Friday, September 7, 2007
The Shoes! They Are Killing Me!
It's fashion week in New York. And since we've been talking about shopping, I've got a few opinions I want to get off my chest.
As the New York Times reported recently, fashion gets a bad rap. People complain: it's expensive, exclusive, wasteful, and most of all: superficial.
These complaints strike me as largely undeserved. I'm not being original when I say that fashion is the art of self-presentation. But it's true. The best thing about fashion is it makes every participant into an instant artist. The art materials are accessible, no special training is required, and if you don't like what you've created you can just take off your clothes and start over.
It's true that some clothes are expensive, and that the existence of "trends" means that clothes get thrown out. But thrift stores still have lots of what you might find interesting. And one thing that is true of humans is that we are easily bored. As Pascal said, "All man's miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone." If we're going to be out raising hell and throwing stuff out all the time, fashion is more egalitarian and eco-friendly than technology crazes, the mania for giant houses, and all kinds of other things.
If you see fashion as an art, as I do, the first thing you get impatient with is when people get upset that so many fashions are actually ugly. Yes, that's correct: fashion is not always about being pretty or attractive. Like other arts, the best things are not the most beautiful.
Interesting fashion can be allusive and self-referential, with something to say about previous fashion trends. It can comment on politics and social life. It involves the wearer in creating a fantasy, in a way that does not require any literal engagement with the fantasy itself: the clothes create their own new mixed identity for the wearer.
Sometimes this means clothes are ugly. It's OK. Sometimes that's the point.
If you see the power of fashion in its ubiquitousness, as I do, another thing you get impatient with is the failure to compromise for practicality. I don't mean there shouldn't be wild unwearable runway dresses; there absolutely should, under point one. But some crazy clothes should be wearable, and some everyday clothes should have a dose of crazy.
I feel like we've been getting away from this a little. I find in the mall I can buy either a strapless dress or a pair of jeans; four-inch-stillettos or Clark flats; a lace-top or a twin-set. I want something in-between.
And by way, nothing against the "wedge shoe" personally, but could we please get back to some normal heels as soon as f***ing possible?