I don’t harbor any nostalgia for communism, but I can’t deny the influence it had on my relationship with fashion.
Imagine Romania, circa 1980’s: rationed food, rationed gas, rationed hot and cold water, car curfews on Sundays, two hours of TV a day, freezing-cold apartments and exactly one “house of fashion” in each major city.
Although “Casa Modei” was only a pretentious tailor shop located in an elegant Main Street building, it gave status to its customers. In a society that demanded uniformity, where everyone drove the same type of car and lived in similar apartments, some of us saw fashion as a rare opportunity to be different.
Being well dressed required connections (to stores or factories producing for the West), a good eye and creativity. Having relatives who lived “Outside”, was also an advantage. Lucky for me, I had an uncle who not only lived in New York, but was also gay. He was impossibly stylish and very generous. He understood how to mix high end luxury pieces (that he would send me) with whatever I could get my hands on there, so he sent me trendy bags, designer sunglasses, jeans, designer jackets, cashmere sweaters (unheard of in Romania) and beautiful accessories. That was my first lesson in combining splurge/steal clothing.
While we wouldn’t want to recreate the conditions under which I developed my fashion sensibilities, I am happy to share with you important takeaways:
ALL YOUR CLOTHES SHOULD MAKE YOU HAPPY.
I had more than one dress as a teenager, but I can count them all on one hand. Most of them had the same story of origin. I designed it and found the right fabric and Grandma sewed it on her manual Singer Sewing Machine. My dresses were made with love and they made me happy. Like the one I wore to my first boyfriend’s birthday party. It was there I discovered that I wasn’t his only “girlfriend” invited to the party, but that doesn’t mar my fond memories for the floral, flounce hem, spaghetti strapped midi dress that saved the day for me.
NO MONEY? NO PROBLEM. YOUR CREATIVITY WILL KICK IN.
We didn’t have money, and most certainly we didn’t have Instagram to tell us how to look. We had to create, improvise, learn skills and take fashion risks.
Like making my prom dress from a dreamy Christian Dior nightgown sent to my mom by my uncle. A very feminine white gauzy cotton 1970s peasant style nightgown got an easy makeover with the help of an elastic waistband and a shirred hem. The result was a long and flowy bohemian number. I had such a good time dancing the night away in it, that I was able to let go of any ill-will I could have harbored against Courtney Love for getting credited for starting the lingerie dress trend in the nineties.
BUY QUALITY OR YOU’LL PAY TOO MUCH.
As I said, overspending was discouraged. At one point the food was so scarce that if someone was discovered with food rations (sugar, flower, oil) larger than a month’s supply, she could go to jail for six months. So I learned to recognize high quality clothing. Natural fabrics, metal zippers, buttons, good thread, and finished seams are all indicators of a quality item that was made to last, not just to be sold. There was a saying back then, “I am too poor to buy cheap stuff,” but its meaning is timeless and universal. So much so, I’m going to make it my personal mission to bring that expression back. (And while I’m at it, I’m also going to get the word out about Courtney Love taking credit for my idea!)
I miss those days of fashion freedom when the creative process was just as important as the end result. It’s a great lesson in the power of the human spirit and how adversity forces people to look for alternative pathways. I suppose it’s fitting this week to give thanks for all the experiences that life brings to us, because we never know where they might lead to. (Or what outfits we might get out of the situation.)
Fashion wants to be taken seriously and I want people to take it as seriously as I do. Psychologists consider it a mere capitalist manipulation of the masses. Economists think of it as “the opposite of rational”. I disagree with all of them. I believe those who don’t take fashion seriously are misunderstanding what fashion truly is. However, I have my own doubts about fashion’s ability (or inability) to send a cohesive message to the world about its credo. There are inconsistencies not only in what we understand fashion to be; is it the product or is it the change? There are also inconsistencies in what fashion stands for. Perhaps this is why it is so misunderstood. Here are just few of the fashion inconsistencies that trouble me:
FASHION’S TERMINOLOGY IS SO MISLEADING.
The shows presented at fashion weeks in New York, Milan, and Paris are considered prêt-à-porter (ready to wear) but some designers use these opportunities to display only their creative skills as a marketing ploy for their brands. In other words, they use these shows to debut collections that serve more as an art form making a statement, rather than clothing that’s truly “prêt-à-porter.” I know it’s hard to shock anyone on the streets of New York City, but I believe my jaw might drop at the sight of anyone wearing this.
FASHION SAYS ONE THING, BUT THEN DOES THE EXACT OPPOSITE.
Fashion magazines—self-declared progressive voices that are supposed to promote change and empower women—seem to be completely gaga these days over a prince charming fairytale and EVERY SINGLE OUTFIT that Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex wears. Isn’t that just a little hypocritical? How exactly are these magazines empowering girls? I am not joining the ranks of those saying Meghan Markle was a bad feminist for giving up her job to pursue this marriage. I am only saying that the fashion industry is not doing her, or us women, any favors diminishing powerful women into nothing more than fashion influencers. I understand their motivation to also sell products featured within their pages, but I wish they’d quit pretending they are doing it to save us.
FASHION IS SPELLBOUND BY STREETWEAR.
I personally don’t understand what streetwear’s superpower is. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it’s taken over luxury fashion and that even chic preppy grandpa Ralph Lauren has not been safe from its influence. Virgil Abloh of Off-White fame and more recently named artistic director at Louis Vuitton men’s wear collection said, “Streetwear is what is worn on the street and it’s how real people wear clothes, sneakers with a dress, a hoodie—it’s mixing genres.” If the purpose is to democratize fashion, I am even more confused; how many people who flaunt “streetwear” on a daily basis can actually afford a rather simple looking blue anorak for $1390? If they can, I certainly don’t live on the right street.
I love fashion and I think the time has come for fashion to be taken seriously. It is economically and culturally significant and much can be learned by studying it through many different lenses. I believe there is truth to fashion’s lack of sense of humor, but if fashion wants people to quit laughing, then it’s time for fashion to address the emperor’s new clothes… season after season after season.
What do you think?
Although I haven’t attended any fashion shows this season, I haven’t been out of the news loop either. Press releases have a way of bringing the New York Fashion Week to you, even if you are not willing to leave your um, yoga pants for its shows.
Of the many press releases introducing a designer that “will be for sure the next big name to hit the fashion industry”, the one for Nonie actually rings true.
Canadian ready to wear label Nonie (yes, same Nonie seen worn by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex) made its debut at the New York Fashion Week with its Spring Summer 2019 collection.
The label’s designer Nina Kharey defines the line as being ” made up of clothing designed for women who don’t want the hassle of figuring out how to wear certain trends or statement pieces, but want to look well put together instantly”
The beautiful collection presented in New York is described as “an abundance of silk and draping, inspired by Kharey’s Indian heritage. Satin materials in black, ivory, red, and yellow were crafted like they’re worn in traditional Indian culture, but styled in an everyday Western fashion”
For more information about the label visit them at https://www.houseofnonie.com/
or follow them on Instagram at @nonie.official.
Posted by Mirela Gluck at 08:59 AM
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Depending on which magazine or site your read, the New York Fashion Week has either “lost its strength” or is “more robust than ever”.
Through the years we’ve attended our share of fashion shows, and followed everything printed (or typed) about the event. For years we knew what the “it bag” was, what celebrity sat next to Anna Wintour, and if she smiled or not. This year we missed all events, haven’t even read much about them. Not that we adhere to the school of thought that claims the New York fashion show is inconsequential, we just don’t know what is its rai•sond’ê•tre
Is it supposed to be an opportunity to sale clothes, to get a splashy Vogue feature, or a PR opportunity for celebrities to be spotted? When we find out the answer to that, we will return to attending the New York Fashion Week.
Posted by Staff Writer at 05:50 AM
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