In the fashion world, the goal is to stand out, not blend in, but one noticeable winter trend is fighting its way to the top. Camouflage, ironically, is easy to spot this season on runways, in stores and on Halloween night. And although it’s been around for a while, new twists have kept the print current while nodding to its military roots.
Camouflage, as you may’ve guessed, was invented with military use in mind. The term “camouflage” itself is based on the French theatrical slang word for “disguise” or “makeup,” and the French first used it during World War I, according to The Places and Spaces of Fashion 1800-2007. The French even had a special regiment called the “camoufleurs” who were in charge of portrait painting and set designing, and who used papier maché, observation trees, netting to conceal guns and aerial photography for war purposes. While they seemed like a great asset during military times and the French can definitely be praised for their creativity, the camoufleurs were associated with femininity and the therefore received a mixed public reaction. According to Places and Spaces, they were even referred to as a “Cinderella among the military arts.”
Camouflage has continued to evolve within the military, and the U.S. Army recently hired five contractors “to develop a family of new camouflage patterns that can blend with any terrain, whether troops head to Somalia or Switzerland, according to The Myanmar Times.
Nowadays, however, camo’s combined its military roots with more modern influences. Vogue first featured the print in 1943, and in 1971 published a trend collage on camouflage and its use in fashion. And in 2000, Jean Paul Gaultier featured camo in a couture show with a series of camo-printed silk tulle ball gowns, according to The Myanmar Times.
So it was no surprise when camouflage styles reappeared last spring, according to The New York Times in clothing inspired by Andy Warhol’s camouflage paintings and self-portraits,. According to The Myanmar Times, Warhol is credited with pushing camouflage into everyday fashion by recoloring it in his artwork.
More recently, camo took to the Parisian streets in the spring of 2012, according to “Camouflage fashion: why the army and navy’s patterns are back on the high street.” Valentino, Kenzo and Dries Van Noten all featured varieties of camo in their shows, in a variety of colors and textures. The point of this camo, however, was “to perform the opposite of its designed purpose… making the wearer stand out rather than cloaking them, as it does in the field,” according to stylist and fashion consultant Stephen Mann.
This winter, designers such as Michael Kors, Alexander Wang and Christopher Kane all featured camouflage in neutral tones that kept the print closer to its military roots. But what’s especially on trend with camouflage now? With Halloween right around the corner, this stand-out pattern is perfect for transforming your everyday look into an easy costume. Take a standard piece of camo clothing, like a basic, form-fitting dress or a loose-fitting jacket, and turn it into GI Joe or a soldier by adding details like your favorite boots, a cute, neutral top and jewelry.
For either Halloween or your daily wear, you can’t go wrong with camouflage this late fall and winter. In menswear, women’s fashion and costume parties, camouflage is a versatile fabric that’s a staple for the season.