So this past week my husband gave me a design challenge. What happens when you apply puff and slash to outfits that aren’t European renaissance themed? First let’s talk briefly about what defines puff ‘n’ slash for this challenge. For me I instantly go to the Landsknecht. The idea of showing off how rich you are by cutting expensive materials to ribbons to show off the layers underneath, shows up all over the place, but the Landsknecht take it to another level. Symetry goes out the window, and creative use and abuse of expensive materials abounds.
The difficult part of this challenge isn’t so much applying these principles to other distinctive cuts of garments, but rather maintaining enough integrity of those cuts that it doesn’t look indistinguishable from european versions of puff-n-slash. My first thoughts were to go as far east as I could, to get far and away from the jackets and pants look of europe.
For my first stop, I went to some of my favorite periods and regions in fashion history: Ancient china, specifically the mid to late Tang dynasty. The things I love about this period are the layers and simplicity of cut combined with weaving arts that were the pinacle of technology at the time. Some of my research has indicated that this period may have been the early days of brocades rather than embroidery or painted fabrics, but I am not convinced on the reliability of those sources. However something that thrills me about Tang dynasty garments specifically is that there are tons of paintings dating to that period that feature what have to be sheer fabrics.
Looking to these old paintings to try to determine the important structures of the garments isn’t always straight forward. I’m looking for structural parts of the garment that I can panel, ribbon, or slash through and pull a second layer of fabric through. The first candidate is the collar on the long robes, but I don’t think the puffing process would work well on sheer fabrics. But if I incorporate the solid under robes from the early Tang and Sui dynasties maybe I could put some slashes into those collars. To me it looks like the bust area of the dresses are either fitted or drawn taught by the sash that sits high on the waist. I think that would be a great place to panel and puff some contrasting material through the gaps. This still isn’t quite enough for me, so I went out on a limb and replaced the traditional narrow sash under the bust with a wide belt, more akin to an obi from Japanese fashion. Unlike an obi however, I think it has to be corsetted if it’s going to have enough structure to support any ribbony puff’n’slash. The idea needs a lot of work if I’m ever going to translate it into an actual set of garments, but here’s what all those ideas distilled down to.
I then moved on to happhazardly applying slashes, and paned sleeves to what I remember of the structure of a Vientamese Ao Dai and some billowing pants and layered short and long vests.