Sleeves that are too long, trouser legs that are too long: A trend wants distance

Sleeves that are too long, trouser legs that are too long: A trend wants distance

Run, float, stand still. A new trend shows: In times of deep helplessness, fashion is not sure what to do next.

What it means: A model presents trousers that are too long from Stella McCartney’s new spring collection Photo: Stephanie Lecocq

Touch things. Walking on the dirty ground of facts. It’s pretty obvious that the current trend of extra-long sleeves and floor-dragging pants says a lot about contact with the world and, above all, avoiding it. Something wants to get out of the present, doesn’t want to see your own hands and feet, wants distance and dreams that your own trousers could be a royal train.

Unassailable, a bit stroppy and spoiled. This look floats through the present. The material is not skimpy. In addition, the main roles are prominently cast: hands and feet, the body parts of action, of big and small steps, play with one’s own disappearance. The machinery of interpretation cannot help but start. But that’s part of it, because everything about this look wants to be read – maybe even preferred to be liked.

The norm is losing power

There would be the cuddliness. The silhouette aimed at a long-distance effect. There is the pleasantly self-assuring low center of gravity that the abundance of material creates on the wrists and feet. It can feel like a piece of jewelry, like an invitation to a slow dance or the beginning of a hug. Justin Bieber doesn’t have to approve it. And neither does Kendall Jenner, who always knows everything first and can do it best, and who already signaled maximum trend strength in 2019 in a shirt that completely hides her hands.

It has to do with the inside of the material, on which many things can be written that would otherwise fall victim to the soft focus: hints of sadness, small insults or questions about one’s own body image. The memory of stretching the sleeves of the sweaters after each wash so that they would be “long enough,” at least for a short time. In a sweater of current fashion, this is unnecessary. The norm of not-too-big-and-not-too-small loses its power and is overwritten with oversize.

Space, radical

The idea is probably as old as fashion itself. Oversize, that is the size above the size, never be at a loss for an answer. It comes from a point of overkill, meaning that no matter who it hits, it’s at least one step ahead of the tie. A chronic winner, a queen of the big screen, whose dominance sometimes causes her charm and je ne sais quoi to suffer. Another term, not only for this trend, is more productive.

What is meant is the position of the intermediate space, which is radically disinterested in any appropriation. It was formulated in an epoch-making fashion in the early 1980s in the fashion of Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto, much to the astonishment of Western audiences. Outrageous things like “Hiroshima chic” and “post atomic” could be read. The sophistication of that fashion, its wounded beauty and love of the moment were initially completely incomprehensible.

Sensual and at the same time a space for thoughts: the space in between leaves room for the incomplete, for the movement of the body and – if you will – the secrets of the diary, which do not even dare to breathe out loud in the corset of representation.

The game of seduction

The Belgian virtuoso Ann Demeulemeester, whose fashion features extra lengths all the time, knows the space well. Her long, reaching arms, gifted with poetry, play the game of seduction, oblivious to themselves. This has nothing to do with the fierce embrace of oversize. Not even with Martin Margiela, who arranges entire scenes in the freedom of the space in between.

An example: a famous jacket from the fall and winter collection 2005/2006. It appears as a hooded jacket, a deconstruction of a men’s fashion classic, although that sounds far too theoretical. What is captured is a moment, a situation. You can imagine someone being surprised by a thunderstorm. He doesn’t have an umbrella with him and pulls his jacket over his head to protect himself as he runs towards his destination in the rain.

Sure, I see you

By the way, this Margiela jacket resurfaced as a quote last winter. At the Coperni label it was quoted several times, in the most streamlined form. The jacket is now oversized. The tenderness of the moment is forgotten, the flitting gesture that Margiela had found in the folds of the fabric. Instead of the rain shower, a taut imperative: “Look at me!”

“Sure, I see you. How could I not?” The answer seems to give itself. But as always, when the attention economy screams at you and demands that you look nowhere else, a sad feeling remains. What becomes of the rather quiet question of whether the excessive hems off the big screen don’t also have something to do with the romantic longing to escape from oneself?

The trend is irresistibly casual

Interestingly, fashion magazines are also having a hard time. This trend is irresistibly casual, although or perhaps because every step only makes the pants dirtier and more damaged. In any case, it is thanked with endlessly long legs. So far, so familiar. But then comes a passage that betrays a certain irritation because it promises no aesthetic advantage whatsoever. It is said that super long sleeves can protect against unhygienic doorknobs.

Sounds practical, but the doorknob argument is harmless. Old, class dress codes and their privileges are reflected. Rough work requires arms and hands. Which is why the medieval Houppelande was considered all the more noble the more inaccessible its bag-shaped sleeves made the hands vulnerable to any imposition of reality.

Pleasure for escalation

Restlessness is palpable, escapism and curiosity. Away from the mainstream, this is expressed as a desire for extremes. This is how the trend magazine counts View “extreme body proportions” are among the most important highlights of current fashion and, in its projection for winter 23/24, showed a work from the 2022 graduate class of the London College of Fashion: a violet, asymmetrical evening coat whose right shoulder is dramatically raised and whose extravagant arm length is wide reaches over the hand to the floor.

Medieval Houppelande beckons again. How one has to say that the strange, fantastic forms of the past are extremely useful for thinking about the present and the future.

The emotional turmoil

Finally, here’s an example, a knitted combination from the London label Jordanluca: The trousers are particularly great, borrowing from nagabakama, ceremonial trousers of the samurai and traditional Japanese theater. It’s so long that walking is basically impossible. A bit of shuffling and striding, that’s all there is to it. You could easily stand around like that at parties.

At least that’s what the escapist part of the interpretation says. The other, more curious part has to do with a dramatic standstill. Fashion borrows the paradox from Kabuki theater. The scene lingers, stops, when the emotional turmoil is at its most intense. A feeling comes to its own end. At least on stage it is a moment of realization.


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