Hearst tower
Photo: Jay Muckle/Studio D
See the Styles: 6 looks inspired by architectural design

Geometry can give the body contours that the flesh might not possess (ah, the magic of a well-tailored jacket). It can also make for a stylishly versatile closet: For example, a smart diamond pattern can look both contemporary and timeless, just like some of the world's most dynamic architecture—think pyramids, both the ancient Egyptian kind and I.M. Pei's 1989 glass version at the Louvre, not to mention today's dazzling towers, such as the 42-story stack of steel-framed triangles in Manhattan that O staffers work in. As architects explore more complex interesting surfaces and shapes, they are adapting fashion techniques like folding, pleating, wrapping, and draping, says Brooke Hodge, a curator for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and organizer of the exhibition Skin + Bones: Parallel Practices in Fashion and Architecture.

The sculptural buildings created by Frank Gehry can be spotted a mile away—more often than not they're a riotous heap of gorgeous billowing metal. Today he's designing jewelry for Tiffany & Co. with the same sinuous appeal; its fluid lines transcend categories like casual or dressy and look wonderful with just about anything. It makes sense that the “starchitect” who helped make his profession so popular should produce both wearable things and livable spaces, underlining the growing affinity between the two. As fashion veers off its once lavishly romantic path, simpler, more structural clothing, often with greater volume, is coming on strong for summer and fall. Designers like Yeohlee Teng have had a consistent architectural identity. Her spare, elegant pieces take their shape from the way fabric drapes on the body. Clothes are a portable environment, she says. “I am interested in how they make you feel—sensual? Inhibited? Free?”

Curvilinear might not be a word we often associate with architecture, but that's changing as more flexible materials—and attitudes—allow for buildings that are downright sexy. Roofs and glass facades undulate instead of lying flat; there's even a house in Japan whose exterior walls consist solely of curtains. Architects use the word skin instead of facade to describe the high-tech envelopes of glass and other materials that encase their buildings: Perhaps modern structures, with these outer “skins” sheathing underlying supportive “bones,” are becoming more like bodies. The nice thing about the new architectural clothing is that it can be fluid and body conscious, with lean silhouettes that follow the curve of a woman's spine or the swell of a breast or hip but keep them covered; more voluminous pieces merely hint at what lies beneath (and are therefore good for many different ages and shapes).