October 27, 2004

Are you a Fashion Victim?

A few years back, my friend S and I were shopping for shoes. Usually, we would pick the reliable and plain choices. However, on this special occasion, we decided to live a little and we each purchased a pair of incredibly cute black boots with a 4 inch platform heel. These little numbers were gorgeous and we were positive they would ensure us a spot on some Best Dressed list somewhere – surely. However, my dreams of hitting it big were dashed the first time I wore them to work. I found myself desperately cuddling up to a banister firmly with both arms after I tripped at the top of a staircase.

That incident came back to me as I have been reading an interesting piece of non-fiction called Fashion Victim: Our Love-Hate Relationship with Dressing, Shopping, and the Cost of Style by Michelle Lee . It examines the fashion industry and the history of fashion. I can’t say that I am a follower of fashion, but rather a side-line observer. Yes, I would like to be stylish, but I usually fall short of making the grade (an old picture of me ensconced in a purple and red velour mini-skirt set complete with purple legwarmers is a stark reminder). I generally don’t feel comfortable in trendy clothes (even when I was still wearing single digit sizes), so I usually opt for much safer selections incorporating jeans and black loafers. The fact that I loathe shopping for clothes probably doesn’t help my fashion predicament. I don’t mind the owning of clothes, I just hate the whole process of buying them. Oddly enough, despite the fact that I am not that involved in what I wear, I do still care what Madonna and Gwyneth are sporting. It’s fun to pick through the celebrity rags and pass judgment on those with a far greater clothes budget and imagination than I have.

I used to read In Style, but quit because I felt dumpy after reading the darn thing and it gave me the urge to spend money (as if to rectify the dumpiness). It frustrates me that a beautiful sweater I bought a few years back is considered out of style, even though I still feel like a million bucks when I put it on. Therefore, I was eager to read the book and give myself a Fashion Pardon. I wasn’t disappointed. The hamster wheel of the fashion cycle has picked up to such a fast pace (the author calls it Speed Chic), that now I don’t feel so guilty not following the trends anymore (ponchos be damned!). Yes, I admit I AM knitting myself a shawl, but I really wanted to learn the techniques employed to create one. The one complaint about the book is that the chapter on sweatshops really, really distressed me and the author didn’t offer any solutions. I was shocked at how pervasive this problem is – it’s not just confined to the Kathy Lees and P. Diddys of the clothing world. I guess I had thought the production process involved more machinery but apparently the pliability of fabric doesn’t lend itself easily to much mechanization of the process. I wish the author would have at least given some tips on how a consumer can reduce her purchases of sweatshop-produced garments. Regardless, I am glad I read the book. It was very educational and hopefully will allow me to make more informed fashion choices in the future.

Last week, I bought another pair of black boots. This time, I bought a pair that is plain, with a 2 inch heel. I may not be strutting my stuff in them, but at least I won’t be breaking my neck in them. My budget (and Mr. X) will thank me next year when they are still wearable because of their unassuming design.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For some sweatshop-free basics, try http://www.americanapparelstore.com/

My "This Is What A Feminist Looks Like" shirt is by American Apparel and it's very nice quality.