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Fashion In A Padded Sell

Nov 29, 2007
I'm not sure I should admit this, but ordinairily I hate fashion shows. Far from the air of sophisticated cool they like to project, they are usually scenes of disorganised chaos. Nothing can make a half naked model seem less sexy than seeing her get screamed at by a pompous fashion designer for not doing up some buttons in the right order!

In fact the Italians has a great word for scenes like this 'casino'. Literally translated it means 'brothel' but generally its used whenever one is in a situation that seems to prove that there is no order to the universe. A bus breaks down, everyone spills out on to the pavement and starts yelling at each other for no apparent reason. That's 'casino' is action. Frankly, in the context of fashion shows, either literal or empirical translations will suffice perfectly well.

It is against this background that earlier in the year, I found myself at Alexander McQueen's menswear show. The star turn involved suits encased in clear plastic, set to strains of Neil Diamond's "Play Me". They reminded me of those protective coverings that American pensioners put on their sofas. Try as I might, I couldn't really see that there is an especially big market for men with a burning desire to look like a mad pensioner's sofa. So instead, I decided that the show must clearly be about creating a spectacle rather than clothes that translate to real life.

So engrossed in the plastic was I, that I neglected to notice the suit's shoulders. They were were the kind of shoulders that far worthier fashion journalists than I would describe using phrases such as "defiant tailoring". I have no idea what that means either. Instead, lets just say that it means the return of shoulder pads.

I think the 1980's were a bit rubbish. Music was rubbish, haircuts were rubbish, people were rubbish and clothes were well, rubbish. Nothing symbolises that rubbish quite like the shoulder pad. They were clothes for a shouty, strident era. Clothes for Thatcherism. They literally discouraged uncertainty. Lets face it, if you shrugged whilst wearing a particularly large pair of shoulder pads then you started to take on the appearance of Louis XVI after his little tete a tete with Madame Guillotine.

Shoulder pads speak of braying yuppies and the sort of blazer that Rick Astley wore while yodeling about 10 goods reasons to stay, as if even he had realised that the minute people clapped eyes on him they'd be running for the exits.

Shoulder pads also remind me of a sports coat I was bought in my teens, for "special occasions". These usually involved a psychologically wounding trip to a musical in London's West End. I once witnessed a musical version of Mutiny On The Bounty starring Sinitta and David Essex. I thought I might at least get to witness a few sword fights and even some cleavage. I did, but it belonged to David. And you wonder how I ended up in fashion!

I got the invitation to try on the McQueen jacket and after a couple of large gin and tonics, I felt sufficiently bolstered to give it a whirl. It actually looked pretty great, even if I do say so myself. At the risk of talking about defiant tailoring, it makes your silhouette strong and defined, encourages that V taper. But it costs over a thousand pounds (two thousand dollars).

Never mind though, by the time you are reading this, Topshop and the other high street multiples will almost certainly have one on their racks. Ready to wear for a special occasion no doubt.
About the Author
Mark Errington is Marketing Director at English fashion designer Queen Of Suburbia, specialising in ladies Fashion T-shirts. Further examples of his commentary on fashion and celebrity can be found on their fashion blog.
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