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Do Women’s Clothes Seem Weird Lately? Because I’m Into It

The modesty of a prairie dress, the horniness of a crop top — women’s style trends have gone haywire, and it’s great.

Posted on August 21, 2019, at 12:10 p.m. ET

Abbey Lossing for BuzzFeed News

The consensus among my friends, as well as a lot of the women I follow on the internet, is that clothes suck lately. This summer, if you were to pop into any of the fast fashion outlets where trends both live and die, you’d find a strange mix of styles, indeed: ’90s-era crop tops and babydoll dresses, wacky prints, poofy sleeves, ruching and draping, and big, boxy shapes that don’t appear to align with the build of any actual human body. One could sum up fashion right now as “sexy baby” or “cursed prairie” or, as my friend and editor Rachel put it, a bizarre blend of both “modest and horny.”

I hear everybody’s qualms about this moment in style — and I respect them! — but I have to go against the grain here and speak my truth: I am loving it.

I’ve been a fan of fashion’s weird journey for years now. I love a good sack dress, even though I am one of the millions of people who hover somewhere between straight and plus sizes and they are not technically “flattering” on my body type. If I were to follow fashion magazine convention, I should always wear something that draws attention to my waist, where I'm smallest, and draws attention away from where I’m biggest: ass, hips, thighs. I shouldn’t wear horizontal stripes or, really, any sort of loud pattern at all but, rather, dark, neutral tones for their slimming effects. Anything architectural, bulky, or frilled is certainly a no-no — those additions will just make me take up more space, not less.

But where’s the fun in that?

I appreciate the value of simple, timeless clothing and can understand that if you’re a less risk-taking dresser, shopping must be pretty stressful these days. Maybe I’m just a hopeless trend monster, but I don’t know, man — I’m having the time of my life. I love these loud patterns! I love the bold color, the fascinating shapes, the funky additions to an otherwise unremarkable top or skirt that give it some flair. I love that fashion right now isn’t about what’s technically the most “flattering,” because those rules are designed with the thinnest, whitest, and most conventionally beautiful among us in mind.

The game is already rigged; even if we follow every rule, we still can’t really win. So why not just go wild and lean into the wackiness of it all? If I’m never actually going to attain the unattainable ideal of the sexy-but-not-too-sexy woman, then I might as well have a good time when I’m getting dressed in the morning.

If I could pick one single item of clothing I’m most obsessed with right now, it would be the Mara Hoffman moon top, which encapsulates that perfect blend of modest and horny: long balloon sleeves (modest), gorgeous square neckline (neutral-to-modest), high crop (horny), sexy cutout in the back (definitely horny). I’m trying to get off the fast fashion train, but I still can’t bring myself to pay more than $200 for what is barely half of a shirt, so I’ve recently purchased a couple more affordable alternatives from Need Supply and Urban Outfitters.

By far the biggest gift that fashion has bestowed upon us wide-hipped women in this day and age is the return of high-waisted pants. If or whenever low-rise jeans come back (some signs indicate they’re already sneaking up on us), I refuse to ever put a pair on my body again. The Kardashian clan — for all the problematic ways they’ve appropriated black aesthetics and popularized injecting and surgically reconstructing oneself into an entirely new body — have at least helped the fashion industry realize that it might be worth making clothes for women who have butts. Give me a rise so high that the waistband is basically at my boobs, and I’ll be happy.

I’m also tired of the tyranny of the skinny jean and warmly welcome our wide-leg era. Currently, one of my favorite pairs of jeans are, of all things, pleated. They’re from Madewell (they come in tall sizes!) and seem as if they should be deeply unflattering, yet somehow work beautifully. Plus, they feel as comfortable as stretchy palazzo pants; I think it’s because of all the space the pleats afford your middle to breathe. (I also have, and love, the top-rated shorts version, and I am a notorious hater of practically all shorts.)

Another favorite pair of high-risers is from Lucy & Yak, an independent (and ethical) fashion brand based in the UK. I’ve always lamented the fact that nonstretch, 100% denim jeans never work on me, because if I find a pair that’s big enough to actually fit over my thighs, the waist gap will then be big enough for two of me. (Should I get a pair of Levi’s Wedgies and…tailor them? Do people tailor jeans??) But these black twill guys are nice and sturdy, have a super-high rise, and nip in right at my waist. It’s sort of a miracle.

High-waisted pants, too, fit into the modest–horny framework: They’re modest in that they provide a ton of coverage, so even if you’re wearing a crop top, you won’t be baring your midriff like Britney, Paris, and Christina in the infamous low-rise aughts. But at the same time, high-risers do make for a nice rear view, which definitely earns them a point in the horny column. (Have you seen Shiv’s pants on this season of Succession? Goddamn.)

Speaking of crop tops: They aren’t for everyone, but they’re perfect paired with sky-high pants. And since a high waist emphasizes my, uh, waist (which is what I’m supposed to be doing, right?), I feel perfectly justified in going nuts on top with modest (and/or bonkers) additions to the traditionally horny crop: giant sleeves, tiered layers, maybe even frills and lace. I love clothes that feel modern in execution but still evoke something old-timey. Of course I’m obsessed with Batsheva, the buzzy, celeb-loved brand Vogue describes as “freakishly fabulous.” One of my favorites of their infamous prairie dresses is a bizarro clash of a romantic, vintage shape (modest!) with futuristic metallic color, length, and texture (horny!). I’d happily be buried in it.

When we’re seemingly on the brink of another recession, I should really be saving as much of my money as possible to prepare for the oncoming apocalypse. Instead, I’m soothing my worry and despair about our uncertain future with the short-term highs afforded by our current fashion fever dream. I wouldn’t say there’s much about US culture that’s particularly fun right now, but a Collina Strada dress in a sheer lime-green organza, with an empire waist and colorful sequined squiggly lines all over it? Thats fun. Sign me up. ●

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