Dressing Down NYT Article

  1. Dressing Down - New York Times

    Published: February 25, 2007
    It may be that I am too sensitive, but I cringe when I hear a luxury tycoon say, as he kisses his manicured fingertips, “Fay-shunn should make you dream.” Easy for him to say. Fashion is horribly expensive. And when did designer clothes get so far beyond ordinary reach that it became necessary to give them an air of sanctity and suffering, as though we were pilgrims not for Mecca but for Prada?

    Before the fashion industry began dealing in abstractions like “aspiration dressing,” it had real names that you could girlfriend up to: Quant, Khanh, Courrèges, Estévez. The clothes, like the best of clothes, belonged to the times — they were cheap and fun. And even when a designer label was costly, you didn’t feel, or at any rate acknowledge, a barrier to entry. It’s one of the great civilizing distinctions, pointed out by Tom Wolfe and others, that in the 1960s and ’70s you didn’t need to be rich to dress well. You just needed money. As a college student in the late ’70s, I bought Yves Saint Laurent, not much, maybe, but certainly I never felt harassed by the idea that my income (actually, at the time, my allowance supplemented by odd jobs) was a serious impediment to owning good clothes. Where there was a will, there was a way. And this remained my view, however shortsighted, until not long ago.
    Last fall, shortly after returning from the Paris collections, I was walking along Broadway, in SoHo, when I saw a navy-blue tunic in the window at Scoop. The tunic was a hot trend for fall, specifically the tunic that Stefano Pilati designed for Saint Laurent. In Milan, I had seen Emmanuelle Alt, the statuesque fashion director of Paris Vogue, wearing the Saint Laurent tunic with leggings and Fendi granny shoes. I thought she looked amazing. Now, outside Scoop, I did what women the world over do: I mentally Photoshopped Alt’s body onto mine.
    A few days later I returned to the store, unfazed that the tunic was no longer in the window or, for that matter, anywhere in sight.
    I found a saleswoman, a thickish woman (in many ways) with brunet hair, and began describing the tunic. “It was navy or maybe black, with little pockets . . .”
    She cut me off with the desolating whish of an eighteen-wheeler overtaking a Ford Fiesta. “I wasn’t working that day,” she said. She went off to confer with an associate and returned a few minutes later.
    “We don’t sell tunics,” she said.
    Big Brunette was beginning to annoy me.
    “But,” I said, sputtering, “you must have something that resembles a tunic. It was navy or maybe black, with little . . .”
    She left me and went over to a table piled with sweaters. Lifting one off the top and unfolding it, she said, impatiently, “Is this what you saw?”
    I yelped, “That’s it!”
    Once again I was grateful to encounter someone who should definitely not be working around old people. Big Brunette glared at me. “This,” she said, “is a sweater dress.”
    I grabbed the tunic — it’s a tunic, you lazy *****! — and fled to the dressing room, where, thankfully, a nice saleswoman helped me,
    and I went home, another satisfied, if bruised, customer.
    The next morning, girded by my purchase, I strode into the office. I had put the tunic, by a company called Alice + Olivia, with black tights and a pair of flat-heeled Balenciaga boots.
    “You look adorable,” my friend Andy said.
    Just then it hit me, like nausea — the realization that there would be no more barriers to grandly ignore. This little $280 tunic was not Saint Laurent. That tunic was $2,600. And no matter how hard I scrimped and rationalized, I could not make that leap anymore. I was done. There was nothing to do but face the truth.
    I looked at Andy as my mouth fell open.
    “I’ve been downgraded!”
    After that we screamed with laughter for about five minutes.
    So it had happened. And it was happening to other women my age as well, women who, while completely up for a bargain at T. J.’s, still saw themselves as the quintessential designer customer and didn’t care to admit that maybe Alice + Olivia was as good as it was going to get. Hardly a tragedy — more on par with finding yourself seated at the remote overflow table at a friend’s dinner party. Still, it felt strange, and permanent. Andy revealed that her fallback position to Balenciaga was Peter Som. (This made us laugh even harder, Som being a minor talent.) Several friends mentioned a label called Tibi. Leslie Cohan, a gallery owner in Chelsea, told me: “I used to buy Marc Jacobs. Now I buy little Marc.” Geri Schachner, a vice president at Estée Lauder, said that because of the crazy prices, she limits herself to one or two big hits a season. “You’re priced out,” she said.
    I can’t think why women should feel a sense of shame at being downgraded, when it is such a common occurrence nowadays, but clearly we do. A friend who used to write about fashion said in an e-mail message: “Last summer I had to buy a dress for an engagement party, and I actually bought a Milly — a Milly. Four years ago, I would have sawed off my left pinky toe before considering such a purchase.” Anyway, this friend said, she’d rather spend her money on furniture, and the Milly, a ringer for Pucci, had done the job.

    Stefani Greenfield, a co-owner of Scoop (who was duly chagrined to hear about Big Brunette), said the high prices for designer fashion have helped to create a huge demand for labels like Alice + Olivia and Tibi, especially among young women “who like to buy something at four o’clock and wear it at eight.” I am sure this is the case. Still, one doesn’t need to be a wearer of fashion to feel that some adjustment in perspective is called for when you go from Saint Laurent to Tibi.

    There is always a risk in giving importance to fashion, namely that it sounds self-indulgent. But self-indulgence, whatever else it may be, is not self-deluding. The self-deluding thing would be to believe that designer clothes cost more because a factory worker in Italy or Turkey is making a higher wage. In truth, the owners of and investors in fashion companies like seeing fat profit margins, almost as much as they enjoy riding in private jets and seeing their clothes on celebrities. And thanks to marketing and a docile media willing to perform like a new service class, it costs a company relatively little to sell the idea that something is worth the price being asked.
    At the same time, designers don’t like giving attention to the fact that fashion, like other creative arenas, involves intellectual and moral values. This is understandable: fashion is now largely seen as entertainment. The last thing you expect to learn from the runway is how to dress well. Yet, if designers were young in the ’60s and ’70s, surely they felt a hatred of big business and male chauvinism — and isn’t that precisely the sense conveyed in the smugness of “Fay-shunn should make you dream”? If wearing good clothes only means you are rich, I guess I’ll have to pass. But I happen to think that it doesn’t, or shouldn’t, so here is my response to high prices, which will only get higher. I plan to mock the luxury tycoons whose pretense of excellence makes a mockery of women’s lives and genuine love of fashion.
    I can’t imagine that I’ll win. On the other hand, I don’t see a downside.
    12 Ways to Stay in the Game
    1. Give up eating at restaurants. In fact, give up eating altogether. You’ll look better in the clothes.
    2. Start a foundation ... for yourself. Tell your friends you’re collecting money for “Clothes for Caring” — because who cares more about clothes than you?
    3. Catherine Deneuve in “Belle de Jour” — need I say more?
    4. Therapy racks up huge bills with nothing to show for it. Quit the couch and treat your depression/anxiety/sleep issues with box wine instead.
    5. Look around your home for heirlooms that could yield big bucks on eBay. Also, look around your neighbor’s home.
    6. Forgo your grande nonfat latte for four months: 120 days at $2.65 a day = $318 = a sleeve!
    7. After all these years, can’t you inject your own Botox? Cut out the middleman and save $$$.
    8. Scrutinize all expenditures. Does Grandma really need 24-hour care?
    9. Anticipate the federal minimum wage hike from $5.15 to $7.25. Two thousand
    more hours of cleaning toilets, post-tax, and you’ve got yourself half an outfit.
    10. That’s what home equity’s for.
    11. Become a Defense Department contractor and slip it into the budget. Forget socialites — those generals really know how to spend on “body armor.”
    12. Marry Ronald Perelman. (Last resort.) [?][?][?]Nell Scovell


  2. :roflmfao: :roflmfao: :roflmfao:
  3. That article had some really good points! It didn't used to be so expensive to dress, e.g. anyone could own a Burberry trench that would last them the rest of their lives.

    Men today can also dress impeccably for not nearly as much as women; it is also harder for women to find high-quality, NON-TREND items if they do wish to spend a lot of money but have the item last past one season.
  4. Its a great article. It saddens me as well. Fashion is so expensive and unfortunately for me I am the type of person , if you put 3 black bags in front of me I will chose the most expensive, without even knowing it. The same with clothes, shoes, etc. I need high fashion but i guess Milly just has to cut it. But i don't cut corners with shoes or bags.
  5. lol. great article!
  6. Is that etienne aigner clutch real exotic?? :confused1:

    This entire article reminds me of Fashion Babylon for some reason. =P
  7. well, for now I am pretty happy with being relegated to milly, nanette lepore, rebecca taylor, DVF, etc, and on sale at that.
  8. We are probably shopping off the same racks. I don't have a problem paying more for quality but the price increase has to be commensurate with the improvement in quality. This usually leaves me buying low to middle end designers on sale (of course on sale - its not what you spend, it's what you save ;) ).
  9. nice article.

    btw, can I say that I love Milly, and that frankly the quality of the coat I have is far greater than many designer items. if it were benetton i would see the comparison

    when D&G just got big my mother used to buy tons (fashion addict..... big time!) but now she refuses to buy their stuff. she says their quality has gone down and their prices have gone up...

    also, i saw some MJ stuff in our dept store, and sorry, 1000 euro for a cardigan I could make myself (buy a alot of safety pins, a cheap-looking cardi from h&m, and some lace - apply randomly - boom there is your MJ cardi). purlease - his clothes are seriously overrated. now his shoes...

    I refuse to follow hypes bec it usually means that quality goes down, and is not worth the huge money they want. i mean like Prada clothes this season - TRAGIC (ok, rant is over)

  10. No, it is probably fake, or else it wouldn't be the "compromise" for a Hermes clutch.
  11. Sonya, thank you for sharing. Funny, interesting article.
  12. Interesting article, but a little depressing. I wonder how much it takes in income to dress in the major designers anymore? YSL etc. Maybe 1/2 a million a year? A million?
  13. I have a friend who works as an executive in a cosmetics company -- she gets an dressing allowance from the company because she tends to travel alot and gets photographed at various events. She gets a $5K budget for each season -- and that normally lasts her about 3-4 outfits. She says that when she worked in Paris, she felt alot less pressure to wear designer clothes -- people were concerned that she looked good, not that she looked good in Marni or Marc Jacobs.
  14. Great article..brought up a lot of valid points, and gave me a bunch of tips! Thanks!
  15. It seems like established designers only want to dress celebrities or socialites these days. And sadly, there are a lot of them - and they WILL spend the money on that stuff, if they aren't given things for free.

    But I love all the 'downgrade' designers anyway - Milly, Rebecca Taylor, Lepore - their clothes are more streamlined and ladylike - much less theatrical than the likes of D&G. I was a huge fan of Marc Jacobs several years ago, when his clothes were more feminine and 50s. But now I like the collections less even though they cost more. I was lucky in that I caught MJ on his way up, before he became as hugely popular as he is now. Ie, when his clothes and bags were less expensive. Who knows, maybe Peter Som will go through the roof one day too.