At Bode, Women Are Memories
The collection is very feminine — and subversive when compared to the expectations that audiences might have had for the new Bode girl.
The Bode Spring/Summer 2024 menswear collection leans traditional in silhouette and continues to surprise with the recent debut of their womenswear. The collection is referential of very feminine wear — subversive when compared to the expectations that audiences might have had for the new Bode girl. Figure-hugging knitwear; see-through tops; pinwheel bras; whimsical bows; and a white gown reminiscent of a wedding dress all largely identify the Bode girl as sexy — almost antithetical to designer Emily Adams Bode Aujla’s antique New England aesthetics and textiles that have made the brand infamous.
The brand’s emphasis on the preservation of memories is seen throughout its use of deadstock textiles, fabrics, and traditional tailoring. Consistent with these more tactile references, Bode evokes a strong sense of sentimentality for the past through whimsical buttons and lace appliqué, reminiscent of a 20th-century New Hampshire farmstead. The actual clothes worn during that time period, however, were of immediate practicality, with little use found beyond comfort. Alongside this appreciation for vintage-inspired craftsmanship, the designer has seemingly rejected some dated values of the past when it comes to the inspiration behind her garments. If womenswear of its past references was so restrictive and docile, then why wouldn’t the brand create a new line for women to feel liberated? Why not provide something to call their own?
Bode’s decision to release a womenswear line reshaped traditionally gendered clothing pieces — weaving connections between family history and modern dress. Emily cites the women in her family as her muses, instilling in the young designer that vintage pieces hold importance beyond their immediate impression. What was once a lace tablecloth can be made into a skirt, each drape a memory of past dinner parties, yet encouraging of a new life to be cherished in its revival. Aujla’s connection with her materials transcends design and reaches consumers in a way that has rarely been seen for such a newly emerging brand.
Alongside this dedication from customers came anticipation for what Bode might be able to do with womenswear. Of course, women had been wearing Bode men's pieces for years; the signature blazers and more structured outerwear provided a traditionally masculine edge when worn over a dress. During Paris Fashion Week 2023, Bode surprised audiences with the debut of their women's line during a menswear time slot. Not only was Aujla tasked with rising to the expectations of observant menswear devotees, but she decided to dismantle gender structures in fashion altogether — and would have to face what this meant for upholding the brand’s reputation as a rather ambiguously unisex line. Anticipation grew in advance, with writer and Opulent Tips mastermind Rachel Tashjian Wise appreciating the brand’s unique New England aesthetics, a brief respite from the ultra-Euro menswear week.
Despite some fans proving their dedication to the brand’s 20th-century inspirations, some remained wary of change and questioned the intent behind the debut:
Perhaps people had become too used to the brand’s consistency, something Emily Adams Bode Aujla warned against — going as far as stating in a Harper’s Bazaar interview that “I wanted to show people that the womenswear that I would design is not the way that most people would think Bode womenswear would be.” Aujla’s consciousness surrounding the perception of her brand resulted in an ironically subversive womenswear launch. The designer has audiences surprised that a dress might be — gasp! — sexy, or that a top might flatter a woman’s body and be adorned with sequins. After all, why would a Bode womenswear collection be… feminine?
With the arrival of the Spring 2024 menswear collection, though, fans of the brand had time to adjust their expectations for what a “Bode girl” might look like. In contrast to the way that menswear looks on women’s bodies, Bode’s womenswear accentuates and reveals, rather than conceals. The collection has a bejeweled peacoat that ties tightly with satin ribbons. Bikini-bottomed underwear not only serves their intended purpose, but they adhere to the body in a flattering, complementary way. Knee-length knitwear and see-through blouses have necklines so deep that the décolletage and chest are put on full display. The collection contains an ornately beaded top in a rich, red color; alongside the top, a matching bag far too small to be of much practicality, suggesting a use of decoration and accessory rather than to provide access to items that a woman might need on the go. A dress tantamount to a wedding gown closes out the show; the model balances a gauzy skirt, feathered boa, and a bow the size of her head; all elements of definite femininity, with no room for blurred abjection.
There’s a reason Aujla’s traditional, vintage New England textiles and design have not remained in the past. It’s a subconscious underpinning of Aujla’s work: women in rural, working-class areas — who often were once mere counterparts to their husbands — wore pieces of practicality and servitude, covered and unnoticed. Bode’s womenswear takes these references, reshapes them, and creates them anew by placing them in the modern world. While some designers shock their audiences with men wearing skirts and women wearing tuxes, Bode is a brand that subverts its narrative by simply delivering what is expected. A brand that has been widely known for its ambiguity and gender-defying designs has created a womenswear line that consists of pieces typically worn by those who identify as women — a concept that I continue to find humorous and intriguing at the same time. Maybe Aujla’s vision for the modern Bode girl is reflective of the inspiration she finds in 20th-century womenswear and the women of her family, liberating both generations and paying homage all at the same time. 🌀