Think about the female silhouette throughout the centuries and you will realise that probably very rarely women wore garments that highlighted the real contours of their natural bodies.
In fact the popularity of a design was often dictated by exaggerated hips, busts and derrieres or by minimised waists.
Crinolines imprisoned women in cages impairing their walk; the ideal of beauty behind the “Gibson girl” reduced the body to an hourglass figure, while Dior’s "New Look" popularised cinched waists.
All these trends played with shapes, emphasised a part of the human body, transforming it into a mathematical variable that could be changed and altered according to the times, the structures used to support a design or the fabrics employed to make it.
The late Alexander McQueen was for example a true master in body alterations, indeed his Spring/Summer 2010 collection was a sort of ode to human, or rather female, mutations.
In the history of fashion, Japanese designers such as Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto embody the challenges moved to traditional tailoring standards and techniques.
In many of their collections the body is indeed dramatically altered through cutting, stitching and padding.
The theme of body transformations came back in some of the collections for the next season.
At Comme des Garçons, for example, Rei Kawakubo tried to update an idea already seen in the Spring/Summer 1997 collection entitled “Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body”.
In the latter, Kawakubo challenged traditional silhouettes inserting bumps or pads in unexpected areas of the body and transforming it in this way in a grotesque kind of sculpture with a slight architectural edge.
Tailored sharp edges were softened, the natural folds of skirts and drop crotch trousers were filled with padding while the proportions, conventions and constructions were altered in favour of an aesthetic of maximised exaggeration.
In some cases the designs were decorated with slashes through which the padding seemed to erupt, adding movement and dynamic to the garments.
Yohji Yamamoto played instead with volumes in a more controlled way.
Superficially, the shirtdresses, suits and coats in Yamamoto’s collection appeared to be simply oversized, but, by looking better, you realised that tailored details such as pleats and folds were cleverly employed to create asymmetries that contributed to transform the silhouette.
But, while body alterations occurred in these two collections through exaggeration and volume manipulations, other designers settled on transforming the body through what may be defined as a sculptural approach.
This was the case at A.F. Vandervorst's where cardboard vests were used as armours and matched with shirts and jackets that seemed to be riveted on the body.
The rigid structures of these garments and of the boots with armour-like articulated knees contrasted with the fluidity of the trousers and skirts.
Further rigidity of forms was suggested by the black jackets and trousers with chalk prints that turned the model's body into a sort of human blackboard.
At Haider Ackermann's jackets, vests and dresses wrapped around the models' bodies with long tongues of leather while detachable peplums zipped around the waist emphasising it.
While these designs and the sensual laser-cut leather gowns gave a sharp edge to the body revealing it, the long capes and cocooning coats provided ample fabric shelters.
Throughout the centuries women’s bodies have been the most altered and reinvented. Yet contemporary menswear has been displaying an interest for modifying men's bodies as well.
For the Autumn/Winter 2010 season Raf Simons at Jil Sander suggested a streamlined look with clean cut and minimal jackets, coats and tops characterised by rhomboidal and trapezoidal figures that, in some cases, had a retro futuristic edge.
Also Donatella Versace showed interest in body-fitting designs inspired by the future. The trailer for Tron Legacy prompted her to explore the possibilities offered by dynamic skin-tight motorcycle jackets and trousers matched with grey and black patent leather boots.
Unfortunately, not all the designs displayed a perfect metamorphosis of men's bodies into electric cyberpunk shapes and cosmic speed bikers often turned into glammed up motorcyclists, yet it was an interesting effort.