Friday, December 14, 2012

No Holds Barred - Who's doing it and what it looks like

by Blair Sabol

What has happened to looking good?
Honestly! Before my most recent Thanksgiving trip to New York City I was excited by the promise of the city teaching me that good taste is still alive and well. Or so I thought! Manhattan has never let me down. But there were red blinking warning signs before I left home. Aside from the Kardashians, people globally are not into looking or feeling great lately. Hurricane Sandy became the cherry on NYC's bad self esteem cake.

Even Hillary Clinton has never looked worse. Apparently she can't wait to leave her job and as she says; " I just want to sleep, have fun and relax ... I am sick of having it all."

That says a mouthful. A month ago someone sent me a picture of Michelle Obama at some event.A fashion victim; but what's the fashion?

And for all the hoopla around Black Friday, Aubergine Thursday and Cyber Monday, in the end none of it counted. It was a retail bust. With savings collapsing and disposable incomes disintegrating, no one has the "consumer confidence" to look great, let alone "therapeutically" shop up a storm.

Only The Powerball seemed an acceptable splurge. Jumping off the fiscal cliff (with "Thelma and Louise" abandon) is already apparent in how depressing people looked on the Manhattan streets. While I was visiting, the New York Times ran a big picture entitled "The look of the moment/Miranda Kerr". She was walking down the street in a sexy day Beckham tight dress, with dusty rose Lanvin high pumps, tight Prada cinch belt and bag, and a tan. They called it "Luck be a Lady."

Who are we kidding. All I ever saw on Fifth and Madison avenues (which used to be a glorious inspiring fashion cavalcade) were "Down on Your Luck" black puffer jackets and vests, black tight jeans or leggings, black riding boots and some nondescript black tote. Cinch in your cash belts rather than just cinch belts was the rigor.

Every woman seemed to dress this way and the men were worse; black nondescript baggy pants, again the quilted jacket and yes baseball caps. (Is every guy over 30 losing his hair?) A city friend warned me that New Yorkers are indeed depressed and into "survivor mode" and don't want to dress up for much of anything anymore. I understand "understatement" but truly "the look" borderlines ... SLOB!!!
The "duffel bag  look" of New York City. Couple in puffers and quilted.
Is this from restraint and fear or simply lazy and disgusted. I witnessed it first hand at The Four Seasons Restaurant on Thanksgiving night. The restaurant was regal but the patrons were not! Most guys arrived without a decent jacket, in jeans and big open shirts worn outside their pants. They were practically donning flip flops. The women looked "overcompensating" in the Kardashian signature "bandaid" spandex micro-mini dresses displaying very large asses and rub-a-dub thighs. What is wrong with this picture?

Killing us softly: Brad Pitt.
A fashion editor explained to me that celebrities are responsible for setting the visual bar so low. It seems that most of them have decided to "dress down" — a kind of reverse snobbery. Call it "Proletarian Panache" or plain and simple "Dirt Bag Chic." The message is "Love me, love my dishevelment, and I am one with you?"

We have Brad Pitt showing up for his latest movie premiere of "Killing them Softly (and believe me he did) in a sloppy biker look; crappy black burned-out T-shirt, baggy leather jacket, ill fitting black jeans and awful clunkster boots. Who cares about his strong jaw and low body fat.

As Tom and Lorenzo (hilarious and brilliant fashion bloggers) advised: "Suck it up Brad, you think Chanel paid you a gazillion dollars to make those ridiculous adds because they loved your performance in "Money ball". Go home, do the whole shower, shave and sh-t thing and have one of your two-dozen children iron an outfit for you. You do not run with a biker gang. Brad Pitt, get the hell over it." Indeed!!!!

But now almost every guy looks like a homeless person with four-day-old beard growth and even scraggly neck hair. It even hit dear Hugh Jackman. Is the "Wolverine" thing really such a turn on ... even with him? This whole look is not some relapsed punk trend. It is simply a mess. And it is epidemic.

In my five star NYC hotel on a Sunday the men and women and children all looked like the street garbage bags. They were bunked out on the floor and couches dressed in layers of duffel bags and waiting for cabs to the airport (and lets not talk about the visuals at any given airport or the horrors of any First Class cabin).
Bunked out in layers of duffel bags.
Many of my city pals admitted to me that they have had it with getting dressed cause shopping has become such a physical chore and no one wants to do it as escapist sport or fun anymore. As Vogue editor Grace Coddington recently advised:

"Shopping is a disaster because nothing fits. I hate to see older women dressed in a young way. You have to keep it simple, classic and sort of beyond fashion so that inevitably becomes something of a uniform. I'm 71, so I'm not going to wear anything fashionable. I'd look silly." So said from a real Fashion Pro!!!! So lets call a spade a spade ... It's become recession/depression clothing and we should stop putting spins on "what's Hot/Not" appearances. We have all become spin-less.
Current NYC "survival uniform."
As I said only the Kardashians and the Reality TV show stars (both male and female) are still in that game and pitching for a look. Talk about "shop till you drop." It seems we all dumped before we got to the cash register. Even the Thanksgiving weekend of shopping turned into a scene from the Columbine High School Massacre. People were trampling each other at Walmart, mauling one another at Urban Outfitter and bashing windows at Target. Shopping has now become more violent than the war in Afghanistan.
And what do they all have to show for it? Can they actually wear their 71 inch flat screen TVs or Apple "Mini" iPads? Actually I think some do.

I can only imagine poor Bill Cunningham really having a tough time of it lately doing his infamous street photography. I spotted him at his 57th and Firth avenue lookout and that day I was wearing way too much color (I am a tourist so I get a pass) yet I noticed him aiming his camera at me and then instantly he yanked it down.

Clearly I didn't fit into his "theme of the week." And what was that? Men in black tights worn under black baggy shorts (culottes) or under a mini tunic/skirt. Really? That was some visual stretch. He insisted in his column that it was a hot trend started by the biker delivery boys. As the Sopranos would say: "For whom? For What? Fugghedaboudit."
On a real fashion industry side note ... last week Balenciaga appointed 28-year-old Alexander Wang as their new creative director. He is known to have made 60 million dollars designing "high end" T-shirts and sweats.

The New York Times called the announcement "The democratization of fashion which leads to a gradual decline of luxury."

Alexander Wang's T collection.
And they reported some fashion industry moguls seeing it as "... the watering down of creativity in fashion." I'll say!! Now that the new luxury is no luxury and everyone is dressing in their pajamas it all seems so flatlined.

Okay so we can forget about "dressing to the nines ..." but how about looking "presentable?" I'm all for understated chic (as Coddington sees it), but does it have to look so disgusting? Obviously it is a sign of a new cultural low. I loved artist Barbara Kruger's recent summary on the entire shopping season (and for me the ultimate visual message). Her banner read:

You Want It
You Need It
You Buy It
You Forget It


Obviously as more people end up dressing in comfy T-shirts, sweats (and already this has been going on for a looong time ) and loungewear as their daily garb, so goes our personal self regard. It's become a big "Why Bother." Sadly, I guess we've all gone visually unconscious.

Which leaves me to sing Paul Simon's plea (never mind Joe DiMaggio) "Where have you gone Diana Vreeland — our nation turns its lonely eyes to YOU ... Boo Hoo Hoo, Boo Hoo Hoo."

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