Weight for It
October 15, 2009

00250m

Boy, fashion is barely standing on its spindly little legs this week, sorta collapsing under its own weight – or lack of it. By now you all know about Ralph Lauren model Filippa Hamilton – first she was deflated by a round of extreme retouching by her employer and lizzie-miller-2then we found out she had already been taken out of the lineup and fired altogether six months ago when her size-4 figure reportedly became too big for the clothes. From the news today comes a report that overweight women’s self-esteem plunges when they look at any model, whether she’s toothpick thin or flaunts a few extra pounds (like Lizzie Miller, left) Skinny girls had the opposite reaction: they always felt better when they looked at a model, whatever her size. In France and England, meanwhile, there’s a move to label Photoshop-crazy retouched images on a sliding scale with a health warning like they do for smoking. And in Germany, leading mag Brigitte will no longer use models in its pages, only “real women” that readers could identify with. Of course, Bavaria’s favorite-son fashionista Karl Lagerfeld dismissed that with a wave of his gloved hand: “No one wants to see curvy women,” Lagerfeld was quoted.”You’ve got fat mothers with their bags of chips sitting in front of the television and saying that thin models are ugly.” Nice.

There’s no denying that Ralph’s retouching was absurd, however limited they say the use of the image was intended to be. According to insiders speaking out in blog comments,amd_lauren there was even a reaction inside the company before the picture was released. On the matter of Hamilton’s dismissal, their statement that she did not live up to the terms of her contract probably means that yes, her now size-4 body didn’t fit into their samples. No doubt that’s true – she’s 23 now and has been working for the company since she was 15, so she’s not a gangly teen-age girl anymore. And unfortunately that’s the problem and it’s a lot bigger than Lauren – the runways of the world are now populated by the beautiful beanpoles and the entire fashion system of runway and sample garments has been “downsized” to their 0 to 2 frames. The reign of the shapely supermodel, being long over, has been replaced by underdevloped hordes of mostly Slavic teens, like the Prada model at the top of the page.  And it’s Prada, headed by a woman I must point out, that usually gets the credit for turning the industry to the look-alike and lanky Lolita’s. They wanted the clothes to stand out and the girls to disappear on the runway; well it seems they got their wish and then some.

As for magazines, Diana Vreeland famously said they were “the places that people dream,” and now some people see only a nightmare. Overheated blog Jezebel doesn’t even believe the skinny on skinnies – that they like looking at models.  No, no, no – models are part of the “beauty-industrial complex (that) is basically designed to enscript” women everywhere. (Are they armed? Is Agent Orange the new trendy color?) I know the topic is serious, but the true wisdom comes from a reader who notes that models are, like always, just models – beautifully shaped and cellulite-free – whatever their size. Women need to look elsewhere for their self-esteem.”The “plus” and “real” women never look like us,” she adds. “It’s easier to ignore the message sent by the skinny model.”

Advertisements

Addie’s Ashes?
September 18, 2009

00360m

Brother, can you spare some diamante?  That might have been the refrain as Ralph Lauren showed his version of dust-bowl chic yesterday, complete with faded blue satin workshirts and factory jackets, thin little dresses right out of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, and riffs on that legendary American piece of gothic iconography, the overall, in smooth renditions from satin to silver metallic.

225395And denim, a Ralph staple, was patched, torn, weathered and eventually shredded and distressed to a threadbare fare-thee-well and then completely overbeaded. My friend the New York Stylist wondered about the propriety of recycling one depression’s duds in the midst of another downturn.  I didn’t see that thought in any of the reviews I scanned – most gave Ralph the usual hurrah for his take on Americana (except in those seasons when he’s figuratively off to Ascot or Apthorp, of course). But I think it’s a valid point, especially when you compare it to the upoar that followed John Galliano in 2000 when he turned Les Clochards, the Parisian street-dwellers, into couture fodder. It might be just a talking point – I doubt we’ll see Lauren’s silvered overall gown or shredded beaded jeans outside the runway (and maybe it’s because I just read a profile of Christian Audijier, but I kind of have nightmares about how those jeans would be worn in real life in a “Real Housewives” world). In the end it brought me back to Addie Pray, the crafty con kid from Paper Moon, clad in her workaday overalls, ever trying to work the angles. But of course all she really wants is a little love.  Hey, maybe she could find a job on 7th Avenue.

Update: Somehow I missed Cathy Horyn’s salvo on her N.Y. Times blog.