I know the root meaning of them, of course; they come from the French meaning vanguard or forefront.
Avant Garde is about experimenting, being daring, radical and unexpected, certainly unorthodox and decidedly beyond the confines and comforts of the mainstream. Avant Garde ideas can be challenging to understand, and are often dismissed as simply being wacky, weird or outrageous, having high shock value due to unfamiliarity. They can, in some arenas, even be perceived as dangerous or promoting perverse ideas. Avant Garde is most closely associated, although by no means exclusively, with the arts and culture.
So why are we talking about avant garde in this post?
My blogging pal, Sheela invited me to be part in this month's Project Sister Act, alongside 3 other bloggers (you can see their outfits at the end of the post). A huge honour and a complete unexpected delight - thank you Sheela - especially as I think the theme is such a bold and exciting one. For those of you who maybe unfamiliar with Sheela's series, here's some background to it, in her own words.
Project Sister Act is very close to my heart. It advocates how women across all age groups (I’m talking about teens to 60s, 70s, 80s), are united in showcasing that style knows no age boundary. That style is indeed an expression of one’s personality, no matter if one’s a product of the 70s or 90s. And that the one same motif can be stylish on any and every woman, regardless of the year she was born.
When I read Sheela's invitation, I was in the car with Tall Brown Fox who was driving us to the coast for a day out. It set off a very animated discussion between us about what we each regarded as Avant Garde in the context of the theme and how it relates to fashion and style in general. It also led us to explore what it meant in the wider context of society and in fields beyond fashion such as science, art, music, architecture etc ... I can't tell you how quickly the car journey went!
Sheela kindly gave us free rein to interpret the theme as we wished.
Since I've started blogging I've really been able to fully understand and realise my own style. I've always known what I like and don't like but the different aspects of my style personality have become more distinct. I've realised that one such aspect that I'm drawn to is masculine chic. This might very well surprise and challenge an outside viewer's initial perception of me. After all, I'm small, have curly hair and very feminine features in face and body shape. Hardly anything masculine about my physical appearance.
I pretty much knew straight away how I wanted my interpretation of the theme to be. I wanted to create a playful, nuanced exploration of the duality of the feminine and the masculine. I have made small forays into this before. For one of my Seasonal Skinny posts last year, I did a menswear inspired outfit in my Suited and Booted post, but this time I pushed the boundaries a little more to produce an outfit that I have christened;
Steampunk Couture Inspired!
On first impression, my outfit may not look very avant garde and certainly, afficiandos of Steampunk would probably scoff and say, 'a top hat does not Steampunk make', to which I would agree but let's take a closer look.
Tall Brown Fox in particular likes steampunk and I'm certainly intrigued but it. I have to say that I prefer the male steampunk look over the female. As much as corsets can give you a stunningly sleek silhouette, I'm not keen on garments that by their nature constrict.
I've taken the clean lines of male tailoring, with the cut and fit of the trousers and the jacket. Layering is a key element in steampunk but instead of going an obvious route of waistcoat and shirt, I layered the shirt, open, over a cami - the feminine twist! The longer length jacket is reminiscent of a Victorian or Edwardian Frock coat, which is very male Steampunk.
A popular adornment in masculine Steampunk is the wearing of a pocket watch. I bought this silver belt chain to give the impression of this and was the only item I bought specifically for this outfit. Although the timing was perfect, as I had been thinking about buying a chain belt for sometime!
The tailored trousers fit the style perfectly, as the little pocket by the belt loops is like a fob. A fob is a small pocket near the waistline of trousers or on a waistcoat that would be the right size to hold a pocketwatch.
With frock coats, a cravat would normally be the traditional attire but I brought in another feminine element. At the collar I put a cameo style brooch. But not just any cameo brooch; look closer and you'll see it's a decidedly masculine theme - it's a gasmask, albeit a stylised one for Steampunk!
Huge thanks and round of applause to Tall Brown Fox for not only having great taste in admiring Steampunk in the first place but for allowing me to commandeer his Steampunk accessories of top hat, goggles, glasses and brooch.
Just as the traditional Chinese yin and yang symbol shows seemly opposite forces intertwining and complimenting each other, so the feminine and the masculine can easily cohabit. And sartorially, they enhance each other's qualities.
Feminine dressing isn't just about the obvious; frills, florals, short skirts and high heels - although there's nothing wrong with that. The steampunk inspiration allows me bring in flavours and ideas that would perhaps be less familiar to broaden people's view and challenge their preceptions of what feminine dressing can be.
Yes, there's an element of theatricality about the outfit, especially with the steampunked top hat, with its accessorised goggles, but this isn't a costume.
Take off the top hat and the steampunk glasses and I'd happily wear this out, not least because I'm flaunting some pattern mixing plus polka dots! And you should all know by now, how happy polka dots make me!
Let's meet my fellow Avant Garde Stylists from the Teens to the 50s!
What an incredible group of ladies to be involved with. I've found some new and exciting blogs to follow, which I hope you do too.
Thank you Sheela for including me in this wonderful avant garde party. It was a blast.
Our teen Avant Garde Stylist is Eve from The World According to Eve
Eve looking strong, serious and totally comfortable in her skin. I love the touches of the glasses, unusual yet striking jewellery and wow, those are killer boots!
And thanks to Eve, who came up with the idea for this month's theme.
And thanks to Eve, who came up with the idea for this month's theme.
Our 20s Avant Garde Stylist is Chasmine from The Glamazon Universe
Chasmine says she 'chose this look because I love how lingerie gowns, lace camisoles and unmentionables are becoming a part of our everyday wardrobe.'
Chasmine is so right - clothes aren't just confined nowadays to their original purpose. Bring a little of the bedroom into everyday life.
Our 30s Avant Garde Stylist is Joi from In My Joi
Her look is a mix of 'vintage clothing meets mod, via leather sneakers'.
I love the print of the outfit and PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE can I have that coat, Joi?
Our 40s Avant Garde Stylist is the Project Creator Extraordinaire, Sheela from Sheela Writes
Looking badass and feminine, all at the same time. Look at those fabulouse sleeves!
And last but not least me, Petite Silver Vixen, representing the 50s!
I hope you enjoyed this Avant Garde collaboration - do pop by the other bloggers to learn more about their outfits.
What would your interpretation of this theme have been?
Linking with Not Dressed As Lamb / Confident Twosday / Garay Treasures / Turning Head's Tuesday / Style Me Wednesday / ColorandGrace / JerseyGirlTexanHeart / Living In Colour / High Latitude Style / Happiness At Midlife / JerseyGirlTexanHeart / Eleganceandmommyhood / A Labour of Life / Curly Crafty Mom / Fashion Should Be Fun / A Pocketful Of Polkadots / Jeans And A Teacup / Nancy's Fashion Style / Fine Whatever /