Had dinner with The Model last night. She asked my opinion on some detail of the charity fashion show she is arranging. I had to confess to her that I have never in my whole life been to a fashion show and while I have seen shots of some of the Paris or Milan shows, I didn’t think the country club she was using was going to run to that kind of stage. When she expressed surprise at the hole in my life experience, I said “Surely it’s obvious that I have no clue, no understanding whatsoever about fashion.”
“But you subscribe to Vogue,” she said.
Ah that. Well, thankfully I don’t subscribe any longer. I once subscribed because I had some frequent flier miles which were going to expire and I was offered the chance to get some magazines. There weren’t many to choose from that I was even vaguely interested in. They mostly appeared to be things like Cigar Collector or Money or Nascar Today, things which people who are convinced that they are about to lose their frequent flier milers and determined to get something for them, might be tempted to take. I already have armloads of paper to recycle at the dump each weekend without adding more to the pile, and was about to pass. Then I noticed that Vogue was on offer and it occurred to me that perhaps this was a chance to figure out the world of fashion at no cost.
“Because,” I admitted to The Model, “I Just Don’t Get It. I have Tried to Get It. Really I have. I thought that perhaps if I at least understood fashion, I wouldn’t always feel I’m on the outside looking in.”
The Model asked if I had, in fact, been successful and I had to admit that even after a year of reading, I remained baffled. I think people, as they go about their business, should look clean, neat and attractive in their clothes; that clothes shouldn’t interfere with everyday life; that clothes that couldn’t be used in everyday life are a huge waste of time and money; and that, finally, makeup shouldn’t call attention to itself. And for the most part I didn’t see that Vogue promoted any of that. In fact, the clothes and accessories remind me of the teeny, tiny shoes Chinese Mandarin ladies wore on their bound, useless feet. The shoes (and feet) weren’t meant for walking and neither are these clothes.
Everyone in Vogue’s pages looks sad or pouty or silly – clearly not people you’d want to be around. And no one looks as if they were having fun. They all look abused or drug addicted and decidedly unhealthy. The received wisdom appears to be that if the models look pretty or happy or like they were having fun, the audience might focus on them and not on the creation they are wearing. Which, apparently if you are a fashion designer, is the Worst Thing That Can Happen.
What these designers aren’t taking into account, however, is that we, as humans, are hard wired to respond to another human face. When that face is distressed, we become distressed and that colors our whole response. And if we respond to the sadness or the anger or the sullenness of the models, is that the impression the designers want us to have?
If they want the focus on the clothes, then just leave the human element out of it altogether and send the latest creations down a conveyor belt on a mannequin. Otherwise, enjoy the bounce the clothes get from a pretty, engaged model.
You can’t break rules that are hard wired into human nature. Doing so does not make you a genius. It merely leaves people perplexed at the mixed messages.
I expect that someday, someone, somewhere will decide enough with the bored, angry looks and bring in the fresh, happy ones. The fashion world will be astonished at such an unusual idea. And then everyone, wanting to be just as cool and new and fresh will jump on the bandwagon and say “What a difference this makes! We should have done this a long time ago.”
But then, what do I know? As I explained to The Model at the beginning of our dinner, she should be giving me advice, not the other way around. She has known me long enough to appreciate that I am decidedly Not The Target Market.