“Today is the first day of Autumn,” I say to you, hoping you don’t have glue on your shoe. For then all the leaves littering the yard and road would get stuck on you, and you might turn into a Leaf Man, indistinguishable from the compost we so lovingly grow for the garden. Leaf mold is awfully good for one’s plants, but I don’t want to plant them in you. You’re mine.
I like fashion. Actually I love fashion. I see it as a medium by which to express myself as an artist. But I am merely a novice, slowly learning the language of style and putting together visual sentences with care and apprehension.
In my quest to learn the language of style, I turn to what most would consider to be the dictionary, the Fashion Magazine. There I hope to learn the definitions of words, the visual signifiers that describe what clothes and accessories are and do. For instance: What is a bias cut dress, and why does it look good on some women and not others? Why does bright green look good on me and beige make me look sick? What is matte jersey, and why do I hate it? Why do most models have the bodies of 12-year-old boys? Why are tiny purses with long straps suddenly back in fashion? Who is Vivienne Westwood?
But instead of finding the answers to these questions, I encounter more words and images of which I don’t know the definitions, and other words to describe them that make no sense. My least favorite and the most overly-used word in fashion magazines: effortless. This is apparently the holy grail of what all women want in clothes. That “throw it on and leave without looking in the mirror” mystique that only Audrey Hepburn and Kate Moss seem able to achieve. Fashion virtuosos aside, I doubt even the most stylish of celebrities achieves their look without some good, hard work at some point. Discovering one’s body type, color palette, and taste takes work. I don’t care who you are.
All this to say, the very place I turn to discover what fashion means to me only serves to over-mystify the entire concept. I want to know how a one-shouldered dress is made or why a designer was inspired by Greco-Roman themes, not how Pantene Pro-V is going to help me wear a one-shouldered ensemble with confidence. That’s ridiculous. That kind of propaganda makes me think I can only be fashionable if I look like a five-foot-ten-inch model with long black or gold tresses, or if I had enough money to get liposuction, or if I had more money period. The writers of fashion magazines and the advertising that supports them want me to be in a state of constant dissatisfaction with who I am so that they can make money. And who can blame them? It’s a clever strategy. But it is dishonest and ultimately makes me mistrust everything they say.
I think fashion magazines would do better (as some have begun, but only meagerly) to teach their readers about the fashion industry and give them the tools to achieve their own personal style. Just because the archetype of the beautiful figure has changed over the past 100 years from plump and womanly to anorexic and emaciated doesn’t mean you can’t look good in what designers are putting in stores these days. It just means you need to arm yourself with the right information and devices to make them work for you–e.g. your body type, your color palette, your most flattering fabrics & fits, and your most important weapon, a tailor.
Armed with these tools, I know that bias cut dresses don’t usually look good on me because my Latina pear-shaped-ness makes the fabric fall weird; matte jersey seems like it’s always cut on the bias, and I don’t like its gritty feel; my winter complexion means I look best in jewel tones; tiny purses are back because the powers-that-be said they were; Vivienne Westwood made punk a style; and I look awesome in high-waisted, tailored jeans.
Following feathers wisped in wind unruly, Wichard watched for season’s end in random acts of beauty. Having been diagnosed with chronic listlessness, he thought it appropriate, nay poetic, to spend his last days chasing after unattainable glory in the perhaps mundane.
The Onion, while not always my fave, nailed it in this story. Satire is a feisty weapon.