Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Hip Tilt

I wasn't allowed to start a fashion folio, not until I had finished my Year 12 exams. My desire to pursue something fashionable, something artistic failed to impress my parents, but at this stage of the game, I could hardly care less. As my school friends got wasted, I bought a spiral-bound book with a translucent purple cover and I started to sketch girls, inspired by the pasted scraps of glossy paper ripped from fashion magazines. I started my first fashion folio, I started to imagine who I could be.

The girls I sketched were gruff, yet willowy, with side fringes and fashionably asymmetric garments. I drew awkward, couture dresses and near pointless white-singlet-indigo-jean combinations. All the while, I would pay careful attention to the female form. I ensured that each girl posed differently, with a head tilt or a fist clenched. There was always a cohesiveness about it, the eyes were always flat black lines, hooded to disguise any realistic demeanour. Their bodies were always stretched out and slimmed down to avoid any hint of a hip.

When I was meant to be studying for Criminal Law, I sketched furiously. I presented my initial efforts to my supportive best friend. After examining the drawings closely, she cried out: "It's great! You've got the hip tilt and everything!" I had never heard the expression before, but as she went on to explain the physiological significance of the tilt, it was the first time I ever considered that the hips might play some sort of a role in the balance and proportion of the female form.

It would take some time before I would accept the hips. I felt a great deal of reluctance to accept that curve: the exaggerated breasts, the small waist and big hips. I can only imagine this had much to do with those glossy images I poured over. In 2002, no such images were represented in the fashion magazines I collected. Yet I still admit, I wanted to be one of them, I wanted to be straight up and down, like a stick. I thought this was the absolute embodiment of sexiness.

Again and I'm not quite sure how, something changed, something in the public consciousness. I felt there was a greater acknowledgement of different shapes, of pears and apples and an almost universal adulation for the hourglass figure. Lovers raved on and on, insisting of how they unequivocally loved curvy girls, how they perceived hips as handle bars. Not only that, I spied Tyra's team of wannabe Top Models, discussing how they could effectively shape their body, to contort it in a manner that would exaggerate the curve I once so vehemently detested.

I never ended up drawing a girl with big hips. I gave up in 2005, three quarters of the way through my fourth fashion folio. I had presented my sketches, along with my stencil graffiti artwork to a panel of teachers, during an interview for a creative arts certificate. After I was rejected from the course, I could never bring myself to sketch again. It seemed pointless to imagine how I'd ever fare in trousers made of belts or a hoodie made of chainmail, inspired by the Smiths' Bigmouth Strikes Again.

I only recently started sketching again, I started teaching myself vintage fashion illustration from Walter T Foster's instructional book, Fashion Illustration 1920-1950. I love it, even though the girls are even more slender, stretched out and slimmed down. There are no hips, no breasts and only the tiniest waft of a waist. I do it, not to vanquish my own curve, but to embrace that simplicity of line and how it so easily suggests an arcane ideal of the female form.


  1. I love the annotation "just believe the 90s never happened". Sometimes, I would like to believe that!

    Keep up the sketching, it'd be swell if you posted more bits & pieces in future, although I understand it's not necessarily the purpose of this space...

  2. Thank you for your comment, smudgeon! It's really sweet of you to reply!

    PDF copies of the folios are actually available to download, just hover your mouse over the words "awkward", "couture dresses" and "pointless". Of course, it's all dated (and embarrassing) now.

    That quote, "just believe the 90s never happened" came from the intense 80s revival that was happening at the time. I could not grapple with this skinny-jean thing at all.

    More essays are forthcoming, I've just finished another book and there are 39 essays in that! I hope you're well, sir! Are you still doing your haiku?

  3. I quite enjoyed reading your notes. Very amusing. You sure know a lot of Latin - it's a vocational necessity for you, right?

    Thanks for asking - my haiku come sporadically, even less frequently in recent months. I always thought personal upheaval was supposed to drive creativity, but not always, it seems.

    Looking forward to seeing more of your writings, Miss Eleanor.

  4. No, no I would never use Latin nowadays. I believe it was just the Ovid hangover from school.

    I understand exactly what you mean about haiku! At times, there is a greater compulsion to get it all down when we're feeling troubled.

    And you should definitely put together a podcast, the smudgecast! A cassette may not be necessary, but it's a lovely touch nevertheless!