I am a closet fashionista – I confess. There is an intended double entendre there in case you missed it. For me, fashion is a guilty pleasure. I take fashion magazines like Vogue and Bazaar home hidden in serious business journals in the same way some people read secret romance novels in brown paper bags on the subway. I grew up in a family where dressing up wasn’t just frivolous, it was sinful and as someone who spends a good part of her time in blue jeans, much of my fashion life lives in my closet. It is jammed with clothes selected for the life I wish I had – vintage gowns, silky blouses, Latin skirts – and shoes too pretty to wear. My personal view of dressing is that at its best it is a form of creative expression. Personal style at its epogee is fine art and great designers are indeed artists. Like other art forms, clothing frequently captures the zeitgeist of the times. It is no accident that Coco Chanel with her relaxed styles and minimized forms came along at about the same time the cubists were doing their thing.
In anticipation of a recent trip to Paris, the seat of haute couture, I read a number of travel memoirs including a funny, irreverent reflection by an Australian woman who arrived in the capital in a pair of cargo shorts and Doc Martins. She quickly learned that Parisian women turn themselves out fully prepped to visit the boulangerie. Certainly this has been my experience. French women seem to eschew the fashion weirdness that you find in London, in favour of classic good taste — what used to be called “style”.
I found myself in Paris, during the airing of the Oscars and so missed much of the drama about who wore what until today when the Toronto Star published a recap of dresses that appeared on the red carpet. Michelle Williams occupies a full spread on the cover of the “Kit” section wearing a sherbet coloured strapless gown with a frilled skirt and some odd peplum thing jutting out from the waist. It was designed by Louis Vuitton. (In my view they should stick to handbags.) Inside were a series of winners and losers and my choices are no better or worse than those of the journalists reporting. But what I find curious is the phenomena of “professional stylist” that seems to be responsible for the turn-out of most of these celebrities. They appear in films clothed by costume designers like Edith Head, and allow people like Nicole Chavez to dictate public appearances at events such as the Oscars and the Golden Globes. But snapped by the paparazzi on personal outings they slink about in shapeless sweat pants and non-descript tops. I am trying to figure out what this nihilist self-expression says about stars who otherwise appear to have enormous egos. I mean, is that all there is?