Heatwaves And Hotness: What It Means For Girls
The history of the aforementioned H-words and how they correlate with our climate, both social and literal, and women's clothing.
mayakotomoriforever is a monthly column about fashion, style and why they’re two separate practices. Each installment, Maya presents self-reported and researched-to-the-9s information about real people, concepts, and opinions.
On a Thursday in June, I was surrounded by one of the more concentratedly-hot girl gangs I’d experienced in my meager 24 years. Lounging at the House of Iconica with host and compatriot hot girl Mati Hays, I was surrounded by fashion at its core: a group of girls who have It. When I talk about It, it’s really important to distinguish an It factor from being an It Girl. There’s a level of universal love, jealousy, and popularity that goes into being an It Girl that fashion, inherently, cannot value as commerce for the sake of its survival. Like all good things, fashion must be alienating, and popularity at such a pathological degree of It Girls is not alienating, it’s based on the relatability of coveting another girl’s hotness.
That said, these hot girls I’m surrounded by at the salon, they had It in droves—star quality, uniqueness, lustre—and are popular in their own ways because they’re personable, real people beyond the sheen of likes and follows commonly found online. Humbly, girls who have It will always be more important to me than any It Girl post-It, the book Alexa Chung wrote about everyone loving her in the 2000s. In my humble opinion, what defines fashion is real people with extraordinary qualities, talents, and aptitudes that are so specific that they become a bit daunting. Fashion is a hot flame that can only exist for short bursts of time because it burns brighter than the scrum, that’s all it can do. I digress.
The thing with heat in fashion, is that it’s as scientific as it is stylistic. Fashion and style are two different things in the contemporary, in the sense that fashion has to do with the history of elitism and craft as constructing taste, and style has to do with the ways in which taste plays out among a populace. I hesitate to attribute stylishness as something that affects the masses to commerce, capitalism, or that Marxist bullshit you’ll hear at a dinner party full of Wesleyan and Reed grads because at the end of the day, accepting fashion is accepting the sparkliest, hottest flavor of capital—no amount of Foucault can extinguish that flame.
Stylistic heat is the idea that colors = seasons: pastel pink is spring, neon pink is summer, a deeper berry magenta is autumn/winter. Scientific heat in fashion confuses these delineations, because it’s now hot in November and 60 Fahrenheit in June. More than the mercurialness of climate change points out how arbitrary these color-season standards are, it makes me wonder: did we always care about the weather, and how have dressing hot and dressing for the heat evolved in fashion history?
The transition from the French Revolution into the nineteenth century is probably the most interesting period in fashion history as it is essentially the beginning of the fashion industry (proper) as it stands today. In the eighteenth century, France was known as the predominant leader in women’s fashion, with England holding the title for men’s fashion. Influence and technological advancement and established the “Parisian Mode” and “London Tailoring” in the eighteenth century, and quickly gave way to new fashions following the French Revolution.
The latter years of the eighteenth century saw French opulence adapt to the textile sensibilities of the English, namely in favor of cotton, linen and muslin, and set the stage for fashion’s return to opulence in the nineteenth century, this time with shorter hems and, most importantly, the invention of undergarments. The more new-age garments like shorter layered skirts, brassieres and bloomers were essentially the first class of garments produced by the sewing machine, and later industrialized and sold in department stores, the first of which were, of course, in France in the mid-nineteenth century. Several fashion developments in the nineteenth century are still very prominent today, floral prints a la Art Nouveau artists, boning sewn into garments rather than layered contraptions under a dress, the breast-ass forward S-shaped style that we attribute to Kim K and surgery denizens of the like. This century is, at its core, a very fundamental origin to what we consider “hot” today.
Early children's underwear designs.
Industrialization in fashion also created the seasons twofold: the seasons on the contemporary fashion calendar, and practically, a lot of climate change. Towards the second half of the nineteenth century into the twentieth, the general public in the Western world had a large quality of life. More people would spend their winter months in the tropics (see: Coco Chanel and the cruise collection), play leisure sports like tennis, and spend lots of time outside and on public transportation, and they needed leisure clothing en masse.
The prominence of leisure in both the leisure and working classes brought a more practical approach to fashion because no longer did the elite have pale skin from never needing to lift a finger, they had rich tans like everyone else from spending time outside. With more interaction with weather came fashions that were no longer so impossible to wear for long periods of time, like a Tudor dress that included, sometimes, up to 14 individual layers of fabric.
Camille Clifford's Gibson Girl S-Shape Dress.
Ironically, this industrialization changes the weather as well, from a pollutant standpoint. Where industry became factories became sweatshops became the entire country of Bangladesh’s main GDP, eventually became coal dust, remarkable ocean pollutants, melting permaice, a giant hole in the ozone and, eventual acid rain. At the end of 2022, it was reported that the fashion industry and its supply chain are the second most pollutive industry on the planet—that’s because to maintain this industry, you need a lot of energy (coal and oil), water for dyeing, jet fuel for shipping, plastic for, well, everything. Fashion’s carbon footprint is huge, and given its impact on the environment, the act of shrugging on a cardigan during a sixty-something Thursday in Gemini season feels both atmospherically and swaglessly cold.
Textile scrapyard in Bangladesh.
Something about a seasonally-perfect year, one where its brisk in autumn, cold and picturesque in winter, blooming in spring and steamy in summer, feels so It and chic, I could die. I truly think that’s the epitome of hotness will come sans environmental heatwave, where fashion is alienating, hot at 78% humidity.