So, there I was, flopped on the couch after a long day at work, playing TV roulette. I came across a strange television show which featured abnormal looking creatures wearing bizarre outfits. Was it Star Trek? Nope. The Wizard of Oz? Wrong again.
It was a fashion show. Not one of those you see in the malls, but the real thing, live, in Paris.
I knew it was the real thing because it had all the right components. First, there were the 6’6″ female models that eat nothing but celery and weigh approximately 4.5 pounds, makeup included. These women could walk through walls, I’m sure, simply by turning sideways and sneaking through the cracks. There were the half-dozen token male models, who spend about 22 hours a day in the gym, one hour having all their chest hair removed for that buff and sculpted look, and the remaining hour on the catwalk.
There were the fashion designers hanging around, mostly men sporting ponytails and wearing natty vests, and the odd woman with bright blue and red hair. All of them looked rather frantic, probably as a result of a trip backstage for a quick hit of cocaine, for inspirational purposes only, of course.
The audience consisted of lots of boffo print journalists taking photographs with cameras worth more than my yearly salary. Television journalists scrambling to find good subjects to gush on air: “Yes, dahling, this year’s collection is just mahvellous. Pedro is just making such a splash with his use of texture, he’s really bringing out the essence of a woman in his styles, don’t you think?”
Most important, there was the gaggle of movie stars and celebrities, taking all of this in, fully prepared to cough up cheques filled with zeroes for an outfit they will wear, erm, once.
Oh and yes, there were clothes. I think. At least, the models were wearing things vaguely resembling clothing. The theme of one show in Milan seemed to be spiders, as several of the outfits had extra arms and legs on them. Seriously. Another designer had a complete line of sheer tops for women, which, apparently, are meant to be worn without brassieres. Perhaps he had an Ontario summer in mind. Yet another designer had his models in relatively normal looking dresses, but accessorized them with things like hunting spears and shields. Must be hard getting in and out of a taxi with those things.
The scary part about the show was not the outfits (although some of the three-foot-high hairdos, leather wings and black eye makeup still give me nightmares) but the fact that everyone was taking it all seriously. In spite of the fact these ensembles were completely impractical, astronomically expensive, and to put it bluntly, butt ugly, these designers make millions yearly by selling this stuff.
Now you and I don’t get to play with the spears, because, the last time I looked, Walmart didn’t sell them. But we get the toned down versions, and if you look at them objectively, they are just as ridiculous as the stuff on the runways.
A lot of women for example, still spend most of their working day in crippling high heels: toes crushed into unnatural points or squared edges, body weight pitched forward at a bad angle, balancing on less than half of the actual surface area of their feet. Wearing a skirt means you are essentially walking around naked from the thighs down, and accessorizing means all kinds of inconvenient items like earrings (which hit the phone receiver), necklaces (getting caught in the hair or the collar) and bracelets (getting hooked on doorknobs, dangling in your soup). Being ‘fashionable’ means being at best, inconvenienced, and at worst, in pain. Why do we put up with this?
Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect about fashion though, is the trendiness of it all. When something becomes “the fashion,” it’s all you can buy in the stores. I dread the day when floor length skirts come back in, because when you stuff my short and less-than-svelte self into one, I look like a prison matron. Lime green clothes were all the rage at one point. I have a fair complexion. Do you have any idea what lime green does to a fair complexion?
Of course, even if you do want to buy into a trend, it’s nearly impossible to do so. Something that actually looks good on a runway model doesn’t translate well when applied to someone who is five feet tall and weighs more than 4.5 pounds. And should you get lucky and find something that looks good, suits you, and is reasonably priced, you will be able to wear it exactly twice before the fad changes and you look hopelessly outdated.
The biggest problem of all, of course, is the waste. Manufacturers churn out thousands of these items every year, basically on spec, trying to guess how many people will buy. Depending on the economy, that could be nearly all of them, or could be practically none of them. And since it wouldn’t do to allow ‘the poors’ to wear something fashionable, even if the season has now passed, the leftovers go to the dump. And when we clean out our outdated closets, the clothes go to the dump, or to the thrift shops, or to ‘recycling’ facilities, which turn out to be overseas. Developing countries are drowning in the Western world’s cast offs.
So what’s a resolutely un-trendy person like myself to do? Hiding under the bed is an option. Claiming that you’re following the latest underground fad which only a few select people get to hear about is another. Or perhaps some day I’ll open a shop called Non Courant and sell normal clothes that are manufactured on demand.
Until then, I guess I’ll have to avoid Paris.