In The Devil Wears Prada, Miranda Priestly, the fabulous antagonist, rants about style and trends and color in relation to what ‘we’ simple shoppers experience while scanning department store displays. She is not exactly trying to teach her new assistant about the hierarchy of fashion, but in a backhanded way reveals how trends trickle down from the walkway to our sale racks. I never shop without hearing her tirade in my mind!
“This stuff’? Oh. Okay. I see. You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select… I don’t know… that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise. It’s not lapis. It’s actually cerulean. And you’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent… wasn’t it who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.”
Besides the brilliance of Meryl Streep’s delivery and the careful crafting of Aline Brosh McKenna’s screenplay we are left stunned by the machine of the fashion industry, and from runways to sale bins, you realize how superb but limiting trends are on our shopping. We are dictated to–except–and here is where I am most excited–except if you shop outside of the box.
If you are a Nine Cent Girl fan, you know I am a thrifter, have been since I was a teen and discovered vintage clothes gave me a look all my own, plus were affordable on my limited bank account. I continued the trend into the life of my daughter Marnika Weiss, which was brightened on the last day of the month when she could fill a brown paper bag with all she could fit for only $2.00 at our local thrift store. From school clothes to dress-up accessories, she learned from the racks of discarded items, as I did, how to make her own looks on the cheap. A skill she never lost; in fact, she’s now living in Los Angeles bringing her eclectic styling and inventive costuming into commercials, music videos, and beyond.
I recommend, after you drop off your donations at the back of the Goodwill store, that you head through the front doors and see what treasure you might find. Never mind that the shelves of the Gap are filled with only “the popular trend of monotonous costume, the design of Gap clothing includes the design in the style of color blocks. The range of colors used in the collection includes black, white, coral, navy blue, gray, peach and beige” (Stylish Cube). You can find the entire rainbow present in a thrift store.
But moving one step beyond the thrift store, is checking out what your local designers are doing–and I don’t necessarily mean at a fancy boutique shop (although those are always worth a walk-through to help you dream)–but the young designers who might be finishing a semester at Central Saint Martins, or perhaps crafting cutting edge clothing while still in high school–who might be selling at the Farmers’ Market. Last weekend I attended a runway show in nearby Burlington that featured 20 such local designers: their 100 models Strut down the ramp with plenty of wow factors.
The sold-out crowd clapped enthusiastically and were enchanted as the models showcased corsets to hats, formal gowns to menswear, much of it from recycled garments, but all of it created from their own rich imaginations. Several of the designers were teenagers, and they too took the stage for a final bow alongside their models. What struck me first was the innovation these designers showed, as well as their unique approach to construction of materials. Accessories were well-conceived as well, even in choosing models whose tattoos added another element to their look.
Bill Cunningham made his life’s work celebrating street fashion. Observing New Yorkers, he films what he notices in colors, fabrics, and styles. What I love about his vantage, is exactly what I observed during our local runway show: that everyone is having loads more fun getting dressed! Fashion statements are made by our decisions each morning when we open our closet and select tops and bottoms, boots and bags. Sometimes for work, sometimes for play, but always, this is a opportunity to express our individuality. I encourage you to create your fashion statements, from thrift store racks to boutique sale bins to local designers’ creations, and have fun being that uniquely put together you!
After all, you wouldn’t want to be the center of this conversation, now would you!
Miranda Priestly: You have no style or fashion sense.
Andy Sachs: I think that depends on-
Miranda Priestly: No, no, that wasn’t a question.