CAMOUFLAGE AS A CONCEPT IN FASHION LEXICON

A 1918 article in the New York Times describes the lightweight satin exterior on the new style of Eton jacket as “only camouflage. Underneath these coats are padded and quilted.”

By Balthazar Malevolent

CAMOUFLAGE AS A CONCEPT IN FASHION LEXICON

The term “camouflage” initially entered into the fashion lexicon as a concept, not as a patterned fabric. The patterned garments mentioned before containing disrupted camouflage were at the time called many things, but not “camouflage.” However, once the idea of deceptive concealment was introduced via World War I, the inherent meaning of the term “camouflage” caught on quickly, and was often applied to the transformative powers of fashion. The bifurcated meaning of camouflage as both a pattern applied to garments and a concept that affects the perception of one’s appearance endures to this day in fashion.

1919 Dazzle designs in Margate, England.

A 1918 article in the New York Times describes the lightweight satin exterior on the new style of Eton jacket as “only camouflage. Underneath these coats are padded and quilted.” A book published that same year called Color in Everyday Life claimed that there were “optic illusions created through line movement, through simultaneous contrast and through the differences in retinal excitement caused by different colors and arrangement which can be utilized effectively in connection with the adaptation of the color scheme to the figure of the wearer.” The plates in the book, titled “Camouflage in Dress Design,” demonstrate how a woman could elongate and slenderize her silhouette by using “vertical parallelism” or alternately emphasize her curves through “horizontal parallelism”.

In 1934, the Council of Fashion Research of L. Bamberger and Co. published a study in which “three hundred architects, industrial designers and experts in the science of camouflage in many parts of the country have suggested how a stout woman may dress to obtain the most flattering effect.” Some of the suggestions included never wearing “shiny-surfaced materials” and shunning “large printed patterns,” “flippsy-floppsy trimmings, puffed sleeved and garments that fit too snugly.” One architect suggested using “contrasting colors to camouflage” an unsightly area, while another simply admitted that “it is not easy to say what folds, what materials, what colors, textures, will make a diabetic matron look like the Woolworth building.”

Today, designers often apply camouflage prints to their models. Within his last season, Alexander Wang presented several variations of camo sweatpants, camouflage back panel t-shirts, and camo canvas totes.

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