Summer is approaching, which means we'll need clothes that are breathable and or offer easy access to breeze.
Apart from strategically placed straps and cutouts, another form of perfect summer tops is the crop top. But how did this trend first come into being?
In lots of Asian and African countries, where the climate is relatively and consistently hot through the year, crop tops are a life-saver. The Indian choli, for example, has been worn for thousands of years. The choli is worn with a lower garment and a veil.Â
Meanwhile, in European countries and the US, both women and men (well, mostly women) literally had to suffocate from wearing high-neck dresses and corsets. And the religion-based puritanism didn't help at all. Even the bathing suits covered most parts of the body as seen in the illustration taken from Danish magazine Femina in 1898. The previous photo showing two Indian women were taken circa 1872.Â
In the 1940s, due to fabric rationing in World War II, many designers and fashion houses creatively worked their way around this by cutting the length of the top, and more glamorous celebrities like Ginger Rogers and Marilyn Monroe popularized this look. Yet it wasn't until the sexual revolution in the 1960s that crop top really became popular. In 1945, a young women wore a "halter and shorts with nude midriff" in Central Park and was fined $2 (otherwise she'd have to spend 2 days in jail). But things weren't that strict in warm and sunny California, where the crop top became almost a natural item to be worn.
Then of course, Flashdance happened. Steamy, sexy, Flashdance. It became the epitome of the early 80s and people were inspired to get those toned abs by joining aerobics classes. The trend carried through to the new millennia thanks to performers like Madonna and Britney Spears who rock the crop-top look. The crop top became a staple of iconic movies and TV series like Clueless, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, and Mean Girls.
As a sidenote, men have also enjoyed donning the crop top since the 1970s, and this started by the world's arguably manliest sport: the American Football. At first, it was unintentional. The bottom part of the jerseys worn by the players would get ripped when oppponents tried to tackle them. But then by the mid 80s, almost every player started baring their midriffs by either cutting their jersey or tying them in the back. Nowadays, both musicians and athletes are making crop-tops for men a must-have.
Now that the crop trop trend is back again, the most important question is, who looks good wearing it?
And the answer is: everybody with confidence, and that should also mean you.
When worn correctly, crop tops can both elongate or shorten the torso and help create the hourglass shape that both women and men covet. Here's a few loose guidelines:
Tall people, if for whatever reason you feel like your torso is too long, then opt for a crop top that doesn't show too much skin, or balance it with highwaist bottoms.
Short people, elongate your torso by donning a fitted top, as a loose top will just drown you.
Curvy and or boxy people, wear a somewhat loose crop top that doesn't cling too much to the body and pair it with pants or skirt that flare out at the waist to get that hourglass shape.
If you feel daunted by the prospect of showing your navel, then opt to wear Mono B's highwaist leggings as they both cover the navel and provide tummy control.
Other than that, go have fun. You can work on that beach body all you want, but if you don't work on your confidence, then there's really no point.
Seam-free and stitch-free, seamless clothing has been around for quite a long time, but it's becoming a rising trend, and for good reason.
The first clothing item that used the seamless technology is the pantyhose. And you can see the (incredibly satisfying) process in this video below.
Now you may be surprised to see that even for a clothing piece that advertises the term "seamless," it isn't really seamless. Rather, it uses very minimal cutting and sewing. Part of it is for reinforcement. Another reason is because the visible seamlines are actually the skeleton for the woven fibers (since they're woven in cylindrical/tube pattern).
So, why do people go absolutely bonkers over seamless activewear and swear by it?
Since seamless activewear minimizes seams and cut-and-stitch, there is minimum seamlines and this causes less friction on the skin as you move in your activewear.
It Hugs All Your Curves
Another benefit of minimal seamlines is that you won't have to worry about bumps and folds. When a regular clothing is cut and stitched, the seamlines appear tighter than the fabric panel because eventhough the manufacturer uses zig-zag stitching for the four-way stretch fabric, the thread is not elastic. This can sometimes result in unwanted folds that aren't too flattering.
Seams add weight. That's a fact. Less seams means less weight. That's why when you put on your seamless leggings, they feel so light and so comfortable.
This advantage factors in all the previous points. Since it's 99% constructed by being woven into a clothing piece and not cut-and-stitched, the piece moves with you. There are no panels sewn together by non-elastic fabric that rip when they're stretched and pulled away from one another.
More Creative Designs
There are a myriad of variations for regular cut-and-stitch clothing, and the creativity is shown through prints and the exciting ways a designer can make paneling patterns (with colorblock technique or using mesh and straps or same-colored fabrics with strategic seam placements) to flatter the wearer's body. With seamless technology, a pair of leggings can be woven already with its own patterns, complete with perforated areas, mesh-like areas. This is because seamless garment knitting machines allow different knits to be put together side by side. Whether it's rib, jacquard, jersey, or mesh knit. All with minimum stitching.
For manufacturers, the key benefits for creating seamless clothes are how much time is saved to create a garment. When producing regular cut-and-stitch item, many aspects (such as pattern-making, cutting, adjusting, and sewing) add to the overall production time, and time is money. A seamless clothing, on the other hand, can be assembled in minutes (although using a fairly expensive machine). The saving of the cost can hence be passed on to the wearer.
Mono B is coming up with more exciting seamless activewear, athleisure wear, and loungewear, from tops to leggings that you can workout in. Check out our curated Seamless collection.
You may have heard the idea that we shouldn't wear white after Labor Day and before Memorial Day. We've scoured the Internet and here are the reasons not to wear white before Memorial Day:
In all fairness, some people did (and do) not wear white between September and May. And in all fairness, there are some practical as well as totally classicist reasons that may or may not have been true.
Memorial Day is generally accepted as the beginning of summer, whilst Labor Day marks its end. (Shop Mono B's #MemorialDay curated collection).
Valerie Steele, the fashion historian, curator, and director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology comments that "There used to be a much clearer sense of re-entry [between the changing seasons]. You're back in the city, back at school, back doing whatever you're doing in the fall - and so you have a new wardrobe."
But exactly how this fashion rule appeared is murky.
One explanation is the seasons. White (and its ilk such as ivory or ecru and other pastel colors) reflects light and heat. This is why in summer, when the sun is super bright, wearing white is such a life-saver. This was especially true before AC was invented.
"Not only was there no air conditioning, but people did not go around in T shirts and halter tops," Judith Martin, also known as the etiquette columnist Miss Manners, tells Time. "They were what we would now consider fairly formal clothes."Â Meaning, people walked around in blazers and shirts and skirts or pants. Wearing white was not only accepted - it was a way to survive.
When summer ends and rain starts and the streets become muddy, people opt for darker colors because dirty doesn't show that prominently on dark-colored clothes. What's more, dark colors absorb light and heat, a win-win solution to both keeping warm and not dirty-looking.
Clash of the Classes
Another supposed reason that gave birth to the no-white-rule is elitism. Panama hats and light-colored linens give out leisure vibes, and leisure is a luxury that a lot of the working class (those not in the upper class) can't afford. "If you look at any photography of any city in America in the 1930s, you'll see people in dark clothes," says Charlie Scheips, author of American Fashion. These are the working class, hurrying off to their jobs.
In the 1950s, as the working class earned more money and the nouveaux riches tried to elbow their way into the upper-class society, the old elite imposed certain rules to keep these newly minted rich people away. And yet, the nouveaux-riches crowd wanted to fit in, and so they played the games of the table manners and no-whites-in-certain-months.
But again, many of the fashion rules are meant to be broken, and we've seen a lot of bloggers telling people to not wear leggings with certain shoes or jackets or shirts. And nowadays, although white and bright clothes are a tad more difficult to maintain and wash than their darker counterparts, there is almost no reason to not wear white all year round.
Denim and jean have been around for centuries, and although their reign has been (somewhat) toppled by activewear, they still remain an essential part of the fashion world. But many still find the two terms confusing. Which one is jean and which one is denim?
Jean fabric came from Genoa, Italy and was originally a blended twill of wool and cotton. Jean was very similar to cotton corduroy (also a famous product of Genoa). It was worn by the sailor of Genovese Navy force since they needed a fabric for both wet and dry. In 1800, André Masséna (one of Marshals of the Empire appointed by Napoleon) had his troops placed in the city and ordered supply from Jean-Gabriel Eynard, a Swiss banker who migrated to Genoa to start a business in the city. One of the supplies Eynard furnished the troops was that twill fabric dyed in blue called "bleu de Genes" ("blue from Genoa") and you guessed it, the term "blue jeans" was born.
Meanwhile denim hailed from Nîmes, a city in southern France. Its full name is "serge de Nîmes" or simply "fabric from Nîmes." It began as a blend of wool and silk, making the cloth very durable and sturdy. These characteristics mean the first denim fabrics were difficult to sew, since it required industrial-strength needle. They were also expensive, since wool and silk weren't (and aren't) as abundant as cotton. The original denim was created by the shepherds in the Cévennes mountains (just northwest of Nîmes) since they needed durable clothes to work in.
It was around the 17th century that denim fabric and jeans fabric intersected. Some argue that denim (made of wool and silk) were coarser yet considered of higher quality, more expensive, and more durable sibling, whilst jeans (wool and cotton) were lighter, still durable, and less expensive. Nobody really knows why blue (or more accurately indigo) was used, perhaps because the jean fabric was intended for the Genovese Navy force. Weavers in Nîmes were said to have tried to reproduce jean, but found a different way to do it. Maybe this was the reason why denim fabrics were also dyed indigo.
Jean became an essential textile for working-class people in Northern Italy so much so that a painter nicknamed The Master of the Blue Jeans (perhaps a student of Caravaggio) created ten paintings depicting scenes with lower-class and working-class people wearing blue fabric. It was most likely Genovese blue jean because it was cheaper than the French denim. Shown here is one of the paintings called A Frugal Meal.
Cut to the modern US fashion history, both denim and jeans had been constructed using 100% cotton, and the first name that comes to mind when we talk about denim is Levi Strauss, and for a good reason.
Strauss (along with Jacob W. Davis) was credited to have given birth to denim and jeans.
In 1851, Strauss migrated from Germany to New York to join his older brother who owned a dry-goods store. He then heard about the San Francisco Gold Rush and moved there two years later to start a West Coast branch of the business.
A few hundred miles away in Reno, Nevada, Jacob W. Davis, a Russian-American tailor, was making heavy duty textiles such as tents, horse, blankets, and wagon covers made from cotton denim supplied by Strauss.
One day, a customer asked Davis to make a pair of work pants for her woodcutter husband, so Davis created a pair of pants using heavy-duty cotton duck (a type of woven pattern different from denim and jeans). This became a success and by 1871, instead of cotton duck, he used Levi's cotton blue denim for the pants which featured seams on the fly and pockets reinforced with rivets. In fact, the demand for the pants were so high (thanks to miners and workers wearing them during the Gold Rush) that Strauss and Davis patented the pants (along with the copper-rivet reinforcements and orange double stitching). The two men became business partners. Davis ran the manufacturing division of Levi Strauss & Co. whilst Strauss continued to experiment with different fabric variations and styles. The styles were given numbers, including the popular Levi 501s.
For reasons unknown, although the fabric that Strauss and Davis used was denim, the style (of the pants later became known as jeans.
And the confusion began.
Some have argued that "denim" refers to the fabric whilst "jeans" refers to the style of pants, and by extension, all of jean pants are made of denim, but not all denim is jeans. However, now we know that both denim and jean are indeed fabric. Both denim and jeans are wrap-woven twill.
In the past, denim was constructed using wool and silk, whilst jeans used wool and cotton. Nowadays, they're both mostly 100% cotton. The difference is in the dye, or rather, the time of the dye.
True denim uses two yarns: one color (most likely blue), the other white, meaning it has already been colored before being woven.
True jeans fabric, on the other hand, whilst also uses two yarns, is dyed after the fabric has been woven.
The only sure way to find out if your piece of clothing is denim or jeans is to see both sides. Since denim is warp woven using two yarns of different colors, one surface will feature one color whilst the other will have another. Because jean is dyed after it's woven, both surfaces have almost the same color.
Now that you know which one is which, it shouldn't destroy your love for denim and or jeans. In fact, these two fabrics are so ubiquitous and essential at the same time that they are so versatile. Make them your own by adding embellishments like Swarovskis or patches. Wear them even when they're ripped because shredded jeans show character. Wash them over and over again until they're faded because there's history in them. Wear them on top of your athleisure or activewear or dresses to complete a casual look.
One thing for sure, don't exercise in jeans. We have activewear for that.
Not many people have enjoyed the success, reverence, and respect in the fashion business like Diana Vreeland.
Fashion designers took cues from her as she dictated which way fashion should go. She worked for influential fashion magazines such as Harper's Bazaar and Vogue.
Where Chanel came from in France is anyone's guess. She said one thing one day and another thing the next. She was a peasant - and a genius. Peasants and geniuses are the only people who count and she was both.
It's no surprise that for World Book Day, Mono B selected two works by Diana Vreeland.
The first one is D.V., her iconic autobiography.
The book was first published in 1984 and has since become a sartorial bible for those who wish to know what made the original Empress of Fashion tick.
Of course the book is not without criticism. Some readers have pointed out how Vreeland was absolutely out of touch with reality and how the book could benefit from braver editor so it wouldn't sound like (uncensored) trains of thoughts.
If you'd rather see gorgeous (and we mean gorgeous) pictures of Vreeland and her life and times in the fashion world, look no further than the scarlet-covered Diana Vreeland: An Illustrated Biography by Eleanor Dwight. Fun-fact, red is Vreeland's favorite color. Her living room is a crimson celebration, decorated by the great Billy Baldwin (the interior designer, not the actor). Complete with exclusive personal materials from Vreeland's personal collection and a preface by Vogue's André Leon Talley, this book makes a handsome (and inspiring) coffee table addition.
The animal print trend began in the late 1960s, but centuries before that, real animal skin (and fur) had already been a mainstay amongst the wealthiest.
The association of animal skin and fur with the good life continues and carries over into the modern world, which explains its endurance.
When Jackie Kennedy was photographed wearing a leopard fur coat by Oleg Cassini, the demand for fur coats skyrocketed and 250,000 leopards were slaughtered in the name of fashion. (To his credit, Cassini then stopped using real furs and only used faux furs in his creations. He even developed Evolutionary Fur, a durable and low-maintenance synthetic fur fabric).
As the world becomes more and more progressive and more fashion houses have pledged to go fur-free (starting with the revolutionary Stella McCartney), animal patterns from real fur and skin have been hand painted or digitally printed onto fabrics.
This opened new doors to creativity in the world of fashion. We see animal prints from coats to ties to phone cases to, of course, activewear.
Each animal print allows the wearer to channel their characteristic. Fast and active? Wear the cheetah. Sleek and dangerous? Go with leopard. Slinky and smooth? Get the serpentine. Unique and graceful? Choose zebra.
The digital age (and creativity) has also made it possible to mix and match the colors, and now you can wear dark brown and navy leopard print or blue snake print to your next outing.
One thing for sure, no actual animals were harmed in making these prints, meaning you can show your adoration for these animals without guilt.
The activewear industry has been coming out as the winner from year to year. According to a study called Future of Apparel released by NPD Group in mid 2018 called Future of Apparel, activewear is reponsible for 24% of total apparel industry sales. There is also significant rise in the global activewear market, with a study by Report Buyer concluding that activewear's compound annual growth rate is expected to be 6.8% and total sales reaching USD 567 billion by 2024.
Some have argued that activewear is just a fad, and that denim is experiencing a resurgence, but so far, the activewear market has yet shown no sign of slowing down.
So how does athleisure come into play?
"Athleisure" is a portmanteau that combines "athletic" and "leisure" and it means exactly that: apparel that can be worn to gym, dance class, HIIT session, or yoga whilst being functional (and fashionable) enough to wear as casual clothes. To our knowledge, the earliest record of this term being used for the first time was in the March 1979 issue of the now-defunct Nation's Business magazine. The magazine ran a cover story on the sports industry called "The Games People Play - and Pay to Watch" by Tony Velocci.
The whole athleisure (a new term that has popped up) market is in a state of tremendous growth," says John Gehbauer, the (Sporting Goods Manufacturers Associations') director of advertising and promotion.
Four decades later and the activewear and athleisure markets are still going strong, with haute couture houses releasing their own polyester-spandex or nylon-spandex blend designs, whether on their own (such as Versace), or as a collaboration (Adidas by Stella McCartney). Celebrities, such as Kate Hudson, Beyoncé, and Kanye West, also recognize the potential the activewear market has.
Unlike stiff and restrictive denim, activewear (and athleisure wear by proxy) is comfortable and multifunctional. Countless of articles have been written on how to pair leggings with high heels and knee-high boots to make them work-ready. Backed by the booming of fitness industry, activewear and athleisure wear are gaining market and momentum. After all, who wants to squeeze into a pair of denim jeans after a sweaty workout? (Check out Mono B's Athleisure Tops category for a selection of coverups.)
Some have even argued that activewear and athleisure wear are the clothing of the future, at least in our science-fiction culture. Spandex blend has been the go-to fabric since superheroes started being depicted on film. Gersha Phillips, the costume designer of Star Trek: Discovery notes that she uses spandex depending on how she wants to shape the costume.
On a side note, Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, was so convinced that spandex was the true fabric of the future, that he insisted all of the costumes were made in spandex. This became a challenge because spandex retains odor, and if you're wearing the incorrect size, it can look so unflattering and cut circulations (if it's too small). So always remember to wash your spandex-blend items and wear the correct size.
Mono B celebrates Moto fashion with its line of biker-inspired wear. From ribbed mesh to pleated accents to rebel-chic denim jackets, activewear and athleisure items in both regular and plus-sizes, add a dose of fierceness in your wardrobe. But how much do we know of this biker-inspired trend?
The creation of the motorcycle in the 19th century not only made travelling easier, but it also started the new moto fashion trend. When it first came out, motorcycles were expensive and only those in the upper class could afford it. Then as the designs were improved, motorcycles became the go-to vehicle for policemen.
Leather seemed to go hand in hand with the motorcycle world, especially at the time when synthetic substance had not been discovered yet, and even then, leather was relatively easier and cheaper to procure. From the dawn of motorcycle era, leather has been used for protective gear such as boots, gloves, and helmets. Then leather jackets became la mode du jour thanks to Marlon Brando's The Wild One. His gorgeous looks and the iconic Harley Davidson marked the beginning of the moto fashion craze. Everyone wanted the Perfecto jacket he wore in the movie and The Wild One arguably became the original outlaw biker film.
Many articles have been written about the the history and evolution of moto fashion and leather jackets, but what remained a mystery was its connection to ribbed or accordeon accents.
It seemed the first ever recorded piece of fashion with these accordeon accents came from Maison Balmain, the French luxury fashion house. It's still unclear whether it was originated by Cristophe Decarnin (2005 - 2011), Olivier Rousteing (2011 - present), or any of their predecessors. Rousteing has stated in many publications that Decarnin is one of his biggest influences and inspirations in fashion.
Regardless, Balmain released its biker jeans collection featuring ribbing details on the ankles and pockets. The idea behind this accordeon-style accents is still unknown, but they appear to mimic the natural creases around the ankle and elbow areas of denim or leather outfits. The pleated details expand and contract and minimize the wear and tear of the garment in those areas, even when the piece of clothing was not constructed using stretch material. Another theory is that the ribbing accent (and their placement) hide the kneepads or other protective gear worn by motor cyclist.
One thing for certain, the biker trend became a smash hit, as evidenced by the myriads of fashion houses, both haute couture and ready-to-wear, launching their own biker-inspired apparel. The accordeon accent no longer stays around the joint areas, but have migrated to different parts as well, including the shoulders. The accent itself has changed. It's now grown to include quilted details, not just pleated.
The success and longevity of the biker-inspired look are largely attributed to iconic stars such as Brando and James Dean, and contemporary celebrities like Gal Gadot. Fans have even pointed out that Gadot seems to always wear some kind of leather jacket in almost all of her movies so far, including as Shank in Ralph Breaks the Internet (check out those ribbed denim pants too). The image that these biker or Moto fashion look conveys is clear: it's badass.