Sunday, March 29, 2009

Twiggy and the Mod Style

Twiggy during the "height of her modeling...Image via Wikipedia

Dressing For a "Brave New London" - Examining the Iconic Look of Twiggy and the Mod Style by Daniel Hsu

Even before I crossed the Atlantic Ocean, I knew there was something special about London and the United Kingdom. After all, how could a place that is smaller than the state of Oregon produce so many legendary musicians, such as The Beatles, Elton John, Radiohead and Underworld. How could it produce cult movies such as Clockwork Orange, Trainspotters and Shawn Of The Dead. It's my belief that only great cultural centers could produce such great art.

Fashion is another cultural phenomenon that has echoed across the world. In popular culture, the Mod subculture and style was born on the streets of London in the 50s, but it still lives on throughout today on the streets of San Francisco, New York, Hong Kong, Moscow, etc.

The origination of the Mod style can actually be traced back to Mary Quant, a British fashion designer. Through her boutique on Kings Road in London, she let loose a style that the masses would eventually make their own.

It's never easy to explain a fashion style. After all, fashion is meant to be a visual art. The best way to explain a fashion style is by looking at those iconic figures who the general audience associates with that style. In the case of Mod, The English model Twiggy may be the most iconic figure of this style.

In her most simple outfits, Twiggy could be seen wearing a simple solid color a-line shift dress. The shift dress is a corner stone of the Mod style. The shift dress is defined as a dress without waist shaping or seam. When laid out flat, the shift dress is very geometrically shaped in nature. In fact, the Mod style can be described as a very geometrical fashion style, especially compared to the Bohemian style with its flutter sleeves and floaty tops. It is a rare to see a photograph of Twiggy in the 50s and 60s where she is not wearing something geometric.

Another defining characteristic of the shift dresses worn by Twiggy is the length. Though there are those who would dispute this claim, Mary Quant has also been credited with creating the mini skirt and dress or at least making it popular among the young women of the United Kingdom. Quant believed the mini skirt to liberating and also practical, allowing women "to run after the bus". Quant's mini dresses and skirts were raised 6 or 7 inches above the knee, attracting women who were interested in something daring and outside of what adults found socially acceptable.

Additionally, when browsing through photo galleries of Twiggy, one would find her in horizontal striped tunics and dresses. Mod stripes should not be mistaken for nautical stripes. Nautical stripes are meant to be more sophisticated and classic American style. Meanwhile, Mod stripes are far from classic. Mod stripes are thicker, bolder, and more glitzy, further defining the Mod style apart from traditional more conservative English dress.

Finally, since the Mod style originated in London, a jacket or coat is necessary to walk the often gloomy and wet streets. In public photos of Twiggy, she rarely donned a jacket. Rather, she is mostly photographed wearing a statement coat with a check print. Just like the Mod mini dress, the coat should take on the a-line shape and slightly longer than the mini dress. In fact, the Mod coat, when buttoned up, should almost be mistaken as a dress itself.

Though Twiggy is seen as the iconic figure for the Mod style, women across London and the world have influenced the look with such pieces as the flat boot, boxy jacket, and double-breasted coat, etc. Nonetheless, if one is inspired to relive this era in London history, Twiggy can show one how to do so with sexiness and style, characteristics that women still strive for today.

Daniel Hsu

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