Thursday, March 19, 2009

Givhan cites an Alexander McQueen retrospective in her essay, mentioning his design talent and tailoring skills as well as many of the "misogynistic" elements of his designs. She writes, "There were many things recycled on his runway Tuesday night that one hoped never to see again: metal neck braces, metal "yashmak" or head coverings, hobbling skirts and ankle-breaking platform shoes. One doesn't have to be a graduate of a women's studies program to find these things disturbing." True. But you don't see Obama or Ditto wearing Alexander McQueen! He appeals to a different type of style icon, a punkier one who cares less about comfort and women's rights. So different types of fashions drive, and are driven by, different types of icons.

Later, Givhan writes, "But one can't put the full burden for this kind of fashion on designers. They create it because women respond. Women will do a lot of things to themselves in the name of fashion, including giving up their power, dignity and comfort." Fashion doesn't care about power, dignity and comfort, unless those things are "in vogue." The exciting thing about Obama and Ditto is that they are taking fashion and imbuing it with their power and dignity (and perhaps comfort), making those things more fashionable. That is a positive direction after many years of style icons like Paris Hilton whose priorities are pretty much antithetical to those of these women.

One last thing about the article- Givhan doesn't write about how fashion depends on money. The everyday woman is not targeted by the fashion industry not only because fashion isn't "everyday," but because the everyday woman can't afford to partake in fashion. While many women of modest means participate in fashion through creativity and personal style, the fashion industry is driven forward by designers, and designers produce expensive clothes. You don't have to be attractive to buy haute couture or high-end ready-to-wear, you simply have to have the disposable income to spend on designer clothing. Obama and Ditto do; I, for one, do not.

The beauty of it all is that fashion trickles both up and down, from icon to designer and designer to icon, from industry to the street and from the street to industry. So while I am excited at the prospect of women's power and confidence coming into fashion through icons like Obama and Ditto, and I hope to see designers that celebrate and flatter the female form gaining prominence, I don't think that fashion is ever going to be for "the anonymous face in the crowd," as Givhan writes. That is simply not what fashion is.

This anonymous face is going to continue to participate in fashion to the extent that she can, and wants to- seeking to inspire and to be inspired.

Photo of Michon Schur fashion show in 2007 by Peter Duhon, NYC.

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