween body and tai­lor­ing is jar­ring this sea­son, but the look isn’t brand new. Comme des Garçons showed XXL jack­ets in fall/win­ter 2014, and Margiela did over­sized in 2000. Also, re­call the ridicu­lously large grey suit David Byrne wore in the 1984 film Stop Mak­ing Sense. “I wanted my head to ap­pear smaller,” Byrne once said in an in­ter­view, “and the eas­i­est way to do that was to make my body big­ger.” In the movie, Byrne’s suit grows with each suc­ces­sive song, just as Mil­dred Pierce’s shoul­der pads in­flate with each step up the cor­po­rate lad­der. The suit be­comes a car­i­ca­ture and takes on a satir­i­cal life of its own.

Byrne’s big box suit in­spired the one Si­mon Porte Jac­que­mus de­signed last year for a mu­sic video. French singer Héloïse Letissier—whose stage name is Chris­tine and the Queens—wore a pow­der-pink pantsuit that slowly spread out like tooth­paste from a tube as the song “Par­adis Perdu” went on. The pink suit was a fore­run­ner of the sea­son’s SpongeBob-shaped suits Jac­que­mus sent down the run­way for fall/win­ter 2016. “In this col­lec­tion, I wanted to make flat clothes that were wear­able,” says the de­signer. Some of his huge-shoul­dered suits come cinched at the waist, while oth­ers are phony box suits. These trompe l’oeil suit jack­ets have square, pin­striped fa­cades—like a sand­wich board or cape—that are, nonethe­less, “nor­mal” in the back with hid­den jacket sleeves. They give the il­lu­sion of a box with­out the en­cum­brance. “They’re square, but you’re not wear­ing a square cage,” says Jac­que­mus.

Grand box suits are more than mere clothes to cover the body; they are a state­ment. The su­per­fluity of their size makes them even akin to sculp­ture. A lit­tle like artist Joseph Beuys’ 1970 felt suits, which were con­ceived not to be worn, the very big suit has art pre­ten­sions be­cause it is hard to wear. Or, per­haps art’s too grandiose a claim. Over­sized may sim­ply be a mat­ter of taste one would do well not to over­an­a­lyze. “Our sil­hou­ette is very [in­spired] by men’s cloth­ing, so I’ve al­ways liked to make women’s cloth­ing with enor­mous trousers and big suits,” says Jac­que­mus. “I don’t know why.” n

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