The Good Eye: Big Time
Turn up the volume on this oversized trend
The seasonal changes rumored to occur in distant parts of the continental United States every September always put me in an especially cozy mood. As autumn gilds the leaves in catalog towns, I find myself looking forward to no aspect of fall dressing more than the oversized trend. After picking up steam for the past couple of years, the mode for monumentalism has finally, this fall, achieved a critical mass – or perhaps I should say volume – that will not be ignored.
Moreover, the spring ready-to-wear shows at New York Fashion Week showed the trend ballooning forward into next year, promising a bumper crop of billowing culottes, ample coats, jumbo jumpsuits, floor-grazing tabards, spacious sack dresses, and – my absolute favorite – drop-waisted frocks, accommodating to the point of laziness, that spilled, flared, or unfolded into volume at the hipline in shades of ivory and sandstone. Creatures of Comfort featured baggy shirts half-tucked into high-waisted baggy trousers; even the normally trim Nanette Lepore sailed a colossal caftan down the runway; and MM6 by Maison Martin Margiela showed a Brobdingnagian button-down shirt that looked as if it might go airborne in a stiff breeze. Rachel Comey's take included flamenco flounces and raw-edged culottes so perfect they were almost silly, like "Stairway to Heaven" or that one cat video everyone's been passing around this week.
But springtime and the cat-video panel at SXSW are a long way off. Right now, we have fall to contend with, and that means bulky sweaters, flapping overcoats, dresses worn over pants, and all manner of smuggler-friendly profiles. Silhouettes haven't been this inflated since the late Eighties (see the Denise Huxtable Style Tumblr for best practices), but today's oversized pieces are looser, easier, and more in keeping with the prevailing bohemian mood. It's a good look for Austin: slouchy, soft-shouldered coats, baggy sweaters, and tent-like midi-skirts that get their visual punch from interesting textures – nubbly knits, tweeds, and leather – rather than dazzling patterns or colors. It's all so comfortable. I'm not saying I've never worn pajamas out of the house before, but it has never before seemed like such an optimistic decision.
Alas, I've recently spotted some extremely misguided articles on the oversized trend floating around the Internet. "Master the Bulky Fall Trend (Without Looking Bulky!)" they promise, dangling pictures of belted blanket coats as clickbait. First of all, it should be illegal to promise anyone, no matter what her natural contours, that she will look skinny in a belted blanket coat. That has never happened. But more importantly, it's a missed opportunity the size of Look 8 in the Delpozo Spring 2015 Ready-to-Wear show. (And those pants look like they need their own ZIP code.)
The point is that there is something quite lovely about women being encouraged, for once in our lives, to take up space. We spend so much of our lives trying to be smaller. Perhaps as a tall woman I'm particularly sensitive to this feeling; I remember in high school catching glimpses of myself in mall store windows, a head taller than my petite friends, miserably aware of my proportionately larger arms, thighs, and waistline. I have never been particularly delicate, and there were times when the thought of just how much body I had made me want to shrivel like a Roald Dahl character with the Dreaded Shrinks. I gave up on the diminishment fantasy eventually – my hair was too curly, my voice too loud, and my presence too present to hide. To be handed a blank check to appear even bigger – to be invited to sweep fashionably into rooms with pants cuffs that demand a meter's radius and sleeves that promise to leave a trail of spilled wine glasses in their wake – to be given more breathing room – that is, in a word, huge.
Like every other trend in fashion history, this mammoth moment will eventually pass. The pendulum will swing back away from volume, as it should. Lean lines can be liberating, too. But we've traveled a long road to reach this level of largeness, and it may not come around again – at least not in this exaggerated form – for some time. Don't squander it. Take it as far as you dare. Play with it. Pile on blouses with shoulder pads and circle skirts with petticoats and gargantuan overalls and dresses made out of dropcloths. Bulky is boss.
To get started, check out Kick Pleat's (918 W. 12th) savvy selection of well-cut pieces by Creatures of Comfort, Rachel Comey, Black Crane, MM6, and Sofie D'Hoore. But if you're shopping on a columnist's paycheck, try experimenting with the silhouette at Savers, Thrift Town, Goodwill, and Top Drawer. Run your hand over the racks to help find better garments made with higher-quality fabrics – always a good idea, but especially important when you're looking for giganti-clothes since there's so much material. And be sure to wear shoes that will stand up to the look – ankle boots and clunky oxfords look right.
Of course, for work or a coffee date with someone you don't want to terrify, proportion can always be created. The waist is a good place to start; if you stick with high-waisted skirts and trousers, a half-tucked shirt or cropped sweater can reveal a waist. There's also the aforementioned belt-over-coat trick, or, for the fashion-forward, fanny packs, aprons, and utility belts, all useful waist-cinchers. Giant knits are easy to throw on over slim jeans, miniskirts, or shorts with tights. Snug, cropped layering tees, available on the cheap from "modest fashion" websites, can be layered under loose dresses, then worn by themselves in the spring. Sheer layers and mesh panels are another way to keep voluminous shapes from overwhelming. And there's always the option of capitalizing on the trend with just one big statement piece, like a go-everywhere coat that you stow when the wine glasses come out.
Or? Be enormous. Take up space. Don't apologize. Let them know you're coming.
Check out the voluminous looks and the Good Eye's Spring 2015 RTW pics at www.pinterest.com/amyegentry. We took actress and improvisor Ruby Willmann to Kick Pleat for advice on styling this larger-than-life trend. Check out the online photo gallery for our best outsize looks.