Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Elegance, Lost:

Last week, there was an article in The Wall Street Journal (‘Rest in Style: Model Suzy Parker Defined Elegance’), written by Woody Hochswender, an author, former fashion model, and style reporter for The New York Times, whom I knew when we were both at Harper’s Bazaar (he was the features editor). It was an homage of sorts to Suzy Parker, the elegant and glamorous model who defined the 50’s, and who recently passed away at the age of 69.

In it, Woody talks about this idea of elegance past, and how models today are blue jean wearing, chain smoking, gum chewing, rather vulgar and well, common. And they are noticeably lacking in the kind of social graces or aura that defined the mannequins during a decade where Christian Dior’s New Look was THE look. In the last paragraph, he writes, “Alexander Liberman, the longtime editorial director of Conde Nast, once wrote: “Elegance is an intensification of fashion. It is the ennobling ingredient that makes wearing clothes a form of culture.” Recently my mother and I talked, and we agreed that a kind of elegance has been lost forever.”

I certainly agree, and illustrating just how far we’ve come from that sort of old world elegance and aesthetic, was the article in today’s The New York Times ‘Fashion’ section, in which Guy Trebay spoke about the importance of hip hop and urban street culture in today’s fashion. It is undeniable that we are immersed in a period where ‘anything goes’, and there is no such thing as inappropriate, too vulgar, too over the top, too egotistic, too in your face. In short, there is no such thing as bad taste anymore…bad taste IS good taste to many.

But perhaps, this is precisely WHY one of the most referenced decades on the past fall/winter 2003 runways, was the elegant 50’s, where there WAS such a thing as ‘good taste’, and a certain premium placed on the idea of a sense of ‘appropriate’. And it’s also the reason why this was such a welcome image for many key retailers and editors. The return of the glove, which was the hallmark of the season, exemplifies this harking back to a time when there was a sense of decorum, and it’s a sure bet that the customer will embrace this, if for no other reason than it’s such a complete departure from what they’ve been offered as of late.

Of course, don’t forget to spice up some of that 50’s elegance with a little ‘bad taste’ a la today’s hip hop….it is, after all, ‘all about’ the mix!

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