Ready To Wear: Various cultures view the female form entirely differently

Is fashion meant to be flattering?

If Fashion Fringe winner, Corrie Nielsen's collection is anything to go by, then the answer is a resounding no. One particular big, bouncing and presumably inflatable bottom ruled this particular outing. "Does my bum look big in this?" Oh yes indeed.

We all know, of course, that various ages and cultures view the female form entirely differently. In the Western world alone, bustles, panniers, exaggerated shoulders and more have all gone to prove in their time that pencil-thin is not always the ideal. Today, however, it appears quite unshakeable, making for not only some pretty inhuman dietary restrictions but also fashion that is not always as interesting as it might be.

Consider the success of Roland Mouret's "galaxy" dress. In the mid-Noughties this one garment appeared on the back of everyone from Demi Moore to Scarlett Johansson and from Victoria Beckham to Carol Vorderman (but don't let that put you off). Why? Because it held them in and, er, pushed them out in all the right places. With its clever underpinnings it transformed its wearer into a pin with proudly upstanding Barbie Doll breasts, whatever their natural shape and size. Skinny jeans, equally, are one woman's meat and another's poison. The clue's in the name: only the skinny need apply or, as Grazia once memorably put it, best avoid this particular style if you're over a jeans size 30. That's a 12, incidentally, ruling out the majority of women, in this country at least.

There are, thankfully, some designers who have more on their minds than simply slim, dark clothes that may appear commercial but are, in fact, not only ubiquitous but also, to many, alienating. Miuccia Prada has used fabrics she has in the past described as "fattening – but I don't care" because they are pioneering, sensual and extraordinary. Comme des Garçons' Rei Kawakubo's current collection is largely padded, and in a rather more confrontational way than the average Puffa.

At last week's London collections alone, Betty Jackson gave the world feathered trousers that were in no way slender. And for every diaphanous, bias-cut chiffon sweet-nothing there was a lovely, big frilly tent. There's more to a fashionable life than simply being a size 6, then. And that can only be a good thing.

s.frankel@independent.co.uk

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