Suitably Attired for Fall 2006
So many fabulous clothes, but what to wear? For this week's Carnivale de Couture, the talented Kim at i am pretty nyc suggests a look back at New York Fashion Week (before looking forward to Europe, of course) -- and there's no shortage of choices.
For most of us, though, the morning shuffle through the closet is influenced less by the runway than by our peers. We want to express ourselves, but generally not to the extent of looking inappropriate or extreme. Designers exercise their creativity, knockoff artists copy designers, and the rest of us copy ... each other. That may mean co-workers, the other moms on the playground, or fellow ladies who lunch, but as fashion historian Anne Hollander notes:
It's in fact clear that "uniforms," so vigorously despised in much current rhetoric about clothes, are really what most people prefer to wear, garments in which they feel safely similar to their fellows. Once in uniform, they can choose their personal details, feel unique, and then sneer at the members of other tribes who all seem ridiculously alike in their tribal gear.
Some industries are, of course, more sartorially uniform than others. (I've had the privilege of discussing this issue with both colleagues and students over the years, and I imagine I'll share a few specific thoughts at some point.) Paul Fussell has the basic plotline:
Despite some relaxation of rigor, it remains true that the dark business suit (or its female equivalent) is still close to obligatory, at least in businesses that have little truck with novelty, like serious law, most banks, and the upper reaches of the securities markets. The well-advertised dress-down or casual Friday has, of course managed to impose its own uniform conventions....
Law schools probably don't count as "serious law" in terms of sartorial demands -- certainly very few profs would limit themselves to dark suits on a daily basis. Still, a good suit or jacket is quite useful in getting through the day. I was pleased to see that some wonderful young designers who spent previous seasons playing with girlish dresses or eveningwear have actually taken on the challenge of the suit (joining perennial American favorites like Donna Karan, a designer who, despite her recent journey through monastic, cocoon-like shapes, built her empire on dressing working women and has returned to the task of late).
Check out the creative version offered by Doo-Ri Chung (a designer whose work I stumbled upon and loved before I knew her name or even gender) (left) or the more traditional but still clever work of Brian Bradley for Tuleh (right).
Yes, they're -- gasp -- plaid (or tartan if you prefer), but looks like this can go a long way toward banishing those old memories of parochial school uniforms. Which, come to think of it, may have something to do with how many of us respond to the grown-up versions -- at least until Fall 2006.