The Chastened Waist

It's a cinch

Just as there are formulas for beauty based on symmetry of features, a woman's hip-to-waist ratio determines, in a primal, subconscious way, some level of her attractiveness to the opposite sex. Millennial fashion has become, once again, waist-centric.

Gone is the long, lean, minimal silhouette of the 1990s, which preferred a boy-like litheness combined with surgically enhanced breasts. The ideal remains one of slenderness, but with a new emphasis on the waist: belts are back.

The precursor to the 'return' of belts was the briefly popular 'utility bag' of 1998-99, strapped to waists like New-Age holsters filled with a modern artillery of mobile phones and Palm Pilots. The 'new' belts, however, whether they reference preppy Sloane styles or Punk bondage, are more decorative. At Versace, for example, the Spring 2001 collection saw siren dresses with built in boned corselets, while cincher styles appeared at companies as diverse as Kenzo and Missoni. Belts made their most dramatic entrance at Givenchy, where Alexander McQueen sent voluminous ruffled skirts down the runways with exposed lingerie tops accessorized with belts that extended from waist to bust. They managed to echo - all at once - the Japanese obi, the 1950s hourglass silhouette and Azzedine Alaïa's iconic 1980s buckled, cut-leather ceintures.

Among these avant-retro styles were cummerbunds for girls, seen dressing in black tie like boys at Viktor & Rolf and Costume National. This transformation of the cummerbund - associated with classic formal eveningwear for men - offers a more contemporary take on definitions of femininity now that men and women both 'wear the trousers'.

 

Issue 57

First published in Issue 57

March 2001

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