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Why do functional yet beautiful designs stop a long time ago

Discussion in 'Outerwear' started by navetsea, Mar 16, 2019.

  1. navetsea

    navetsea Call Me a Cab

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    Looking at jeans or jackets, or shoes, bag, hat.... seems like with a lot more fashion school and a lot more human being involved in that world... how come there are no new great revolutionary invention in clothes. All things we wear are probably invented 100 year ago. New invention in clothings are usually forgettable, too weird for majority of people or just too performance specific and not taking beauty into consideration. Whats wrong with us? Do we need another great war to be able to design functionally good looking clothes?
     
  2. ProteinNerd

    ProteinNerd My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    I'm guessing because its cheaper to just copy old designs rather than invest in designing and creating new ones although wearable tech seems to be the next advance so maybe that's where we will get some new designs and functionality?
     
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  3. nick123

    nick123 I'll Lock Up

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    In some cases, jackets back then take influence from the motorcyclist or aviator, and were marketed to the public as such. Those jackets had functional features (action backs, etc) that found their way into the market. Today, the romanticization of the aviator or cyclist is largely lost. And what equates to "comfort" really hasn't changed all these years, so once the garment was developed enough to be deemed "comfortable" there probably wasn't a need to introduce new functional elements into the jacket. Any future deviations would be done so in the name of style. If you think of it, the number of potential "outdoor/sporting/recreational" professions that have any marketable style at all are probably pretty limited. So, motorcyles and aviators stuck. People were enthralled with the Lindberghs of the time back then; today's rock stars.

    My question, somewhat related, is how did aircraft (designed with specific performance characteristics in mind, doubtful style was considered) from the middle of the century end up vaguely representing the futuristic/sci-fi look of machines depicted in popular culture at the time? Look at some of those experimental aircraft from the time. They were even messing around with saucer-shaped aircraft, right during the approx. time of the peak of UFO hysteria. It's almost as if each decade's style found its way onto the lines of planes and automobiles. Probably more planes than automobiles because I'm sure designers took note of what was hip.Or was it the other way around? It's strange. I had some wine so this may not make sense.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2019
    navetsea likes this.
  4. navetsea

    navetsea Call Me a Cab

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    The first time i saw hubless wheel probably a decade ago, I thought it would catch on and we would drive futuristic looking vehicle, same with bladeless fan... i thought it would be the new standard imagining soon there would be bladeless helicopters like in sci fi but they are seem to be largely forgotten. In fashion i thought biker jeans that is derived from motorcycle racing suit pants would have a permanent place maybe further developed to look smarter but expansion panel on the thigh is needed for slim fitting thick jeans, and extra pockets are badly needed for our gadget, but seems like it was not classic enough to challenge 5 pockets jeans, even cargo pants are largely forgotten instead of further modified to look nicer and get a permanent place in mens pants option, i love my cargo pants but i hope for a cleaner design suitable for more formal setting. I see that there is not enough pressure to adopt here and there smart new development as the new standard, and soon we come back to usual 5 pockets jeans with its limitation for 21th century gadget and lifestyle.
     
  5. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    I disagree. There are many constantly changing and evolving versions of well known clothing and many new clothing ideas on an almost daily basis. This is an era where every third person thinks they are a designer or a style influencer. You only have to look at our thread called "Just When You Thought You'd Seen It All" for some of the less successful wacky ideas.

    The issue is that the market for clothing is conservative. The buyers generally want dependable tested familiar things - even more so in a carzy-arsed, ever changing world. I think that's another reason retro has been popular. Many of us are scared of the present and want to look backwards.

    And most people don't want to think about clothing so design refinements mean nothing to them. And that's no bad thing. We should never look down on people happy with $20 Kmart jeans, etc. They are sensible.
     
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  6. zebedee

    zebedee Practically Family

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    You might like Thomas M. Disch's 'The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of'- excellent (if acerbic) book on the evolution of US sci-fi in its contexts.
     
  7. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

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    This is a really great thread with some excellent comments.
    One thing I've learned from Japan is that whilst there have always been a variety of decorative fabric designs and prints, the kimono has remained virtually the same since it's inception c.600 AD.
    Kimono are incredibly simple designs that involve almost no cutting and less than 10 stitching operations to join 4 lengths of fabric together. The width of these fabric pieces is standardized. It's the width of a traditional bolt of cloth. That in turn was determined by the size of the look that wove it, and that in turn was limited by the length of the human arm required to work the shuttle from one side to the other. One size fits all, and so simple girls were expected to make their own for their wedding.
    And the reason I mention all this is that it when I thought about the OP's question, I thought that maybe three factors were to blame.

    The first is that the human body has limits to its variables; sizes and shapes, but not 5 arms to 2 heads kind of variables. I think this means that there is a limit to what clothes you can make without pointless affectations (N.B. I fully accept that comparison of vintage clothes, A-2s for example, with modern clothes shows that body sizes and shapes are constantly changing, but the basis parameters don't change).

    Secondly, I think that mass literacy, numeracy and the industrial revolution had a big impact. It standardized pattern making, units of measurement and reduced the cost of fabric production allowing the masses to wear 'clothes' everyday as opposed to merely wrapping themselves in rags for protection from the elements. The important (defining?) point here is cost. There were always kings and aristocracy that had bear skins instead of rabbit skins to keep them warm, bought hand made one-off clothes instead of wearing improvised homemade rags (or whatever), and there still is, but the masses have access to 'real' clothes now, and costs are driving what's produced. It has to be cheap for the masses.

    Thirdly, (and closely linked to the second point) the industrial revolution created the means of mass production and the wealth with which the masses could consume. It's a business. It HAS to sell new products constantly and it has to convince the masses they need them. Otherwise the 'fashion' industry grinds to a halt. It will always be the lowest quality/production effort it can get away with. They don't want the masses wearing homemade sackcloth coats for 20 years without replacement. They want them to throw away last year's 'old' coat and buy a new one that will last one or two seasons. It's all gimmicks to make cheaply designed and manufactured disposable good look desirable.

    The OP may be more specifically referring to the great designs of the golden era? I would suggest that in the same way that the industrial revolution (and all the stuff I wrote about above) facilitated the design and adoption of 3-piece suits and other (now considered) 'formal wear', the immediate post war boom saw other great designs simplified for commodification and mass production.

    I don't think we've reached the end of 'clothing history'. There will always be developments in fabrics that open new possibilities. In the same way that US bleached cotton met Japanese indigo dye and the jean was invented, there will always be scope for something new as (currently) undeveloped countries become wealthy and share their culture with the world.

    There is also the constant march of technology. About 20 years ago I saw that Berghaus (?) was offering a traditionally cut beige trench coat made of Gore-Tex. I don't think it caught on (although I would love one). But there will always be new fabrics that open new possibilities (thank the lord for Lycra!).

    My 'prediction' for the future. Japan has been kinda famous for people wearing surgical paper masks in the (mistaken) belief that this allows them to go to work when sick without making those around them ill. However (coincidentally coinciding with the introduction of smartphones) Japanese have started wearing masks even when they're not sick. It's a kind of physical manifestation of a psychological desire to block themselves off from social interaction I think. It's an attempt to be anonymous and avoid interaction. A symbolic wall. I have no doubt that the military is already working on next gen clothes that can change color/texture on demand, and when that tech hits the commercial market, whilst proper invisibility will likely be regulated due to its potential exploitation by criminals, I can see the Japanese wearing 'suits' of the stuff that will just render them as a featureless monochrome human shapes instead; the ultimate in 'privacy in public spaces' due to its anonymity.
     
  8. Gamma68

    Gamma68 One Too Many

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    Don’t question the wisdom of time.
     
  9. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    When it comes down to it, the human body doesn't change much, and there's only so many different ways you can cover it. On th bottom half, you've got skirts or trousers. Trouser can vary leg with and rise, not much else. Skirts similarly. Beyond that, it's mere changes in fabric and colour. Everything eventually reaches a point where you run out of potential new configurations, and then little changes thereafter. Cutlery, violins, trousers, kilts, whatever. Otherwise, demand. I don't think there's a big enough market for a jacket you can watch netflix on for it ever to gain ground - look at how Googleglass crashed and burned.
     
  10. handymike

    handymike I'll Lock Up

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    But now Apple is making it, and it will be huge :D
     
  11. Monitor

    Monitor I'll Lock Up

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    You should write a blog or something about life in Japan. I love reading your insights about it and I honestly believe it would be popular. I've known people who lived in Japan for years and never even noticed these incredible differences. Just recently talked to one guy who's been living in Japan for five years now and I mentioned that stuff about how the banks use obsolete technology and are still relying entirely on paperwork and he was like "Oh, yeah, now that you've mentioned it, it is like that...". I thought it was incredible that while he did notice it, he never actually became aware of it.
     
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  12. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

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    Thank you Monitor, it's very kind of you to say so. I'm glad you find my opinions interesting, but I'll have to refrain from writing a blog or something.
    One of the reasons that I quit my job and took early retirement was that the hyper-sensitive Japanese rightwing took offense to some of the 'anti-Japan' tone of some of my academic writings that they thought portrayed Japan in an unfavorable light and sent death threats to my employer, threatened to rape my daughters and stuff like that. It's all 'freedom of speech' according to the authorities.
    I can do without the attention.
     
    Monitor likes this.
  13. Benny Holiday

    Benny Holiday My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    I was about to second Monitor's idea about the blog BigJ but after reading your post, we will just wait to read more fascinating insights here.
     
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  14. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

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    Thank you Benny.
     
  15. GHT

    GHT I'll Lock Up

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    Fashions come and fashions go, but style is timeless, actually that's a paraphrase of what Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel said in McCall's Magazine in 1965. This is the exact extract from her interview with Joseph Barry:

    INTERVIEWER:" Apropos copying, you are probably the most copied dress designer in the world. Does it bother you?"

    CHANEL: "I suppose it is a kind of flattery. Someone said I dress eighty per cent of the well-dressed women—and the not so well-dressed, I’m afraid—whether they know it or not. But style should reach the people, no? It should descend into the streets, into people’s lives, like a revolution. That is real style. The rest is mode. Mode passes; style remains. Mode is made of a few amusing ideas, meant to be used up quickly, so they can be replaced by others in the next collection. A style endures even as it is renewed and evolved."

    Note that Chanel was a French speaker, therefore she used the word mode, not fashion. What she said very much resonates with most of the comments that have gone before. When The Beatles crashed onto the scene in the early 1960's, they all dressed in lapelless suits. In my opinion they looked awful, but that didn't stop thousands of young men getting themselves measured up for a suit without a lapel.

    Youth tends to have a self imposed peer pressure, nobody wants to be different from the norm. A good example of this is my own experience with denim. Here on The Lounge I have admitted that it's just me, I don't wear any denim because it has no appeal. Doesn't mean I hate denim. But in my youth I didn't want to step out of the crowd, so I not only wore jeans, I bought Levi 501's and sat in a bath tub with them on so that they would shrink to size. It was a teenage right of passage. Blue legs for weeks.

    The comments about our bodies, one torso, one head, etcetera, really did hit nail on the head. How we dress ourselves is limited to that which we have to cover. The way we cover ourselves, as in fashions, might seem to come and go, but fundamentally the garments cover our arms, legs and torso. There are only a limited number of permutations for doing that.

    Taking Big J's point of a throwaway society. You would think that garments like our underwear and swimwear would be excluded but not so, the ladies spend a fortune on them, and even the men have to have the latest Speedo swimming trunks. So to answer the O/P's question: Why did functional yet beautiful designs stop a long time ago? The answer is, they didn't. The aesthetic of beauty and function is in the eye of the beholder.
     
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  16. scottyrocks

    scottyrocks I'll Lock Up

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    I think the 1970s proved the folly of change for the sake of change, as far as clothing is concerned.
     
  17. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

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    @GHT, good point!
    Although ostensibly underwear is supposed to be private, and not the sort of thing you show just anyone (although I'll admit I haven't always been choosy!).
     

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