I think the first time I was really knocked out by women's fashion was when I saw the film "Annie Hall". Diane Keaton's wardrobe seemed endlessly perfect to me --- surprising to look at, completely in harmony, each layer covering up more of Annie's self-demeaning personality, and utterly fun and unique.
Soon every woman was Annie Hall, and I was in heaven. Then the look got diluted, changed a bit, and ultimately seemed to evaporate. Every once in a while today I spot an Annie Hall, sometimes with a bit of a London twist or a cool hat, and I fall in love all over again.
I'm bringing this up because I'm reading "The Fashionable Mind", by Kennedy Fraser. She was the fashion reporter for The New Yorker for thirty years and writes about fashion the way I've longed for. She discusses more than color, cut, and shape. She unravels the ideas behind the clothes. For example, Ms. Fraser explains why, when women are confused about their roles, their clothing gets confusing.
I appreciate the insightful way she writes. "Makeup begins as a trick we play on society, then becomes a trick we play on ourselves." On sunglasses: "At present, sunglasses are modesty's last frontier, the mask behind which people protect their thoughts."
Ms. Fraser discusses jeans, and whether they're conservative or fashion-liberal. ("A badge of conservatism in unsettled times.")
I wish people who do fashion advertising would pull up a comfortable chair and read this book. Their idea of good advertisements would soon be more than hiring a moody photographer and a model with just the right amount of space between her front teeth, throwing in a logo and calling it a day. There would be some substance behind the sell. We might start deepening our understanding about how we want to look and start feeling better about ourselves.
Returning to Ms. Fraser: "Models rush past us breathlessly, to share a joke with someone off the page. If they chance to remember the spectator, they give us a careless wave. Life, according to these glimpses of it, is an endless, perfect party where each guest is programmed to relate..."
Kennedy Fraser's book was written in 1981. Dolce & Gabbana and the Hilfigers have arrived fashionably late.