Market Research: Pleats Please Issey Miyake “Black Pleated Mock Neck Dress”
Goth Shakira On Breakups And The Mean, Sad, Sexy Of Armor-Dressing
Any major dude will tell you that heartbreak is never isolated to the heart. It creeps its slurpy tendrils into everything—including your earthly vessel. And so, after an intimate betrayal by a razor love, I found myself embodying—at least through my clothes—everything I had previously dismissed. The details of said heartbreak aren’t important, because evil is banal and it’s the sartorial aftermath that really matters.
I started wearing black. Tight, strappy crop tops in technical fabrics. Long dresses clinging to my stress-thinned frame. A mean, sad sexy. “The intimidator costume,” messaged one of my internet crushes who I found every reason not to spend time with in person. For the days I was both goth teenage boy and streetwear crone there were XL hoodies and baggy pants, a look that commanded: “Don’t sexualize me, I’m hurting.” Translation, as documented in my journal: “Corazón solitario vestido de negro.”
As I slipped this black Pleats Please Issey Miyake dress over my head almost a year after The Anguish™ transpired, it felt like my disjointed uniform (sad Trinity from listens to too much Fall Out Boy in 2005? Basement-dwelling goth teen adopts a Patrick Bateman-esque hot yoga routine?) melded into itself to form one alchemical mood. I was impressed by the firm fragility of the garment, the restraint of its gentle beauty. In the parlance of a certain moment in digital space-time, “Get you a girl who can do both.” This dress was she.
The “patented knife-edge folds”, as the brand itself calls them, are the final results of a technique that creates the garment’s fabric from a single thread. The fabric is sewn into a piece that is three times bigger than the final product, at which time a pleating machine transforms the costume into little rivulets of crêpe swish and negative space. The result? An almost offensively gorgeous sculpture that doesn’t wrinkle, doesn’t need dry-cleaning, and can be thrown into a carry-on and emerge immaculate. Venus de Milo is shaking.“Darkness in fashion is seldom bland,” as Nina Edwards wrote for The Paris Review. “Even where it fails, its objective is to make its mark, whether one of elegance or uniformity, modesty or dangerous seduction... it can obscure what we find less appealing and hint at mysterious qualities that a scrubbed-clean face couldn’t hope to inspire.” Of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy appearing in opulent black garments, it is written that “he must have looked both ascetic and satanic, his perfectly cut fashionable garments self-parodied by their color.” Edwards goes on to conclude that “Black clothing is both a high-fashion and a counterfashion choice.”Because we’re on the topic of both very expensive Japanese dresses and heartfuck, I think of Kanako Noda setting foot in the Issey Miyake flagship in Kyoto for the first time: “As you approach, you first notice the immaculate noren—a traditional Japanese entrance curtain—with a straight line across it: the Japanese character for the number one, which doubles as the first character in ‘Issey’ (一生)”. One, the number I ignored for too long through the starved, fuzzy python of codependency. One, how I found myself abandoned by my own relationship “choices” stemming from a complex blend of trauma, innate nature, and what some call free will. It was the mortal end of a pattern I couldn’t emotionally afford to repeat. I resolved to find eroticism in the death of togetherness. So I became like the pleats: perfectly pressed to mechanical precision yet incomprehensibly fragile.Then again, a broken heart is an open heart. I took the dress to visit my family in Alberta, the Texas of Canada and home to quite possibly some of the most questionable style choices in the history of peoplekind. I thought the juxtaposition of the exquisite 3-D printed installation (the dress) against a landscape of GAP fleece and Costco dad sneakers (not the ironic kind) would be... . What I came to love about the dress is that it allowed me to be suitably dressed for any occasion, anywhere. At its best, Issey’s sculpted and gossamer firmness was noticed for what it was by an acquaintance I ran into. At its other, arguably superior best, the dress was an extra sheath of protection peeking out from underneath a North Face jacket—no wonder Alia Shawkat called it her “ice warrior” dress. As invisibility is the ideal weapon to avoid the attention of sad lawyers and wife-thirsty oil-and-gas engineers in the pallid light of a downtown happy hour hideout, the subtlety of the dress served me well. “Look at her, she thinks she’s so much better than us,” a friend of a friend drunkenly blurted out in reference to my black shield of the evening. “No,” I thought, “I’m just sad.”Like an intuitive friend (with their moon in a water sign) the dress held my sadness but didn’t launch me into a more-pretentious, alternate-universe version of myself, as many artfully crafted high-fashion staples tend to do. At first I thought the dress was the antithesis of the almighty hoodie, the perpetual symbol of millennial monkdom, a self-care pentagram with therapy, quinoa, self-help podcasts, savasana, and coconut oil at its occult endpoints. Not so. Turns out there was loosening to be found amidst the meticulous care of luxury, a democratically genderfluid freedom in a subtly shaped form that could be worn by anyone. Like a paper star collapsed onto itself, it was a disarming counterpoint to the excess of male insecurity, a Saturnian anchor that allowed me to safely explore the edges of my own vulnerability instead of trying to heal another’s.The edges revealed themselves in their own way in that fallow prairie of top-40 country and glassy condos. After a particularly heavy family conversation about immigration and generational trauma, I needed to leave the house fast. I threw the dress over a pair of faded American Apparel sweatpants, laced up my mom’s too-big New Balance sneakers, and threaded one arm into a puffer sleeve as I descended the doorsteps. I ended up at the suburban baseball diamond where I had my first kiss, inhaling half a joint and curling up into the first-base snow to cry like a very fashionable zygote. In a grand-finale hedonism test to see how the dress would hold up, I paid a visit to the infamous Cowboy’s casino, then had a threesome to Spotify’s Keith Urban country radio (do I wish I was kidding? I’m not sure).In a journal entry dated a few months post-heart-put-through-meat-grinder I wrote to myself: “You get to decide what you do with the empty space.” In the time that has passed between this Valentine’s Day and the last, I’ve become something else that I like better. Like the space between the Issey pleats, I learned how to nurture the greater structure I was a part of, the sacred spaceship I was building from the benevolent void left by loss—or just transformation—of something unfinished. I am my own sound piece of armor, a protector of the sorrowful beauty of change. And for the moments I need to convince the eyes around me of it too, there’s the dress.