Thursday, September 17, 2009

Can We Survive Fashion Week 2009 In Good Taste?

As we know, it's Fashion Week. Day after day, designers are showing collections in New York City. We might now wonder, is there such a thing as a High WASP* designer? I reviewed scads of photos of expensive clothing looking for an answer. Research purposes only, you understand. An enormous amount of work, but I forced myself. Didn't find a designer, per se. Did, however, find designs. And identified those worthy of the High WASP stamp of approval.

These aren't necessarily the clothes I admired most. I have enormous appreciation for avant garde fashion. Give me Yohji Yamamato, or a shirt printed with a striking Rorschach blot, and I will voice my admiration. Prattle on about deconstruction. But I can't wear it.

The clothes I might wear, had I but world enough and time (gratuitous 17th-century-literary-reference-familiar-from-college-English of the day), meet key criteria. Could I walk out the door feeling appropriate? Do I feel the clothes are worth the money? "Worth" has to be established both by the internal click of desire and a time and place to wear said items. Ball gowns don't count at this time of my life. I might be done with ball gowns.

First, let me make one thing clear. Designer shorts never qualify for High WASP approval. We won't spend $200 on a pair of shorts. That's unequivocal. Shorts are supposed to come from Banana Republic or thereabouts. No matter how often the industry says so, we will never believe shorts are OK for fancy, and spending more than $200 for not fancy is just plain silly.

High WASPs look for several things.
  • A recognizable, symmetrical silhouette.
  • Just enough interest, and no more.
  • Careful use of color.
  • An appreciation of fabric's virtues and character.
Below are two looks from this particular canon of good taste. Black and white, classic shirt, just enough interest in the wide pants, comfort in the silk. Khaki, shift, just enough interest in the slashed fabric. It might seem like an oxymoron to use the words slash and High WASP in the same sentence. It's OK. Trust me. We don't want to be boring or dowdy. Just appropriate. Nothing wrong with a slash here or there.

However, the High WASP would wear a bra in the second outfit. We are great believers in underwear.

Although we are most comfortable in a monochromatic world, we like prints on occasion. Best when one and only one is seen on a simple dress. We can't do the whole 25 different prints up down and all around thing. It's a failing on our part, I know. Probably one of the reasons the species is dying out.

Assuming the second dress was willing to tolerate a closer relationship with our knees. We might even wear ankle bracelets. Especially if we brought them home from the India voyage of our youth.

Another mode of appropriate is the quirky take on a classic. Has to be worn with actual classics, to make it clear we understand the ironic reference. Aren't making an embarrassing mistake. For example, a bandage skirt worn with what we used to call a camp shirt. A denim block graphic Chanelesque jacket, worn with boyfriend Levis. Or white linen. (Not the pants below. Did I even need to say that?) So as not to violate the "too much interest" rule. After all, we, as humans, need to leave room for our selves to provide interest.

Good taste is not all, I confess. We take, as does the entire country, a guilty pleasure in reality TV. We will, therefore, shudder with secret glee when buying Christian Siriano. Especially as he does us the favor of designing in what appears to be lightweight, shimmering, khaki silk.

Finally, for the right occasion, we will don something bright, unusual, something we call art. A wild, uniquely colored dress? With tufts? We will go there. My sister, now contributing honorably to the social welfare field, wore a pale pink Zandra Rhodes (or maybe it was Betsy Johnson?), lace, slashed, dropped waist, mini, to my mother's wedding. Granted, it was 1983. Trust me, appropriate. And if it wasn't, we were with family. On a happy occasion. Even for us appropriate is not always paramount.

Joyeux Fashion Week - and clothes that make us hop with happiness - to all.

*I openly admit to believing that High WASP means good taste. It's genetics on my part, so I can't help myself. At the same time I commit to your right to a completely different opinion.
**TPP posted the same dress, in the ballgown version. Great minds think alike:).

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Blogger Elle said...

What a fantastic post! As much as I enjoy fashion week, I am growing tired of tasteless fashion... thanks for gleaning out the cream of the crop for us!

September 17, 2009 at 2:39 PM  
Blogger QueenBeeSwain said...

this post was so needed, not that I don't love seeing what the designers dream up, but understated and classy somehow don't seem to be trends that pop up as often as we wish they would!


September 17, 2009 at 3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That Dennis Basso dress makes me swoon. But I must question the wisdom of putting a Caucasian model in head-to-toe khaki, much as I love Project Runway. I don't know -- I've never been able to wear khaki above the waist, it makes me look like a beige lawn chair. Is it just me?

September 17, 2009 at 5:05 PM  
Blogger Maureen@IslandRoar said...

I think I agree with the head-to-toe khaki comment. LOVED the first print dress but now that you mention it, I don't wear a lot of prints, if any. Maybe it's time to start.
And Done with ballgowns???
Say it isn't so!
Fun post.

September 17, 2009 at 5:53 PM  
Anonymous Jan said...

Along with wearing a bra, gal in pic #2 needs to do something about her eye makeup - she looks like she's auditioning to take over any future Heath Ledger/Joker roles.

I also could not justify $200 on a pair of shorts. Hell, I can't even justify $200 on a Le Creuset casserole, and I feel about cooking the way you do about fashion.

September 18, 2009 at 7:58 AM  
Blogger Sher said...

LOL! That second picture, the model doesn't need a bra LOL!

Ok I'll stop being nasty.

Love that Christian Siriano :)

September 18, 2009 at 9:11 AM  
Blogger Mardel said...

When I didn't need to wear a bra I would have been mortified not to have worn one with the Rucci dress. The mortification part has not changed, were I wearing the dress. This is a fabulous post, and you remind me that for all my protestations, I have not strayed as far from the fold as I might like to think. Appropriate remains the order of the day.

I couldn't wear shorts-suits in the 80s. I feel the same way now. Shorts speak to me of Nantucket and similar places. That doesn't mean that I don't recognize that some of the shorts being shown are more office appropriate than many things I see in actual offices. Sequined minis and lace up pants speak to me of nightclubs not of my local bank or brokerage firm.

September 18, 2009 at 3:09 PM  
Blogger Little Bow Prep said...

The Christian Siriano hats were amazing!

I liked the Chado Ralph Rucci show too :)

September 19, 2009 at 6:10 AM  
Blogger Jill said...

I adored the Chado Ralph Rucci collection. And DVF made me happy.

September 21, 2009 at 11:45 AM  

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