Saturday, September 29, 2007

Girly t-shirt styles still booming fashions

For more than a decade now, women have been steering clear of baggy unisex T shirts, going in for more figure-flattering looks and asking garment makers to custom-cut styles especially for the female form. As a design/ printer in the shirt merchandising industry, I've noticed wholesalers' new season catalog covers showing more and more 'girl power'. Baby doll tops, cap sleeve tees, spaghetti strap tanks and boy beaters are among the slew of new ladies' junior style offerings challenging the basic boxy tee shirt.

Just as my mom and pop survived the advent of the mini skirt without too much damage to their relationships with their daughters, in the same way, I too am now wading through the new fashion currents (especially as they affect my own daughter!) In our home, as in our cottage industry, our family values and notions of modesty in dress keep open for us a dialog with the fashion culture. Style and taste are generous enough tents pitched in this dialog so while others will doubtless differ, what follows is one of my own concerns.

This might surprise you, but even as a designer who wants to maximize profits making top-notch ladies-wear, there are certain styles I can't promote and won't place in my ladies wear line. It has always seemed to me there is a fine but necessary line to draw between "sexy" and "racy". A little of the former is good for self-esteem, and healthy body image; the latter seems to me only to be reveling in over-exposure. Some styles just show too much skin--though very often sizing up larger can compensate for those who, like me, prefer a look that yields a tad more coverage without losing the appeal of the more contoured fit that's already tailored into the style of the shirt.

Accordingly, I want the spaghetti strap styles that I print on to come up high and I think the print just plain looks better at that level as well. The raglan cap sleeve tee ("baseball" style, yet thoroughly girly) is another one of my favorites. This style has a major body-area color with different, contrasting sleeve/crew neck colors. The sleeve holes are cut at a diagonal to the neck as opposed to straight up to the shoulder (sometimes called a "box-cut" sleeve). It's just very cute and flattering to the female form. Other ladies wear styles I consider to be classy are baby doll tops and needle-out tees (inside-out, with contrasting stitches on the seams). New styles seem to keep emerging which makes this market a really fun place for a designer of ladies wear to be.

When it comes to the graphics, elegant and classic is the goal. Prints should enhance the sense of presence already in the style of the garment and be decorative and designerly. I think the use of gold glitter and metallic shades on dark fabrics is simply the bombest and many designs of late incorporating metallic inks are for the most part, rather appealing and quite innovative. Uncluttered, clean- looking prints ooze with that elusive stylishness. A driving standard of graphic design is for the total visual presentation to be harmoniously honed to a single point, both visually and textually. You know this instinctively when you see it--it just grabs you.

I believe that slogans and text should be minimal and when used, confluent with the overall artistry. Cleverly humorous, zany statements are always a sure winner, as are upbeat, positive messages. However, to my way of thinking, in-your-face political messages, vulgar slogans, and shock-value sayings lacking all subtlety don't make the grade in quality fashion design. Sure, they're often funny, but isn't it past time for the text in tee shirt fashions to rise above the level of a readable fart?

Just as styles for ladies are becoming specialized and classier, so surely will their accompanying graphics--unquestionably, it's already happening. Recently I saw a girl in an off-white beater, no print at all on the front. High on the back, however, was a small but intricately crafted pair of filigree angel wings, in a beige print, very decorative, very feminine and somewhat tattoo- like. The text displaying the logo brand name was likewise small and unobtrusive. Bravo!--and more of the same, please!