In my last post about “ugly” clothing, I explained the difference in my mind between clothes that are ugly in such a way as to emphasize normative beauty versus clothes that radiate an aura of abject vitality and can be worn by anyone to transcendent effect. I gave the following list of adjectives that seem to attach themselves to both instances of ugliness in fashion: “chunky, unflattering, brazen, misshapen, immodest but (typically) aggressively non-sexual, frumpy, confusing, perverse.” Retroactively I’ll add “uncanny” to the pool.
I want to be more specific about how this manifests in the clothing I believe carries the aforementioned potential for transcendence and give a few suggestions as to how to capture this phenomenon. Unfortunately, this clothing tends to be reserved for haute couture (exclusive, runway-oriented styles) and thus errs on the expensive side, but for people like us who, I assume, have limited budgets and can’t afford a 10k+ Comme Des Garcons ’97 original (if you can… PLEASE hit me up and we can “talk”) these designs lend themselves to DIY, and not just for sewing masters–I think with a staple gun, some scissors, and maybe hot glue you could recreate the thesis of about 80% of these garments. I’ll divide these recs and musings into “tops,” “bottoms,” “full-body,” and “accessories.”
Keep in mind that these are simply my conceptions of what clothing that is both ugly and genius looks like. These pieces fill me with a vague nausea that quickly dissipates into awe. If you don’t think one of these pieces is ugly and/or awesome, well… this is my blog, buddy, and you’re just on it! (JK I’d actually love to read your comments and criticisms, please leave them below if you have any.)
The way this cardigan slouches and gapes at the neck as if your protruding head is its latest meal is deliciously disturbing.
I love clothes with purposeful staining, they feel more utilitarian in that if I happen to accidentally stain them (as I am wont to do) it feels less like a defilement. This piece looks like someone left a splotch of Tide on it for too long, but it also looks like a secret landscape on the dark side of the moon haunted by a lonely, amoebic ghost. The crumpling seems to be achieved via staple-like pieces of metal, so I think this could be tried at home to great effect with a dark shift dress from a thrift store, some bleach, and reckless abandon with a staple gun or tiny jewelry chain links.
I’m not quite sure how they got the PERFECT patinated rust on this sweatshirt but with some cheap tie-dye and a lot of complimentary color-mixing and maybe a mist bottle, I think you could get there. The fruit stickers really make the “old garbage can” look explicit but I think this would look cool with a ton of tiny pins arranged on the chest and shoulders, too.
Call your craftiest friend, give them 2 white t-shirts, and pay them a fair wage to make this neutral but fragmentary shirt for you. The trick is for both layers to be kind of see-through so opacity is built in the doubled-up shapes.
I love that this bomber looks neutral from the front but is swollen and crumply when viewed sidelong.
Had to include a few pipe-dream grails in this post. The bulbous neckline. The two opposing folds stretching towards each other like the fingers in the goddamn Creation of Adam. The single capped sleeve. This is just a perfect garment and I would do anything but pay the amount asked for to get my paws upon it. I feel like a talented sewist could do this for a couple hundred and now I’m…. thinking about things…
God bless this skirt that is just a skirt with another skirt attached to its waistband, making it look like the wearer was overzealous about grabbing shit out of the laundry pile and immediately throwing it on without making sure nothing had stuck together! As my adjective list asserted: brazen! The truly amazing thing about this piece is that you can recreate it for under 10 bucks with absolutely zero skills by purchasing 2 slip skirts from a thrift store (one doesn’t even have to fit, time to raid the children’s section) and sewing or stapling or, if you wanna get really slick, fabric stapling one shirt to the other’s waistband. I am going to do it and so should you. Abject apron.
Another extremely easily and affordably replicable look! I’ve seen the layered pants look on a lot of granny-types lately which means it will absolutely be in Bushwick coffee shops by 2022. For this one, buy two pairs of pants in the same/similar colorings, one a little wider-legged than the other. Uniqlo has pants that would be great for this and they do FREE alterations on most of their clothes so you can leave the tighter pair of pants as-is and get a few inches shaved off the wider pair to achieve this look. It’s uncanny but also incredibly practical for the approaching freezing-cold days. Uniqlo panst suggestions below.
The RUFFLES are what take this bodysuit from “haha so tacky” to “repulsive and alluring at the same time.” Maybe because they evoke one of those dinosaurs’ frilly accoutrements or a deep-sea creature’s wavy attachments… Anyway, I would get so drunk in this bodysuit (and it would be HELL to pee in).
This dress looks downright SINISTER, like an Edward Gorey nightmare made wearable. The potential to wear absolutely any kind of top underneath and still maintain the transcendent look of being slowly strangled by a muscular snake is so exciting. I usually don’t love raw hems but on this dress it works, emphasizing the sinuous and upward-reaching animalism of the form.
Sorry for all the unattainable CDG togs but I simply love this jumpsuit. Ruching is simultaneously sexy in a naive way (calling to mind the iridescent prom dresses of the early oughts) and grotesque in the was that it imitates skin being shed or the slippery folds of an internal organ. Can’t you imagine bounding around in this number, bows fluttering in the wind funerarily? If I were to be able to attend my favorite fictional funeral (in Santa Sangre, pictured below), this is what I would wear.
These look like worms oozing, flattened by some careless kid on a bicycle, but the materials of chain and an amber-reminiscent resin also suggest sanctity and deliberate preservation.
This looks like something Mr. Unguentine would’ve cobbled together for his wife out of an eel’s backbone (do eels have backbones? Now I’m too scared to check) and a random piece of sea rubble he’d imbued with his oceanic but impotent love. Something feels pathetic and sacred about this necklace.
This is one of the unfortunate cases in which shelling out the big bucks for a garment might make a world of difference. The above leg warmers are gloriously chunky and both their gold embellishments and name suggest that Joan of Arc would’ve worn them if her ankles had gotten cold on the stake. The tight knit and snaky pattern makes these look like a thick, shedding skin or long-dead wasp’s nest. There are plenty of other leg warmer options out there for relatively cheap (see below) but none quite as pitch-perfect as the above.
The key to these sneakers is obviously the laces so fat they look like bandages covering up a seeping wound. The suggestion of something horrific hiding beneath the censorious laces is fascinating and provocative. You can buy 3/4 in laces for a little taste of this look for under 5 bucks on *maz*n, you can make your own out of thick, durable ribbons or fabric, or you can go for the ones below which aren’t as enormous or foreboding but have inarguable attraction in their mammalian suggestiveness.
I went to an arts high school and tap dance was the class I took for my two required years of PE. Tap shoe meets cleat meets garbage bag in this stunning piece that I think would look incredible with bike shorts and a button-down.
Poseidon could’ve worn these in a Percy Jackson novel for some under-the-sea-dad vibes. Hopefully no urchins perished in the making of these ass-kickers.
I hope you enjoyed these recs, if you have any other garments that you feel fit squarely into my conception of the transcendent glory of Truly Ugly please leave a link in the comments below! I’d love to hear any and all thoughts, ideas of what to write about next, details of the minutiae of your days… etc.