Caldevaja: Geometric Fashion For the Feminine Mystique

Abbie Miller finds the anthropocentric spine of Modernist geometric sculpture epitomized in an iPhone assisted neologism, Caldevaja.

This exploration begins with a simple swapping of emojis and the ever annoying autocorrect. If you are keen on portmanteaus as I am, the iPhone is your enemy.  Recently though, I was happily inspired by what my phone presented.  Searching deep into my emoji vault, I discovered minimalist, geometric icons. Perhaps you’ve noticed them — gold and blue diamonds, a white square with a black outline, solid colored spheres, and a bright, cherry red triangle. My friend and I began to have a conversation using these icons, and after amassing a vertical series my friend declared, “that little red upside down triangle is a vagina.”  To which I attempted to type “a Calder vagina”, but my phone had other ideas and revealed a new portmanteau — Caldevaja.

Calder = Geometry+Curve+Motion = Sculpture+Mobility

Vaja = Vagina

Calder Flamingo Federal Plaza Chicago, c. 1974
Google image search results, cut out featuring Calder’s Flamingo installed in Federal Plaza, Chicago, 1974.


Calder’s sculptural works are as anthropomorphic as they are flat, portending an overdue release from monotony. His public works like, Flamingo, are ominous and playful, and despite gargantuan scale, emphasize their kinship to the human body.

It is magical how few planes and lines Calder utilizes from the point of a central axis to create the feeling of movement. Working with minimal form on the female body is akin to Calder’s effect. The best geometric clothes for women don’t go overboard with the 1980s triangle shoulder, but know how to collaborate with body proportions while maintaining structure. These types of Caldevaja designs embrace both planar surfaces and curvilinear force.

Geometric garments done well are some of my favorite pieces. Not only bold statements, they are easy to move in, and when you stop moving your form becomes a lovely geometric sculpture. The irony of this is that the body activates a form that creates an object to gaze upon with beauty.

I love the idea that as women we can be in collaboration with our clothing as objects of the gaze. Rather than the focus, our bodies become frames or hangers —  and the clothing takes center stage. This type of puppetry is very appealing to me as a designer and sculptor, but also as curvy woman.

Bonnie Cashin cape, image thanks to George Moskal,
Bonnie Cashin cape, image thanks to George Moskal,

Caldevaja designs stay true to the structure of the garment, focusing on architecture over gender, ‘explicitism’ above eclecticism. One of the first American designers to employ this concept was Bonnie Cashin. Very much of the time of Calder, her sportswear defined an era of women becoming more active in the social field. She used bright colors, often dyed wool and leather, to create pentagon capes and shift dresses with rectangular hoods. Her outerwear designs are spectacularly flattering tents, her dresses are strategically shaped, inverted blooms with industrial hardware for clasps.

Rei Kawakubo, Comme des Garcons, Fall 2012 on

Of course, if we are to go to the fountain source of geometrical clothing we would look at Japanese garments. Which interestingly enough are also the source of no waste patterns and production. There are a slew of Japanese designers who have followed suit and innovated into contemporary geometric clothing. Yohji Yamamoto being one of the most recognizable who has said, “For me, a woman who is absorbed in her work, who does not care about gaining one’s favor, strong yet subtle at the same time, is essentially more seductive. The more she hides and abandons her femininity, the more it emerges from the very heart of her existence.”

Yohji Yamamoto, Fall 2014-2015 on Paris Vogue


Since we have come to see the popularized houses of Calvin Klein, Jil Sander and Commes Des Garcons hold the market on commercialized, high end, geometric fashion, I am always on the hunt for more affordable geometric pieces, and even dare to make my own.

Are these truly practical designs one might ask? Sure, who doesn’t want to stand in a corner and be an icon for l’etat de la beaute (French for ‘the state of beauty’). But how do I sit on the bus or walk to get groceries or sit at a desk at all day? Look at the Ionic order and you’ll have one simple answer: with a fold.