Friday, February 03, 2006

Style, fashion and thrift

Pretty Lady had occasion to buy a new pair of jeans, recently. She wandered into a tony boutique on Fifth Avenue, and was swarmed upon by an officious helper. She mentioned her interest in jeans, and was soon supplied with a large stack and a dressing room.

(As an aside--what IS it with this ridiculous 'hip hugger' look? The affectation does not flatter any woman but those with the figure of a twelve-year-old boy. She has even seen them doing severe damage to the figures of girls who DO somewhat resemble twelve-year-old boys. They create unattractive pooches at the hips and belly where none were originally, and give the general impression of badly-stuffed sausage. Unfortunately, this seems to be the only style currently available.)

So Pretty Lady tried on her stack of 'hip-huggers,' further adorned with patches and embroiderings, in the style of late-sixties do-it-yourself flower children, which she does not much object to, though it is not one of her favorite eras. She found a pair that did not distort her excellent figure too terribly badly; the sales helper pronounced them "cute." Then she looked at the price tag, and laughed. Pretty Lady does not pay one hundred sixty-five dollars for a pair of jeans.

She emerged from the dressing room and politely returned the stack. "Aren't you going to get those jeans? They are so cute on you!" insisted the helper.

Pretty Lady insisted right back. "Jeans do not cost one hundred and sixty-five dollars," she informed the dear girl, kindly. "Jeans cost twenty dollars." She thereupon left the boutique, went to Old Navy, and paid twenty dollars. Really.

It is a tragic misconception that a lady must spend large sums of money in order to be stylish. It is an even greater misconception that being stylish has anything to do with being fashionable. Style and fashion are, in fact, oppositional concepts. A fashionable person is a shallow individual with the conversational half-life of a chimpanzee. A stylish person may give the world of fashion a passing glance, out of artistic curiosity and appreciation, but selects only those items which fit both her internal sense of self and her pocketbook. Her clothing is thus unique to herself, and never goes out of fashion, for the simple reason that she is wearing it.

A stylish woman knows both her eras and her temperaments. She may have many of each, and they may overlap, but she never attempts to stuff herself into a mode which does not fit. For example, Pretty Lady has a fifties figure and a forties outlook, with the occasional dash of gypsy, grunge, witch or princess. (It is now to be stated that Pretty Lady did NOT follow the 'grunge' craze of the early nineties; the 'grunge' craze followed HER. Hmph. She was walking the streets in flannel plaid, black t-shirts and paint-stained army fatigues, years before anyone had heard of Kurt Cobain.) A stylish woman purchases an item only when she adores it, and it suits her coloring, her figure, and at least one of her temperaments.

Thusly, Pretty Lady's wardrobe is an organic, evolving entity, with items being cycled in upon discovery, re-accessorized as season and whim dictate, and retired only upon irremediable physical deterioration, not the ludicrous notion that they are "out of fashion." She obtains many of these items at sample sales, clearance racks, thrift stores, the Salvation Army, and barter among her designer friends. (One of her most prized collections is a series of classic designer hats, obtained at barter from the artist she showed in her own gallery, about a year before this artist was co-opted by Barney's Fifth Avenue; no girl of Pretty Lady's income level will ever be able to afford these hats again.)

So, to those girls who feel swamped, overwhelmed, and utterly confused by the world of fashion, she offers a few words of advice; forget about it. Go Within. Ask yourself what kind of woman your six-year-old self dreamed of being, and follow her dictates. Did she wish to appear at kindergarten and dazzle her classmates as Glinda, the Good Witch of the North? Then what is she doing in a tweed suit? Throw out the tweed and troll the Goodwill for fouffy taffeta skirts, or at the very least, soften the tweed with a Bavarian crystal necklace or two. Did she fancy herself as Pocohantas, chasing a deer fleetly through the jungle, bringing it down with a single shot of her powerful bow arm, and carrying it home on her well-defined shoulders to feed the tribe? Then put those high-heeled pumps in the back of the closet for weddings and church services, and go to work in that scrumptious pair of knee-high fringed mocassins, for mercy's sake. Nobody will fire you.

Or if they do, you didn't want that boring old job anyway. Start your own enterprise, and be at one with your true nature.


The Aardvark said...

Not only is she Pretty, but also Sensible.
Sets my Scots heart crosswise, it does!

heidi said...

Pretty Lady you are so right. There is no substitute for confident personal style.

And it can't be bought. This is what we learn while looking at People Magazine's worst dressed lists. Well, that and sometimes "more" is a really bad idea.

Chris C. said...

If a dandy gives a thought to fashion at all, it is only thus: Fashion is for setting, not for following.

Love your dress, Miss.


Pretty Lady said...

Spoken like the Brummell himself!