In my last post I mentioned how much I’d enjoyed exploring the SS16 catwalk shows from the recent fashion weeks. Spotting the trends – and understanding the ‘why’ behind them – has been interesting and challenging. Here’s a key SS16 womenswear trend I’ve identified with some ideas about the macro trends behind it: the Triangle.
SS16 Trend: The Triangle
In repeated shows I spotted a very different silhouette to previous seasons: a base-down triangle. Style lines converged on the neck and pointed towards the face, with lots of volume around the hips and further down the legs. Some examples might be the halterneck dresses at Chloe, or the voluminous dresses from Parsons MFA, long coats over leggings at Balmain or Chanel’s wide-legged trousers and tunics. Triangles also appeared as details: triangular splits in wrap skirts, triangular application of ruffles or detailing across the body, and very deeply cut V-necks.
Exploring the triangle
The triangle is a fascinating shape to use in fashion. As a base-down silhouette, it subverts some of the traditional cliches of dressing a woman by blurring the position and size of the waist (rather than highlighting its tininess) and actively avoiding balancing the bust and hips by disguising one and hanging off the other.
The triangle is also an incredibly strong silhouette. It’s one of the strongest shapes in construction, due to the wide footprint and sloping, load-shedding sides. So to use it as a silhouette in women’s dress conveys a sense of strength and stability.
The base-up triangle might be recognised as a archetypal 1940s or 1980s silhouette: wide, padded shoulders with a fitted waist and straight skirt, or loose, wide-shouldered top with tapered trousers. In the base-up silhouette the head is almost sat like a bust on a pedestal, disconnected from the rest of the body.
In the base-down triangle silhouette, everything converges on the head as a focal point – like a classic statue where dynamic lines of arms and bits of vine gesture upwards. The face becomes an essential design element, rather than an afterthought. In SS16 it’s also highlighted by accessories trends like huge earrings or Dior’s layered choker-and-scarf.
The base-down triangle can conceal a woman’s body fairly comprehensively while also revealing areas which (because the rest is concealed) become erogenous zones. Triangle details break up the ‘natural’ curves of a woman’s body, interrupting the flow with ‘unnatural’ angles and creating a kind of tension in the silhouette (a zig zag is a good example of triangles used to create visual tensions).
Strength and the new feminism
The appearance of the triangle so comprehensively across the catwalks as a new silhouette for womenswear reflects some of the changing ideas about womanhood, especially influenced by the new feminism which is shaping attentive women across the world. The best versions of this feminism are intersectional, embracing diversity in ethnicity and gender. They are also a step away from obsessions with physical form that may have hung around previous ‘waves’; there’s more focus on the capabilities, intelligence, personalities, individuality and normality of women.
I see the base-down triangle as embodying some of these ideas through providing a strong, powerful form which plays with established ideas of what a ‘woman’ or a ‘strong woman’ should look like. It doesn’t accentuate traditional areas of feminine allure (waist, bust, ankles) but covers them, instead drawing attention to a woman’s face (and mind). As a detail, it creates tension, interruption and dynamism – a kind of multi-directional element reflecting the multi-faceted quality of ‘woman’.
The base-down triangle is a comfortable shape; it frees up the waist, stomach, hips and legs to move and work naturally while still appearing streamlined and strong. This is a sharp contrast to, for example, a 1950s or even a 1980s silhouette, with high (and tight waistbands), body-con dresses or fluffy petticoat skirts which are difficult to sit down in.
Women are increasingly interested in clothing which crosses the borders of dressing ‘situations’. The increase in garments made from jersey, knit and stretch fabric, including traditional workwear garments (like suit jackets) reimagined in these fabrics, signals an interest in owning clothes which are as comfortable as loungewear but as professional as office wear.
The base-down triangle, in a range of different fabrics, allows women to have stylish, professional clothing that’s also comfortable. Why not a loose base-up triangle silhouette? Because a woman’s body carries a lot of energy and activity in the bottom half (like menstruation, digestion and load-bearing hips) and is also a common area for weight gain and poor clothing fit – the waist-to-hip ratio and crotch measurement are tricky ones to get right.
Modesty and new consumer groups
The base-down triangle silhouette can cover a woman’s body, highlighting key areas (like her face) but downplaying what would be considered the ‘traditional erogenous zones’. Although in the SS16 catwalks triangles were used to create new erogenous zones, one of the key themes was the covering and interruption of a woman’s body.
I see this as an important reaction to an increased interest in modest dressing. This could definitely be read as a strong play towards engaging with Muslim women, who are looking for attractive, creative clothing which also fulfils religious and cultural requirements – the abaya often sprang to mind when I was looking at some of the shows. The Muslim demographic is seen as the ‘next big thing’ in fashion, unsurprisingly with large and widespread increases in the religion predicted over the next few years, and emerging middle classes in Islamic countries.
However, modest dressing also appeals to women from other particular religious communities and potentially older women (who are also more likely to have disposable income) looking to display personality rather than their body. Due to the newest incarnation in feminism, there’s also a youthful demographic who are interested in how to be fashionable without revealing your body – almost shifting attention away from your form to your fashion choices.
By using a combination of base-down triangle silhouette to cover, and dramatic triangle detailing to reveal, a designer can appeal to a modest consumer and one who is interested in displaying her body as well as her clothing.
All of the following image references are to the original source. If you use any of the catwalk images in this article please reference as:
Snare, E. 2015. Untitled (edited image of [use original reference description here]. [Online]. [Accessed [date]]. Available from: http://eleanorsnare.com/ss16-womenswear-trend-the-triangle/
References in order of appearance:
Weston Arnold, K. 2015. Untitled (Salvatore Ferragamo SS16 Ready to wear Look 29). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from: http://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2016-ready-to-wear/salvatore-ferragamo/slideshow/collection#29
Vlamos, Y. 2015. Untitled (Trussardi SS16 Ready to wear Look 3). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from: http://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2016-ready-to-wear/trussardi/slideshow/collection#3
Vlamos, Y. 2015. Untitled (Marni SS16 Ready to wear Look 22). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from: http://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2016-ready-to-wear/marni/slideshow/collection#22
Tombolini, L. 2015. Untitled (Victoria Beckham SS16 Ready to wear Look 11). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from: http://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2016-ready-to-wear/victoria-beckham/slideshow/collection#11
Vlamos, Y. 2015. Untitled (Chanel SS16 Ready to wear Look 87). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from: http://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2016-ready-to-wear/chanel/slideshow/collection#87
Weston Arnold, K. 2015. Untitled (Chloé SS16 Ready to wear Look 44). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from: http://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2016-ready-to-wear/chloe/slideshow/collection#44
Pucci, G. 2015. Untitled (MSGM SS16 Ready to wear Look 13). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from: http://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2016-ready-to-wear/msgm/slideshow/collection#13
Feudi, M. 2015. Untitled (Givenchy SS16 Ready to wear Look 80). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from: http://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2016-ready-to-wear/givenchy/slideshow/collection#80
Tondo, M. 2015. Untitled (Alexander McQueen SS16 Ready to wear Look 32). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from: http://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2016-ready-to-wear/alexander-mcqueen/slideshow/collection#32
Yannis, V. 2015. Untitled (Chalayan SS16 Ready to wear Look 53). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from: http://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2016-ready-to-wear/chalayan/slideshow/collection#53
Tondo, M. 2015. Untitled (Burberry Prorsum SS16 Ready to wear Look 45). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from: http://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2016-ready-to-wear/burberry-prorsum/slideshow/collection#45
Tondo, M. 2015. Untitled (Eudon Choi SS16 Ready to wear Look 7). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from: http://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2016-ready-to-wear/eudon-choi/slideshow/collection#7
Tondo, M. 2015. Untitled (Isabel Marant SS16 Ready to wear Look 41). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from: http://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2016-ready-to-wear/isabel-marant/slideshow/collection#41
Feudi, M. 2015. Untitled (Balmain SS16 Ready to wear Look 22). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from: http://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2016-ready-to-wear/balmain/slideshow/collection#22
Tondo, M. 2015. Untitled (Parsons MFA SS16 Ready to wear Look 6). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from: http://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2016-ready-to-wear/parsons-mfa/slideshow/collection#6
Tondo, M. 2015. Untitled (Parsons MFA SS16 Ready to wear Look 86). [Online]. [Accessed 19 October]. Available from: http://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2016-ready-to-wear/parsons-mfa/slideshow/collection#86