the Leotard

3 Things Most Millennials Will Never Know About the Leotard

In this era of yoga pants, it’s easy to forget the leotard—early active-wear that required the confidence of a naked emperor.

Named after Jules Léotard, a 19th-century French acrobat (and a man), the garment is known for its close fit and resemblance to a woman’s bathing suit. Unlike the unitard, leotards have no legs and tend to ride up one’s rear in an asymmetric fashion that defies science.

Admittedly, I am leo-phobic, avoiding all situations that could put me near crotch-slinging clothing. I hate “sexy Halloween” costumes and business tops that stay tucked in because they snap over one’s skivvies. When I see celebrities in spangly bodysuits, I slam my hand on the table. Uh-uh, Taylor Swift.

Unlike my younger millennial counterparts, I have a history with the leotard that they should understand.

As a child of the 1980s, I envied my mother’s puffed sleeve bodysuit, the one she wore while executing the Jane Fonda Workout. When I was a little girl in tap class, I got my own first leotard, a light blue long-sleeve garment with a zipper down the front. I still remember how the nylon felt on my skin: scratchy with a chemically enhanced stretchiness. There was always an air pocket in the lower back, but I liked that I looked like a superhero when I opened my arms in a “T” and posed with one foot off the floor. As I bloomed from four-years-old to five, I swear my leotard tried to stunt my growth by giving me a constant frontal wedgie.

Later, I minored in dance in college. As I trekked through the snow from history to ballet, I felt like black bodysuits and pink tights were a humid second skin under my jeans and sweaters. Meanwhile, the fitness world hamstring curled itself around the dance crowd. Early adapters graduated from striped leotards to sports bras and baggy Adidas pants, à la Sporty Spice.

After college, I became a professional dancer and saved my money for audition leotards. My favorite was a bright red number with lots of criss-crossing stripes in the back. These leos weren’t cheap, ranging between $50 to $75, but they helped individuals stand out during cattle calls with hundreds of other young women. In the early 2000s, custom-made unitards became the “it” item. A few years later, leggings and tank tops emerged as the vestments of the Pilates and yoga crowd. They were so comfortable and resembled street clothes, which saved me time and money at the laundromat.

I get hives when I think of a leotard renaissance attempted by clothiers like American Apparel, a scandal-plagued company that recently closed more than a hundred stores. (It was the curse of the leo!) So do many of my colleagues, fellow fitness instructors whose careers started decades before mine.

Recently, I conducted a leo-poll to remind millennials how grateful they should be to those who sacrificed convenience to pave the way from leos to Lululemon. Here are three things my fitness elders remember about their time in Lycra:

Leotard-wearers burn more calories in the bathroom than on the dance floor. I’ll let this unsavory fact sink in as I tell you about one of my mentors, a Baby Boomer whose aerobics career began in 1978. This woman has all the signs of bodysuit trauma, including hysterical laughter at the mere mention of a leotard. To conceal her identity—and keep her safe in the leotard witness protection program—I will call her “Jennifer.” Jennifer, who can still rock a step aerobics routine without falling off the bench, says leotards were tools of her trade, a new profession that didn’t even require certifications. Being a fitness instructor then was like embracing the Wild West. Instead of tumbleweeds, they had leg lifts. But when it came time to tinkle, everything had to come off: sweaty bodysuit, tights and underwear. What an inconvenience to a person who also stays hydrated.

As leotards got smaller, underwear stayed the same size. Here’s what Jennifer says about that: “We didn’t wear thongs or go commando in those days, so your underwear had to fit under it. Hence, we had ‘high leg’ bikinis in white, beige or black. You wore—in this order—your underwear (with a sanitary napkin if needed because who wore tampons back then?), your pink or beige tights and your leotard.” Yuck. Before Madonna, your bra had to hide under your leotard. And yes, bras only came in white, beige or black. Another fitness professional—whom I’ll call Debbie—said she had to wear a sports bra underneath her leotard because shelf bras hadn’t been invented yet. But unlike Jennifer, Debbie avoided panty lines by going sans. Instead of wearing her leo over her tights, she pulled her tights over her leotard to avoid “ride up.” Don’t get Jennifer or Debbie started about yeast infections, a major hazard, especially before the birth of the cotton crotch.

Like snowflakes, each leotard had its own personality that had to stand alone without legwarmers or belts. Here’s what Jennifer says about hers: “My favorite leotard, which I still have, is grey with a short skirt attached. Very flattering. I still wear it today, on Halloween.” Debbie, who has banished all leotards from her drawer, remembers technological advances in fabric, from cotton and nylon to Spandex and wicking material. Usually, she wore spaghetti straps or tank style, but when she choreographed a dance exercise video in 1989, thongs were the height of fashion. Yet like Pangaea, the supercontinent that separated into individual landmasses, leotards were beginning to break apart into (gasp) briefs and sports bras. Debbie remembers her dancers were to wear thong briefs underneath thick footless tights for the video. On top, they were going to wear midriff shirts to show their toned bellies. Jennifer added that women with skinny back sides have no business wearing thongs and that we should all meditate on that.

Today, Jennifer and Debbie have occasional leotard flashbacks. But mostly, they embrace tank tops, shorts and leggings when they teach classes. While there’s nothing wrong with a thong as outerwear, they agree there’s nothing right either.

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diversity at Vogue


Naomi Campbell criticises lack of diversity at Vogue

Naomi Campbell has criticised the lack of diversity among staff of the fashion magazine Vogue, highlighting how a staff photo taken under a former editor, Alexandra Shulman, showed a complete absence of black staff members.

Shulman stepped down at the beginning of August to be replaced by Edward Enninful, not only the first man but also the first non-white person to edit the influential magazine in its 100-year history. His appointment was heralded by many, including Campbell, as a moment of reckoning for the fashion industry, which has a deeply entrenched issue with diversity and race across the board.

Yet the final picture of Shulman’s staff of around 50 highlighted how much Enninful will have to grapple with the issue.

In an Instagram post, Campbell said: “This is the staff photo of @britishvogue under the previous editor #AlexandraSchulman,” Campbell wrote. “Looking forward to an inclusive and diverse staff now that @edward_enninful is the editor … let’s hear your thoughts?”

It prompted an outpouring of anger on social media as the past lack of diversity on the Vogue staff was laid bare.

One user responded to Campbell’s picture: “I didn’t realise there was such a lack of diversity behind a revered British institution. That’s quite shocking for 2017. Edward has his work cut out. Let’s hope he modernises and together let’s watch as profits grow as he makes the magazine inclusive to all colours.”

Another added: “Diversity and inclusive practices are a must especially in fashion … black and brown people’s cultural influence in fashion are innumerable and should be reflected in every aspect of the industry.”

Before taking up the post at the beginning of August, Enninful announced a series of appointments that attempted to rectify the issue. Campbell, film director Steve McQueen and model and activist Adwoa Aboah were all named as contributing editors and a make-up artist, Pat McGrath, was named beauty editor-at large.

However, despite a shake-up of the old guard, the new staff who will work with Enninful on a daily basis are still overwhelmingly white. His creative director will be Johan Svensson, his senior fashion editor will be Poppy Kain, Jack Borkett will be fashion editor, while Anders Madsen was appointed fashion critic.

Nonetheless, Enninful has pledged that his time as editor will see diversity embraced on the pages of Vogue and behind it, a change from a world where only two black models have had solo Vogue covers in the past 15 years. Enninful was awarded an OBE for services to diversity in fashion in 2016 and has not shied away from the issue since being named editor, pledging to “change it from the inside”.

His commitment to the issue was also demonstrated by a campaign he directed and styled for Gap, the clothing brand, in July which united models of different genders, races and ages all in white T-shirts. “In the casting I chose individuals [who] inspire me and represent the world – from actors to activists, models to athletes to performers,” said Enninful. “A cast of varying genders, sexuality, religions, ages and backgrounds – to me this is the world we live in and the world we should see.”

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flower-inspired show


Vasundhara Mantri surprises all with flower-inspired show

The bi-annual Lakmé Fashion Week 2017, which began on August 16 in Mumbai, was the perfect answer to all fashion lovers who were still withdrawing from the success of Indian Couture Week, 2017. The five-day fashion festival, being held at St. Regis in Lower Parel, Mumbai, saw the arrival of well-dressed celebrities and fashionistas from around the country wearing their favourite designers in solidarity and stopping for pictures on the way. The first day itself ensured that the week was going to be filled with creativity, glamour, and of course, Bollywood.

The week began with the Gen Next show, which showcased the works of rising designers in the country. The show has long served as a great platform for talented designers looking for greater exposure and recognition. The day progressed with Rara Avis by Sonal Verma. The collection, called ‘Colandar’, used techniques of layering and colour blocking with traditional attire like the Kimono and trenches. The designer showed creativity by using a mix of materials such as fur, wool, leather etc while maintaining a feminine touch. The next show 431-88 by Shweta Kapur saw her play to her strengths. She had created an edgy collection with dark autumn colours and heavyweight fabrics.

Ritu Kumar’s show added a pop of colour to the Autumn/Winter theme of the week. She used skirts, corsets like bodice and a flood of tropical prints like palm leaves, pineapples etc. Actress Disha Patani was the showstopper for the show. Nakita Singh’s show brought back the warmth to the day with her collection. The show seemed to explore the floral trend while playing with earthy tones like browns, greys, blacks etc. Her designs were an interesting take on winter clothing, and showed that floral prints aren’t guided by season.

The Meraki Project made use of pretty much all the colours of the rainbow. The embroidery and tones used were almost nostalgic of childhood. However, the playfulness of the collection was balanced out by fabrics liked textured and crushed silk which lent the designs their necessary glamour. The day ended with Masaba by Masaba Gupta, and Raw Mango by Sanjay Garg. Masaba did not fail to impress with her collection which comprised of emerald, fuschia and powder blue coloured lehengas and sarees. She emphasised tribal and Warli inspired embroideries, and added a touch of the west to the collection by using corsets. Garg’s collection, Cloud People, used chikankari on Bengal mul, zardozi and hand-woven brocade. The motifs, prints and silhouettes together gave an angelic vibe to the collection.

The second day was the Sustainable Fashion Day. An attempt to sensitise the people about the environmental consequences of fashion as well to protect and promote the handicrafts and crafts persons of the country, the day was added some gravity to the frivolous image of fashion. The #CraftIsCool show by Paramparik Karigar combined the works of 5 craftsmen with 5 designers and presented a collection of traditional crafts. Matr Bihar Khadi x Kopal New York Because of Nature Australia, and #RestartFashion shed light on causes like losing traditions and heritage, and the unlimited fashion prospects upcycling provides. The Ethicus show was a presentation of easy to wear, organic and eco friendly cotton wear. Sunita Shankar’s collction was an effortless manifestation of the belief that crafts like bandhani, kantha, Benarasi weaves, Chanderi and bagh prints, all from different parts of the country can easily be incorporated into daily wear. The show by Craftmark by AIACA was an interesting and interactive presentation of garments made by women artisans from Punjab, Uttarakhand and Karnataka. Anavila Mishra’s show ended the day on the correct note as she payed homage to the weavers of the country. The collection dabbled with darker tones, as compared to the light colours she generally puts out. Overall, those in attendance went back home slightly more aware, sensitive and inspired.

Friday, the third day, was probably the most eventful. Falguni Shane Peacock came out in collaboration with Farah Khan. The pieces, inspired by space, were ready for an evening out. Preity Zinta closed the show in a strapless gown and dainty jewellery. Amit Aggarwal’s collection took inspiration from the Prince’s Palace of Monaco and Opera De Monte Carlo. The structured gowns and lehengas added a new dimension to the runway. Actress, Ekta Gupta closed the show in a blue and yellow lehenga. The afternoon sashayed into the evening with shows by Eka, Nikita Mhaisalkar and Neha Agarwal. Bollywood stars like Kalki Koechlin and Chitrangadha Singh made appearances on the runway during the shows. Gaurang surprised everyone with its organic creations. The collection used natural dyes from pomegranate seeds, harde and indigo and surly enough, left all the attendees buzzing. Urvashi Juneja had a collection of psychedelic prints and bright gowns. All her garments seemed to incorporate one or the other trends prevalent these days, in the form of florals, pant-suits, off the shoulder tops etc.

The highlight of the day, however, was Vasundhara Mantri’s show. Her inspiration came from Indian flowers such as tube roses, marigolds, hibiscuses, roses, closed lotuses and small buds. She translated the imagery of the flowers into clothing, jewellery as well as make up. Her wholesome approach to her collection left no stone unturned in term of hard work. Cream-coloured sarees and vibrant make up were the perfect backdrop for the intricate gold jewellery.

Today is be the last day of Lakmé Fashion Week 2017. It is no surprise that yet again, the designers have fulfilled everyone’s expectations. Everyone is looking forward to see how fashionistas and celebrities translate these pieces onto red carpets and at parties. As the week comes to an end, the only regret we all have is why it didn’t last longer.

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the year of the statement sock


Rihanna cements 2017 as the year of the statement sock

While pop star Rihanna has been wearing statement socks and heels for years, this year she's taken the sock thing next level in the form of a Fenty sock collection that feature images of her own most iconic looks.

Yes, really.

The socks come in two themed sets including a music-video box featuring illustrations of the singer from her Work and Pour it Up projects, while the award-show box includes her wearing the dress studded with 230,000 Swarovski crystals at the 2014 C.F.D.A Awards and her infamous 'omelette' Met Gala look.

Each box of two costs A$64.80, and Stance ships to Australia.

Stance notes on their website that the looks chosen for the collection are her most "incredible and uncommonly" cool, though how they managed to narrow it down we are still unsure.

Statement socks - and that especially 80s trend of socks and heels, synonymous with 'geek chic' - are back in a big way this year.

Other than RiRi, fans of the look include Kendall Jenner, who coupled her billowing Giambattista Valli couture frock with semi-sheer socks under her gold Jimmy Choo sandals at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.

Bella Hadid is another early follower of the trend. While Rita Ora put an athleisure spin on the look earlier this year, pairing a skirt and bomber jacket with sandals and sports logo socks.

Resort 2018 runway shows saw the likes of Vetements, Gucci, Valentino and Prada play with statement socks worn with cropped pants, narrow shirts and flowery designs.

Meanwhile in July, WWD revealed that Rihanna would be showing her Fenty by Rihanna collection at New York Fashion Week. With models wearing socks during her Paris showings earlier this year, will Rihanna bring the heel and sock trend to her first presentation at September NYFW?

Here's hoping.

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From Mayo to MoMA

From Mayo to MoMA: the iconic Aran jumper heads to New York

When an early Aran handknit from 1941 goes on exhibition in MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York next month it will take its place on a world stage alongside more than a hundred items considered powerful and enduring examples of 20th century clothing and accessory designs.

They include the little black dress, the Breton sweater, the biker jacket, denim jeans and the sari. “Fashion is unquestionably a form of design with its pitch struck in negotiations between form and function,” states the museum.

The first thing to be said about this emblematic piece of Irish clothing from the Aran Islands that will arrive in New York from Mayo’s Museum of Country Life, is to nail the old canard that drowned fishermen could be identified by their sweaters. Tim Robinson wryly noted in Stones of Aran referring to a male model at a Jean Paul Gaultier show in Paris in 1985 decked out in a handknit Aran sweater, tight knit trousers, scarf and cap in snow white wool, “that the outfit certainly would have identified him if he had been washed ashore drowned”.

This pervasive myth no doubt has helped the industry, but has no bearing whatever in fact. The Aran sweater as we know it is a 20th century phenomenon which emerged on the islands somewhere between 1900 and the late 1920s. Unlike Harris tweed whose name is protected and whose tweed can only claim provenance from the isle of Harris, the word Aran is now a generic term used to describe any patterned sweater with relief decorations – a garment that can be made anywhere.

When I was researching the history of the Aran sweater for my book on the subject, the first port of call was UCD’s Department of Folklore. The section on boatbuilding was extensive and thorough, but under cniotail (knitting) there was barely an entry. Women’s work was not considered that important. Yet, studying the early examples of the richly cabled, intricate and decorative handknits of the early 20th century from the Aran Islands is to be awed not only their calibre and beauty, but their mathematical and technical achievement.

To understand the complexity of some of the early handknits is to realise that they were often composed of horizontal lines of some 400 stitches in rough homespun wool in which 12 stitches or 20 rows made up roughly one inch. Each stitch on every row had to be correctly worked to ensure the correct motif. Each pattern such as a cable or diamond had a specific number of stitches which gives some idea of the arithmetic involved let alone the decorative and topographical skills required to arrange and realise a series of designs successfully. And this creativity was within the knitters’ heads and hands, all from memory and not written down or codified until the late 1940s when the first Aran pattern was published by Patons.

The influence of the Aran and its survival as a prime example of good design has been pervasive and widespread – popularised by the Clancy brothers, by images of stars like Steve McQueen, Marilyn Monroe or Grace Kelly in their snow white sweaters. Sean O Casey had his sent to Cornwall from Ireland. In various guises it has been seen on a long line of celebrities – Kate Bosworth, Oliva Palermo, Nicola Roberts and Gwneth Paltrow,Claudia Schiffer to name but a few.

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