28 December 2009

Bright Young/Skinny/Edgy Things

The New York Times has managed to confuse me again.  They've re-written November's androgyny story with a different angle.  Women are dressing in a severe, mannish way because they are redefining what it means to be sexy. 

Sexy = ripped tights, bones, a dash of homeless
Photo from The Sartorialist

So, fine, new definition of sexy.  I'm with you.  I was never into the whole Tom Ford major cleavage/major legs look.  But, once again, Ms. La Ferla obscures her point with confusing and contradictory supporting points and the conclusion that models are authentic purveyors of this look, and oh wouldn't it be nice if we could all be that fabulous and authentic.  Promising.

First, she defines feminity as an embrace of the demure, of florals, of pastels - calling them "sweetly conventional trappings of sex appeal."  But then in the very next paragraph cites that the "old ideal of sexiness was the shoulder-baring voluptousness of Scarlett Johansson."
The first is girly.  The second is vamp.  Both are takes on feminity, but not sex appeal.  No one dresses demurely to be sexy.  To be demure is to be "reserved, modest, shy."  To be sexy is to be "excitingly appealing, glamorous."  Whatever the starting point, we're told that these conventionally feminine styles are symbols of weakness.

The new look, "streamlined and armored for tough times, reflects a distrust of trends and a skepticism toward traditional gender roles.  Most tellingly, perhaps, it also represents a pragmatic response to a hobbled economy."  To prove this, they have a slideshow of representative looks, highlighting Zooey Deschanel in a pleated dress.  A girl who takes great pains to be the very definition of demure.  

The article goes on to say that "these notions of sexual allure can be traced to the utility gear adopted by self-styled survivalists, the funky regalia of old-school rockers, even the lingerie-and-leather of Parisian streetwalkers.  These rebellious, antifashion messages, blunted over decades of exposure, have been picked up, inevitably, by the world of high style."  Antifashion becomes Fashion.  And you should always look like you're one insult away from a knife fight.

Patti Smith, 1976

Just don't tell me that putting on leather pants, three scarfs, an oversized tee, a perfect blazer, leather booties and an air of ennui isn't labored.  It is, in fact, just as contrived as Zooey Deschanel's demure frocks, and Beyonce's vampy gowns.  There is nothing natural about any style, so to suggest that the looks worn by these models in their down time is just so organic and "unstudied" is patently wrong.

 Carine Roitfeld "The New Sexy"

A simple glance at the slideshow will make clear that looking like a model is a pre-requisite.  Does that mean that the edgy look is cool and sexy because models are wearing it or because it is somehow inherently cool?  I think it's just because we see it on models.  We'd envy anything they wore because we envy them.  Tisk, tisk, New York Times. I thought we were over anorexia-porn.

  Lou Doillon

Finally, as we have come to expect from The Times, they end the article by re-inforcing the enlightened ways of their own readership.  People like Agyness Deyn and Carine Roitfeld "show you a real-world version of high fashion. They’re not dressed by a stylist, and sophisticated people recognize that.”  Sophisticated people.  Just like you.  Not those losers trying to emulate celebrities.  Because celebrities are overexposed and really just objects of desire for the poor middle classes.  You have to be a true insider to know names like Deyn and Roitfeld and The Sartorialist. 

Edgy, unfeminine, rocker inspired styles are a look.  Only that.  It's not a reflection of the economy or a statement against cleavage or old guard glamour.  And it's certainly not more empowering than a sundress.  For as long as I've been reading fashion magazines, this is how models have always seemed to dress - just look at Kate Moss's very well documented sartorial habits over the past two decades.  It's also not something that fashion magazines (yes, even American ones) are ignoring - to imply that is just silly.  From Elle, to Vogue, to Nylon, to Lucky, they all have it covered.   And, frankly, so do we.

Just show us the clothes, please.  Leave the social implications for later. 


Clarissa said...

Did I already say that I love this post? 100% in agreement, well done.

Women Leather Blazer said...

nice post love reading it.


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