I love putting together a look, be it casual or dress-up. Picking pieces for an outfit, adding the right jewelry, shoes, fake bags online, then checking the mirror and saying “Yes!” to the result is another way of expressing “me.”
The current debate on the subject of wearing the same exact look to work every day as a freeing option for women has gone viral, since a prominent female ad executive advocated it recently in a leading fashion magazine. She argued that women having to worry about what to wear to work is another form of sexism, since men can opt for the same or similar suit, tie, shirt, fake handbags, hoody or slacks and no one cares.
Her examples were successful men who always wore the same style and color clothing: Steve Jobs in his black turtleneck and jeans; Barack Obama in one of his blue-or-gray-only suits, never “wasting time” thinking about what to wear.
Clearly the rigidity of fashion dictates, originally to designate rank and separate social circles, exerted huge pressure, especially for the status seeker and middle class. And following trends could be torture: crinolines and poodle skirts never made anyone look good. Matching shoes and handbags to ensembles seems absurd now, yet women did it for decades.
But by the late ’60s, choices were rampant. Color had exploded from 1950s-dominant navy, brown, black, beige or grey to a madcap variety. Mixes of color and print have expanded ever since. Currently I’m wild for today’s tropicals and pastel print dresses..
Writing about fashion and covering the bi-annual New York Designer Fashion Shows for this paper was a gift and an education. I watched carefully crafted clothes translated through American designers’ visions, even when born out of European couture influences. I adored the originality and amusing daring of Rudi Gernreich and Betsey Johnson.
I saw then unknown Ralph Lauren present his first sales pitch while the press talked and ate lunch as he stood in the aisle, debuting four-inch wide ties in the days of skinnys. Who knew an empire was being born?
I drooled over Bill Blass fashion lines as starkly clean as fine architecture. Liz Claiborne came up with work-wear that was casual and sporty at a time of Dress for Success sameness. De La Renta and Giorgio di Sant’Angelo thrilled me with their sumptuous gowns.
I saw how, as the culture changed, fashion fake bags changed with it, a history lesson that goes back millennia.
Yes, I tried some wacky trends (those ’80s padded shoulders obscured my wide waist and I loved my little white boots). But I saw that trends fade, and flattering classics, enhanced by finds like jazzy scarves and earrings, could become new-look best friends. When high-end looks ruled, knockoff houses tried to convince us that whatever was newest was necessary, like buying new phones or media devices today. I’m glad that’s mostly gone.
Now I write at home, usually in jeans and sweatshirts. But I love getting “put together” even a bit to go out, and miss the recognition of how personally expressive getting dressed can be. Feeling you look snazzy, no matter how casually dressed, is a real enhancer.
Steve Jobs was a genius, and actually forged his own look. But he’ll never be my fashion fake handbags online icon.