I have been trying to be more mindful of my surroundings recently. I never, ever see celebrities, and this bothers me; plus, I almost got hit by a car the other day. So on my way to work today, I took a good, hard look around, and while I did not meet my goal—see Padma Lakshmi—I did notice something strange: a number of the women in my direct vicinity were dressed like ascetic monks. What is happening here?
First, I’ll have to acknowledge that this trend—starched, boxy, hospital gown-esque shirts and dresses, often sold in natural hues—is not ubiquitous. Thanks to the influence of designers like Jil Sander, Maria Cornejo, and The Row, the minimalist thing has been going strong for a while, but the box-frock (that’s what I’m calling it) is like minimalism’s evil, boring son; you won’t find too many of these items at H&M or Topshop, whose customers remain stubbornly committed to the idea that clothing be figure flattering.
No, the box-frock is slightly more niche, and appears to be targeted towards low-key, fashion-conscious women who attend art openings and have a house upstate and own $800 hanging textiles. Why this crowd is particularly vulnerable to the suggestion that they ought to spend an enormous amount of money only to look like a literal pauper from 1693 is a lingering question that I imagine will puzzle our descendants; coded within this overpriced smock are conflicting assertions of wealth and almost self-flagellating restraint, something like liberal guilt in wearable form.
So what, exactly, is flattering about this? Is it the gigantic elfin sleeves, in which your arms, I guess, look comparably tiny, like a three-year-old flower girl in a hand-me-down dress?
Is it the cold, utilitarian vibe we’re after? An effect that says, “I might be Swedish, and I have recently completed my second meditation of the day”?
Or is it the comfortable knowledge that no one, from any distance, could accurately guess your boob size?
Tall, short, pear-shaped, flat-chested, large-chested, over 110 pounds, model, non-model—if any of these qualities apply to you, my deepest apologies: this is not your look.