Althouse | category: fashion



a blog by Ann Althouse

"[Balenciaga’s 'Toy Stories' campaign was] an attempt at 'let’s give people something to talk about' gone terribly wrong."

"[It's] almost an anti-fashion brand ['with its collections inspired by “The Simpsons” and Crocs' and 'an $1,500 leather clutch made to look like a bag of Lay’s chips']... But just how much can you challenge what’s cool? There’s a thin line between being creative and essentially using children as props or having them pose with inappropriate items.... All of these decisions go through so many levels of approval and eyes.... So who approved this and where did everything go wrong? There really needs to be some accountability within Balenciaga... Brands can’t get away with these massive mistakes anymore. In this digital age where anything can go viral and anyone can investigate, consumers have a really big and loud voice." 

Said Priscilla Gonzalez, 27, "a Mexico-based stylist and fashion content creator," quoted in "After teddy bear backlash, Balenciaga announces lawsuit for separate ad" (WaPo).

Are these even mistakes, let alone "massive mistakes"? It's all a mind game, getting you to pay thousands for dumb-but-branded items.

We're talking about them, we're challenged, we're aghast or whatever. It's a stupid game, but as long as there are young people who can't really afford expensive high fashion but feel thrilled to hold one thing — a bag — that screams the name, there's $1,000 to be plucked from their delicate pliable fingers.

When did soccer players start wearing long shorts?

I'm seeing photos of the World Cup "footballers" on the front page of the NYT and — I don't like soccer anyway — I'm dismayed to see the men wearing long shorts like American basketball players. They've sacrificed the masculine beauty... for what?

When did this happen? I found an article from 2014, "A long (and short) history of World Cup hemlines and women’s fashion" (Quartz). 

My favorite phase in the 1960s:

When did soccer players start wearing long shorts?

"It’s called lenticular fabric. It’s based on queer semiotics, specifically around cruising in bathrooms. The silhouette is modeled after a toilet seat."

Said Brandon Chu — who was wearing a very strange outfit — quoted in "What Julia Fox and Hillary Clinton Wore to Parties Last Week/Top outfits from the parties for Thierry Mugler, Air Mail, Pioneer Works and the National Portrait Gallery" (NYT).

Lots of wild photos at the link. Why Hillary Clinton is mixed in, I don't know... other than it's what tipped me into clicking. Chu and Clinton were not at the same party. Chu was at the Thierry Mugler party, and Clinton — who posed snuggling up to Nancy Pelosi — was at the National Portrait Gallery party. Hillary's got on a very roomy caftan. As for Chu's "lenticular" fabric, you don't really need to know. His quote stands on its own. Just a silly quote that's even sillier with Hillary on the same page.

"Lenticular" means "Having the form of a lens or of a lentil." Duckweed and red blood cells are lenticular. Is a toilet seat lenticular? Maybe he meant the toilet lid. Who knows? Who needs to know?

IN THE COMMENTS: Rabel says (correctly, I think):

I believe Mr. Chu may have been misquoted.

The "silhouette" refers to the stick figure characters. They are modeled on bathroom/toilet door male/female indicators, not toilet seats.

The lenticular fabric is, as noted above, a reflective material which reveals multiple images when viewed from different angles.

If you look closely at the photo you'll see that many of the figures are blurred as they are in mid-change when the photo was snapped.

Mr. Chu should demand a correction. This is important!

I read Chu's statement as  absurd, but with Rabel's interpretation, it makes perfect sense. A detail of the photo at the Times:

"I have a dear friend who has been exploring and expanding her style. She will show up to dinner wearing a suit with a bow but without a shirt..."

"... and with a huge hat, which gets in other diners’ way. She also loves to wear things that make a lot of noise while walking. Everyone I know is uncomfortable with these new choices. Am I wrong to feel this way in 2022? How can we address this and also be sensitive to style and individuality? "

That's a question addressed to the NYT fashion writer Vanessa Friedman.

I don't care what the answer is. I just want to see a movie based on this question.

I especially love "things that make a lot of noise while walking." I feel as though I've seen many movie/TV bits about a huge hat that gets in someone's way, so this movie will have to create some other fashion aggression.

I love the theme of a lady deciding it's time for her to explore and expand. You know it's traditionally a problem for women that we've been socialized to make ourselves small and to always account for the needs of others and rein in our own urge to express. So I'd love to see a character go big with fashion — wild, invasive, annoying fashion. It's a comedy. With a serious message.

"Of course, leaning into ugliness — or at least less obvious curation — is still an aesthetic choice, intended to signify an irreverence or a rejection of norms...."

"As Alicia Kennedy writes: '"Bad" photos are in, but the thing about them is that they’re not really bad or even insouciant: They’re just a different approach, less big bright lighting, a little grainy, still beautifully plated.'... This trend toward DIY-looking food also opens up the door to greater inclusivity... For disabled and neurodivergent people who have trouble with fine-tuned decoration or people with disabilities who live with inaccessible kitchens where it’s hard to cook, much less stage a meal, 'the shift to DIY helps with the pressure'.... [S]eeing other people... unafraid to make work that looks amateur, imperfect, and unprofessional has given me a sense that it’s okay to do the same.... The pressure of showing the 'right' thing on Instagram isn’t entirely alleviated, but I’ve found a space where it’s okay to have realistic ambitions...."

From "The Great Food Instagram Vibe Shift/The food blogger aesthetic has given way to something more realistic and DIY: Laissez-faire Instagram food is here" (Eater).

It's nice to see social media trending toward what is comfortable and doable rather than strainingly aspirational. This article is about food and photography, but I think it's a more general trend, reminiscent of the late 60s, early 70s, when naturalness and ease felt like the essence of beauty and meticulous striving looked awful.

I mean, just to poke around at Eater, here's "Best Dressed/What Are We Wearing to Restaurants Now, Paris? At Folderol, a combination natural wine bar and ice cream shop in Paris, neighborhood block party vibes feel distinctly Parisian." 

A French woman — complimented for looking "quite put together" — says "The cap was brought from the U.S. by a friend of mine, which is why I like it so much. These are my new Nikes and they are the most comfortable sneakers on earth; I feel like I have a marshmallow on each foot."

Remember when Americans were told that we stand out as obvious Americans in France because we wear sneakers? There are many photos at that link and most of the Parisians are wearing sneakers. And none are wearing try-hard shoes. I'm seeing Doc Martens and Birkenstock clogs.

"Chloë Grace Moretz opened up about suffering from body dysmorphic disorder after a 'horrific' 'Family Guy' meme of herself went viral, admitting she became a 'recluse.'"

The NY Post reports.

I'm unfamiliar with whatever it is that makes Chloë Grace Moretz a celebrity, but she was photographed in a very silly outfit that got made into a meme put alongside this truly hilarious "Family Guy" lady:


Why not laugh at what's clearly funny? To react by becoming recluse and then openly shaming the humorists is to reinforce the dynamic that has given us The Era of That's Not Funny.

We're being intimidated into believing that ridiculous things should not be laughed at because people may have mental conditions like "body dysmorphic disorder" that may be worsened by a failure to coddle them with kindness.

If you're photographed in a bad outfit, try to wear a good outfit next time you're out and about delivering pizza of whatever it is you do that's made you famous. This wasn't a case of mocking the shape of her body. It was her own choice to wear terrible clothes. And by the way, I think the choice of clothes is hostile to women. That she did it to herself is actually sad.

"[W]e are like monkeys at a tea party. All of us. What’s more, we are in denial. We finesse and accessorize our self-image..."

"... but those very accessories (in Arbus’s world they may be leopard-skin pillbox hats, strings of pearls, Halloween masks, tight jeans, tattoos, tidy bourgeois interiors, boaters, bow ties or even brazen, dare-you-to-object nakedness) are continually giving away the game. Bob Dylan once mockingly sang that a leopard-skin pillbox hat 'balances on your head just like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine.' But to Arbus, who began as a fashion photographer, the various forms our denial takes were not contemptible. They were strange, riveting, poignant. Arbus was as averse to sentimentality as she was free from disgust or contempt. Her insight was not in itself original. Nonetheless it deepened in her hands in unique ways. That she was a photographer and not a painter or sculptor was crucial to her expression of the 'we’re-all-monkeys-at-a-tea-party' idea."

So writes Sebastian Smee, in "Diane Arbus was accused of exploiting ‘freaks.’ We misunderstood her art. Fifty years on, Arbus’s photographs look very different in this ingenious gallery exhibition" (WaPo). 

A gallery in NYC is recreating the Museum of Modern Art show — "the posthumous retrospective that established the Arbus legend" — that was immensely well attended 50 years ago. I attended. And I, like many others, bought the book of photographs. But I'm not going to quibble with Smee's idea that "we misunderstood" at the time. There was plenty of varied opinion then, and it's patronizing to hear someone who was a newborn baby at the time characterize what we were all saying and thinking back then.

The reason I'm not going to barrel down that conversational highway is I'm getting off at the exit marked "Bob Dylan." The line "You know it balances on your head/Just like a mattress balances/On a bottle of wine" has been a favorite of mine for well over 50 years. Such a great image, and the funniest part is that it's impossible to picture. You have to picture 2 things — the hat on the head and the mattress on the bottle of wine. It's easy to picture a hat on a head, but just as you begin to do that, you're challenged to picture a balancing that cannot happen — a soft flexible expanse atop a narrow, hollow column (which distracts you into thinking about sex (in a way that you can't really see)) — and then to go back to the hat and try to visualize it balancing like... what? From anyone but Bob, this would be an annoying failure to craft a simile. From Bob... genius!

So, quick aside: Don't try to take your own "Diane Arbus" pictures.

Back to Bob: "Bob Dylan once mockingly sang that a leopard-skin pillbox hat 'balances on your head just like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine.'" Was Bob mocking the "you" in her hat? Read the lyrics. He's crazy about the hat. He's having some problems with the lady, but he's quite enthusiastic about her and even more in love with the hat. Not mocking, I'd say, but being funny, sexually excited, and a bit angry.

Smee suggests that Dylan was expressing contempt for the hat: "But to Arbus, who began as a fashion photographer, the various forms our denial takes were not contemptible." Contempt and denial — denial that we are the monkeys at a tea party that we are. Smee says "Arbus was as averse to sentimentality as she was free from disgust or contempt." But Bob Dylan was averse to sentimentality and free from disgust and... sometimes even from contempt. I don't think Smee meant to take a sideswipe at Bob Dylan, but that was careless. Smee forgot to close the garage door.
"[Balenciaga’s 'Toy Stories' campaign was] an attempt at 'let’s give people something to talk about' gone terribly wrong."When did soccer players start wearing long shorts?"It’s called lenticular fabric. It’s based on queer semiotics, specifically around cruising in bathrooms. The silhouette is modeled after a toilet seat."

Report "Althouse"

Are you sure you want to report this post for ?