There’s an old song by Depeche Mode, "New Dress", with lyrics that go like this:
"Jet airliner shot from sky
Famine horror, millions die
Earthquake terror figures rise
Princess Di is wearing a new dress"
It's a jab at the media coverage of such trivialities in the face of actual tragedies that actually do merit serious discussion. And while "New Dress" is over 25 years old, we're still singing the same old song today:
"Like the auto and financial industries, fashion is in crisis...No one’s asking for a big-gun bailout, Mrs. O (at least not yet). But how about a shout-out?"
They're kidding, right?
Nope. According to last week's piece in WWD, major designers are in a major snit because First Lady Michelle Obama prefers not to flaunt her access to their wares, choosing instead to wear pieces from J.Crew and White House|Black Market, as well as emerging young designers.
Of course, they're trying to be genteel in their comments. Donna Karan wants a crack at Mrs. Obama: "I hope to be able to dress her, and not only dress her but address her," and Vera Wang laments: "I wish she would consider some of us, because I think we also have contributions to make."
Poor Donna and Vera. Boo hoo hoo for you.
Meanwhile, Oscar de la Renta gets downright maudlin: "American fashion right now is struggling...I don’t think that is the right message at this particular point."
I understand that fashion is a business, one that employs thousands of people at all levels, but I can't get behind the idea that "a chic sighting of the First Lady in Ralph Lauren or Donna Karan [might] prod some women to stroll through Saks Fifth Avenue or Neiman Marcus." Women who have enough disposable income to shop at these high-end stores are already doing so; seeing the First Lady wearing those designers isn't going to make a difference to them.
Meanwhile, taking fashion cues from those with far different lifestyles from our own is one of the reasons why so many people live beyond their means. Designers who were once worn only by those who could truly afford them are now commonplace. Go count the number of women carrying Coach or Louis Vuitton bags at Wal-Mart, for example. Carrie Bradshaw was a fictional character, but I don't doubt that tens of thousands of women across this country could cobble together a down payment on a home if they'd saved more of their money instead of giving it to Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo.
Frankly, I applaud Michelle Obama for doing what works for her, uppity fashion designers and snarky tabloids be damned. Furthermore, I think she's setting a fantastic example for the rest of the country, particularly considering how nearly all of us are scaling back on our own spending to one degree or another.
And Vera, if you're so hot for Michelle Obama to give you a chance, perhaps you ought to send a few pieces from your Simply Vera collection at Kohl's. Because that's just about all much of America can afford right now.
Julie is a former Air Force officer and professional project manager turned web writer. She spent four years at the Pentagon and five years in New York City, and her suburban life in Colorado seems pastoral by comparison. She's no political pundit, but she is an objective thinker in a sea of partisan propagandists. She writes for The Mom Slant, Cool Mom Picks, and is co-founder of The Parent Bloggers Network.
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