The body conscious way of dressing was first championed by eighties’ fashion powerhouse Azzedine Alalia. A repertoire of looks electrifying high street fashion was prompted by Azzedine Alaia, in Figure 1 (thehoegoddess.com) , who was entitled the “King of Cling” in the 1980s by the fashion press. His designs were well known to be a spectacle of the female body. Alaia's clothes captured the spirit of the times when many women indulged in physical activities and fashion magazines began to showcase muscled bodied models. As many women wanted to parade their newly toned bodies, designers began to create clothing to emphasize the female form that was revolutionary to European fashion. His concern for sculptural and sensual designs in his clothes is a clear insight to his formal training in the fine arts (Daryl F. Mallett, 2008).
Political and economical conditions in the 1980s triggered international scrutiny of equality of sexes as a moral goal when Margaret Thatcher became the first female Prime Minister of England in 1979. Colleen Hill (2008) said during his curation at the Museum of FIT, “By the 1980s, attitudes toward the display of a woman’s body had shifted dramatically”. Akiko Fukai (2002, pp.513) observes the commencement of the body-conscious movement, “Women, suddenly active in the world of professional business and interested in keeping their bodies physically toned, wore a style called “Power dressing” which simultaneously promoted an image of powerful authority and a soupcon of sexualized femininity”. This upcoming trend saw the return of body-conscious fashion as observed in the 1960s through Azzedine Alaia’s pioneering use of revolutionary stretch materials like lycra, spandex, jersey knits and viscose in the 1980s (Akiko Fukai, 2002). His body embracing garments that fit like a second skin (Encyclopedia, 2010) were a nonpareil representation of the body conscious decade. Suzy Menkes (1991) in her article said that Alaia’s research into materials and the way he handles them makes his customers follow him faithfully. He used stretch laceover flesh colored fabric to give a false impression of nudity. Linda Watson (2004, pp.152) says while analyzing 20th century fashion, “Alaia’s underlying principle is that women should celebrate their undulations- one good reason why he returns to pliable textures, such as leather and rayon jersey, time and time again”. Francois Baudot (1996, pp. 13) says in his book on Alaia, “In his designs Alaia eschews all incidental detail, that old adversary of elegance”. Alaia used neutral colors like beige, black, navy and pastels in his garments and displays them without any adornment of jewelry. His clothes focus on a woman’s body as for him ‘the base of all fashion is the body’.
In order to accomplish a faultless fit for his clothes, Alaia amalgamated production principles used in corsetry, which in turn restrained the body, yet preserved the shape and highlighted the contours of the body (Daryl F. Mallett). Greda Buxbaum (1999, pp.125) says of Alaia’s work, “It didn’t matter that his dresses were specifically built around supermodel’s bodies: ‘It is mystery, not nakedness, that counts. We are becoming more and more physically and mentally conditioned towards healthy living; the molding of clothes should reflect this’ “. Francois Baudot ( 1996, pp.13) observes, “While following the body’s slightest movements, it still manages to retain its original shape. In this way a woman, as a living sculpture, embodies the synthesis of Alaia’s two vocations as a sculptor and fashion designer”.
He created the stretch cult object par excellence in 1985. A creation made for singer Grace Jones to wear to the fashion Oscars has been shown in Figure 2 (Francois Baudot, 1996, pp.32) which is a latex dress whose sides are tied up. This dress had earned him the title “King of Cling” (Greda Buxbaum, 1999, pp.140). In the late 1980s, Alaia made a...
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