Fashion Now Is Pretty Ugly

Judging by the latest spring/summer collections, the fashion industry has taken a deliberately ugly turn. Dowdy or even monstrous silhouettes, discordant combinations of fabrics and colors along with unsightly hair and makeup ruled the runway, while show-goers frequently hid behind oversized glasses in a mock-display of concealment.

An abundance of looks featured odd shapes, such as Hussein Chalayan’s fierce molded latex spikes and Alexander McQueen’s skirts with colossal hips and body suits set off by sharp winged shoulders. Many collections also featured grossly oversized garb—a bulky, rigid white dress at Calvin Klein draped over the model as naturally as a cardboard box, a bulbous top at Fendi shifted stiffly from side to side with the model’s steps and a model swimming in a huge top and cuffed capris at Isaac Mizrahi resembled a little girl dressing up in her mother’s clothes.

Jumbling together unexpected materials was another trend: Junya Watanabe layered rich African-print skirts over baggy cuffed jeans; Gaultier mixed things up by showing a body suit worn on top of a pair of pants; and Christopher Kane had a garish, transparent pumpkin-orange dress trimmed in black fur.

Some styles were more sinister in their hideousness. The unsettling, aggressive silhouettes at Comme des Garçons featured cutouts that revealed a misshapen, unattractive portion of the model’s stomach. Maison Martin Margiela’s spectacular and spooky collection featured decidedly unsexy nude-and-white body suits, and disturbing looks such as models bound in ribbons of fabric, their faces concealed by stockings or a cascade of hair.

The unsightly trend even extended to accessories and beauty. Gaultier featured a fur stole, complete with all four legs, while Rick Owens had his models’ feet wrapped in trash bag like leather fabrics. Behnaz Sarafpour and Balenciaga showed models who looked like they hadn’t slept in days, their eyes rimmed in shiny brown shadow. At Fendi, runway mane had been teased into spikes, and a rats nest was the hairstyle of choice at Alberta Ferretti.

This ugly aesthetic is also reflected in everyday society. Too—chipped nails are being flaunted on the streets of Manhattan as well as the fingertips of celebrities, while dentists report that patients are requesting their veneers appear less-than-flawless (adding a rounded corner or slight rotation of a tooth here and there, gradating their shade instead of making them snow white). More women are also opting to go sans makeup, wearing baggy tops or pants that disguise rather than show-off their shape.

It doesn’t take more than an awkward smile from Ugly Betty to prove that perfection is pretty boring in its stagnant singularity. The real intrigue sets in when you let yourself branch out from the paragon and explore more multifaceted possibilities. Even if the look isn’t “pretty,” it grabs attention and penetrates the surface—you can’t just glide blissfully by.

—Molly Triffin

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