Friday, July 10, 2015

New York Fashion Cool-Aid™

  Met Museum Young Members Party

Photos: Laurel Marcus
(click on images for full size views)

Unlike the Greek and Chinese economies, everything about the Metropolitan Museum is booming. Judging from May's Met Gala and last night's Young Members Summer Party, these two perennially popular events have never been more so. "On my way to the Met for the Young Members party...neither of which I am!" read the text that I sent to my daughter while ensconced in my taxi chariot. I was looking forward to popping up on the roof for what I remembered from last year's event to be a beautiful view of a sunset clad Manhattan and to see this year's roof garden installation. Unfortunately, the weather was uncooperative; by the time I made the long circuitous journey to the elevator the roof was closed due to rain. Who can I speak to about getting a refund for this soggy summer we're having?



Back in the main room I began to watch the Millennial crowd of 21 to 35 year olds and reflect on, (ok, judge) their fashion choices. Naturally I saw some of what I'd come to expect including the short, body-con, printed neoprene-like Clover Canyon dresses; the pleated and otherwise long maxis in various prints, solids or blocks of color; and even a few patterned rompers in the mix.


White dress with a Victorian feeling

The color white had a strong presence on many of the women's outfits, some sleek and modern, some short, others long. Of course, summer is here, so although this was not billed as a Diddy-esque white party, pale hues should not come as a shocker. What I was surprised to see was the abundance of vintage looking gauze-y body skimming dresses. More than a few women opted for a less structured, almost turn-of-the-century aesthetic. There was nothing "hippie-ish," Boho or music festival-ly to see here; these fashions were worn and accessorized in a manner befitting an old-fashioned wedding or a late afternoon tea of yore.


Modern white dresses

Could this just be an elaborate version of TBT (Throwback Thursday) or is it actually possible that the pendulum is finally swinging the other way? Maybe today's youth has begun to have their fill of trashy, naked celebs; yoga pants as acceptable dinner wear and sharing everything on social media? (That last one may be wishful thinking on my part). I sense a hint of displeasure with what many think is our overly sexualized, overly casual society as well as a backlash against the rampant informality which has taken root and grown unchecked.


Left: Flapper fringe  Right: Victorian era vintage look

Lately, in a few casual conversations I've had with Millennials, I have heard a vague yearning for some sense of old-school propriety. After all, there's basically no moving any further in the direction that we're going unless we all plan on wearing PJ's throughout the day Idiocracy style.

Speaking of societal ills and foibles that express themselves through clothing, it's impossible not to notice that, as comedian Dennis Miller says "Life is the downtime between apologies." I have addressed Cultural Appropriation before, most recently in regard to the Met Gala's theme of China; a tricky and sticky thorn bush to maneuver gently through so as not to be "culturally insensitive." At the party last evening, I couldn't help noticing an Asian woman in a beautiful kimono. She was wearing a giant red wig and exaggerated makeup, as well as posing with fellow party goers for photos, so I can only assume that this was intended as a costume.

Photo: Artnet News
Coincidentally, I just read an article in Artnet News https://archive.is/GQSxe which addressed an unfortunate turn of events due to a fabulous kimono. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston "had staged a recurring in-gallery event in which museum goers dressed up in kimonos, inspired by a Claude Monet canvas depicting his wife in a similar robe. Many observers found the whole affair an exercise in Orientalism and Exoticism" states the article and some launched protests.Consequently, the offending (but incredibly gorgeous) kimono is available for visitors to handle as long as they don't wear it.


Modern in white

What the MFA neglected to state was that they were just following protocol of the painting's Japanese exhibitions where visitors were encouraged to try on the replica kimono. It seems we're just a hop, skip and jump away from banning Monet's painting too, as the work of art provoking all the pushback features his blonde, non-Asian wife, as she poses in the kimono! Ironically, Japanese tourism thrives on Americans and others of non-Asian nationalities buying kimonos. Should the potential purchaser sign a waiver guaranteeing that they're only going to handle it but never wear it?



In a similar vein, flags (of various significance) have become a hot-button topic of late. What to make of a woman draped in a pashmina Old Glory replica especially five days after July 4th. Maybe she's headed downtown to the women's soccer ticker tape parade after the party?




- Laurel Marcus

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