Sunday, March 04, 2012

Diana Vreeland and Fashion Week for the Underemployed

My blogger friend Underemployed Is the New Organic recently wrote about New York Fashion Week, saying that if you're not fashion's servant, then you're its victim.

Every spring and fall at Fashion Week, we're presented with future trends, and you can either be fashion's servant by updating now or you can be its victim by ignoring it completely. (More fool you.)

"It pays, literally, to stay on top of fashion," writes my friend, whose blog is a treasure trove of thoughts and advice for the nouveau pauvre of the Great Recession.

What makes people fashion victims?  They can't or won't acknowledge that what they look like has any bearing on their quality of life, my friend writes. "The underemployed don't have this luxury. Well, they do, but it almost guarantees that they will remain underemployed. Simply put:  Society is kinder to people who look nice and who give the impression that they are aware of what century they live in.  And when I say 'kinder' I mean that society is more likely to give them a job."
Oh, dear. So sad yet true. As a writer for pay, I've spent much of my working life underemployed. In New York City. Not a good combination.

Here are some of my tricks to keep up with fashion on a budget:
  • Adopt an 'as if' attitude, meaning that you do your best to dress as if you're keeping up with fashion.
  • Page through fashion magazines for free that you find in your doctor's office or that people leave behind on the subway or at your friends' apartment when they're busy doing something else.
  • Go for looking womanly, and by that I mean cleavage and skirts and dresses that fit well.
  • Wear black tights eight months of the year and get your legs waxed below the knee for four (full leg is better, of course, but more expensive).
  • Buy clothes off the rack at cheap places like H&M or Century 21 or De Janeiro or Banana Republic on sale or god forgive me Strawberry. Make sure they're made of natural fabrics, cut stylishly, yet not in styles that are too much of the moment, which look so last Tuesday even before the week is out.
  • And finally, remember what Diana Vreeland famously said: "A new dress doesn't get you anywhere; it's the life you're living in the dress, and the sort of life you had lived before, and what you will do in it later."
Diana Vreeland. Now there's a bad girl after my heart. According to her granddaughter-in-law, Lisa Immordino Vreeland, who wrote a biography about the flamboyant Vogue magazine editor, “The legacy Mrs. Vreeland left behind is extremely strong and deep, and goes beyond being a mere fashion revolutionary: she really helped change social history and emancipated women. Her life, which spanned 1903 until 1989, is by all means a vivid portrait of the 20th century.”

Aside from looking at pictures of Mrs. Vreeland, a classic belle laide with an extraordinarily powerful sense of style, my favorite thing about her is all the thoughts and pronouncements that tumbled so easily out of her ceaselessly active brain:
  • "I loathe narcissism, but I approve of vanity."
  • "Pink is the navy blue of India."
  •  "Elegance is innate.  It has nothing to do with being well dressed.  Elegance is refusal."
  • "Blue jeans are the most beautiful things since the gondola."
  • "Balenciaga did the most delicious clothes. Clothes aren't delicious anymore."
  • "Fashion must be the intoxicating release from the banality of the world."
Mrs. Vreeland was a madcap known for embellishing the truth. As she wrote in her autobiography D.V.: "Did I tell you about the zebras lining the driveway at San Simeon? You believed that, didn't you? Did I tell you that Lindbergh flew over Brewster? It could have been someone else, but who cares--Fake it! . . . There's only one thing in life, and that's the continual renewal of inspiration."

We need more women in this world like Diana Vreeland, don't you think?


Underemployed said...

Yes, I DO think, and I will be taking the time to consider her musings much in the same way I contemplate Zen.

And, honey, your advice is excellent. Except for the part about cleavage. I would need surgery to achieve cleavage.

You are very lucky to live in New York. Here in Chicago, we are facing yet another dreary season of hemlines that are either above-the-knee or dragging-the-floor.

Thank you for putting me in the same post as that great lady.

Joyce Hanson said...

Oh well, cleavage is a relative concept, depending on what you're, um, endowed with. I have a girlfriend who's flat-chested as an ironing board, and she really knows how to work that with plunging open necks and teeny halter tops that bustier lasses couldn't do.

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