Crimes Of Fashion

I hope and trust that we have moved safely beyond the doctrinaire “dress for success” era, and not a nanosecond too soon. Any female who worked in an office in the 1980s carries the memory of way too many boring dark suits and blouses with floppy bows at the neckline – which may explain the legwarmers-as-fashion counter-trend that afflicted leisure wear about that same time.

We should now be comfortably settled somewhere in-between taking fashion too seriously and not taking it seriously enough.

That said, I do wish someone would take it upon herself to spread the word that bra straps are meant to do their work quietly and unobtrusively and should not be seen. And that unless you are 14 years old, anything you wore in junior high deserves a decent burial. And that pajama bottoms may not, under any circumstances, be worn outside the house. No exceptions for those decorated with sports team logos or cute animal prints.

The same fashion police officer should also see to it that sandal sales are regulated much like firearm sales – with a mandatory waiting period. This would ensure that prospective buyers have time to get a decent pedicure before baring their feet for all the world to see.

And then there’s that whole sweatpants-outside-the-gym issue, the top-that-fit-just-fine-20-pounds-ago issue and the sequins-and-sparkles-on-holiday-themed-sweaters issue.

That’s a lot to ask anyone to take on, and I am not volunteering. My credentials are far from impeccable, despite – or maybe because of – a wardrobe characterized by shades of gray and a reputation for never having met a black turtleneck I didn’t like.

If I dared aspire to such a post of authority, my clothing past would catch up with me, and I’d never make it through the background check. There are people still living who might remember the unfortunate black and yellow plaid outfit I wore in high school or the green polyester pants I owned a few years later that were so slick I once slid right out of a plastic chair onto the floor during a very tense business meeting.

But let’s set all those crimes of fashion aside, mine and everyone else’s, and hope for a day when we will all attain enlightenment – or at least remember to look in a full-length mirror before venturing out in public. And let’s revel in the fun side of fashion.

For instance, the hat that Aretha Franklin wore to the Obama inauguration has its own Facebook group, made up of admirers – those who were captivated or overwhelmed by either the hat itself, a glorious gray creation with a huge bow outlined in Swarovski crystals – or Ms. Franklin’s ability to wear it while singing My Country ’Tis Of Thee in sub-freezing weather in front of millions of people.

And how about the incredible wardrobes conjured up for the TV series Mad Men, set in a Manhattan ad agency in the early ‘60s, with the “girls” in the office corseted and girdled to the point that the flow of oxygen to their brains must surely have been impeded? That could almost explain why the “boys” in the office considered them fit mainly for typing, coffee-fetching and ogling.

And this year’s Academy Awards? Yes, of course, people debated the artistic merits of Kate Winslet’s and Meryl Streep’s performances, but they also wanted to know what Tilda Swinton was thinking when she dressed herself for the evening and if they could get the name of the vintage shop where Penelope Cruz found her fabulous white dress.

Fashion and politics? Serious and fun at the same time – and absolutely joined at the hip. As her campaign was ending, Hilary Clinton thanked her supporters with a reference to the “sisterhood of the traveling pantsuit.” She and her secretary of state predecessor, Condo- leezza Rice, may have a few philosophical differences but they share an affection for well-cut suits.

And show me a woman – Democrat, Republican or Independent – who doesn’t covet those killer green shoes Michelle Obama wore at the Inauguration (and walked many blocks in), and I’ll show you someone in deep fashion denial.

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