Fashion and Frivolity: Oxymoron?

February 20, 2009

Fashion and Frivolity: Oxymoron?

Designer Elie Tahari – Fall 2009 collection – WWD – Kyle Ericsen


Did you know this past week that New York kicked off the fashion runway season where designers showcased their collections for the upcoming Fall 2009 season? Next up will be London with Milan and Paris to follow. These visually exciting events are not only a time for retail buyers to stock up, celebrities to promote (and be promoted) and fashion critics to critique; fashion week is also a superb reminder of the prominent roll that fashion designers play in our lives. Their creativity, dedication and drive continue to allow us to utilize fashion as a way to express our individuality, to aid in supporting our evolving personal and professional goals and to clearly add some extra fun to our daily routines.

It is hard to forget this succinct banter between characters Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) and Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) from the movie, The Devil Wears Prada (imdb):

Miranda Priestly: [Miranda and some assistants are deciding between two similar belts for an outfit. Andy sniggers because she thinks they look exactly the same] Something funny?
Andy Sachs: No, no, nothing. Y’know, it’s just that both those belts look exactly the same to me. Y’know, I’m still learning about all this stuff.
Miranda Priestly: This… ‘stuff’? Oh… ok. I see, you think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select out, oh 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. 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 St 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 8 different designers. Then it 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 so 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. (The Devil Wears Prada, 20th Century Fox, 2006)

This dialogue clearly points out that whether we subscribe to it or not and regardless of brand or price point, fashion plays a daily role in our lives.

More poignantly, designers consistently encourage and challenge us to get out of our style comfort zones and provide us with viable goods to continue to expand our visions of ourselves and our lives. Whether it is experimenting with a new color that brings liveliness to our skin tone, energy to a room and/or to our spirits; or a power suit or special occasion dress that enhances our best figure features, in both circumstances we end up feeling more empowered and better ready to take on the world and pursue our dreams. Now that is what we call value. Designers may even encourage the artist in us to experiment with florals one season or abstract prints another. Or they will create a beautiful, durable and functional handbag that actually carries all of our daily essentials with ease and style. And of course, we cannot forget our favorite pair of high heels that we don’t even mind wearing when we’re all alone at home because they just make us feel uber sexy.

Fashion designers even provide us with fabrics that can protect us from the increasingly unpredictable weather patterns these days! And fabrics that are so comfortable they make us feel safe and secure, prompting us to go forth more confidently into our fast-paced worlds. They even utilize fabrics that pointedly make us feel more feminine, sophisticated and powerful.

Designers also have the enviable ability (and challenge) to stir emotions in the person wearing their clothes and also the emotions of the viewer. When we see something that is visually stimulating (including looking at ourselves), we have a physical reaction. The viewer is either drawn closer to the subject or pulls away from the subject. In terms of fashion and the relevant role it plays in our daily lives, the way we dress is an extremely powerful tool and it all initially stems from the brilliant imaginations and expertise of these designers. Something aesthetically agreeable can actually inspire us. When we see or wear or feel or hear something that appears beautiful/pleasing to us it ignites an innate energy within us to want to do better, be better, take healthy risks, obtain our goals, be more present, be more involved, to openly express ourselves and to be more joyful, passionate and alive. We feel greater permission to do this when we have been visually stimulated in a positive way. We feel more optimistic. And wishing for good things to take place is usually a prelude to making or allowing good things to happen.

On a more physiological and psychological level, when we have been visually enthused, we initially have a visceral/intuitive reaction which sends a clear message to our mind/brain to let go of defenses and to live more on the offensive rather than the defensive. To take charge! To go for it!

Many designers find themselves in the same tight economic crunch we are all experiencing and are trying to come up with creative business solutions to keep their talents flourishing and their dreams alive. Appreciating their commitment to keeping us looking wonderfully vital, energetic, and positive in our lives is absolutely well deserved and should be appropriately valued. So, is fashion and frivolity an oxymoron as so many think? Absolutely not! As the protagonist in The Devil Wears Prada so eloquently points out, fashion is a serious business with far reaching and serious impact on our world. Sure, fashion can undoubtedly be fun and lighthearted, but that fact does not preclude fashion from being an influential and insightful personal and professional development tool that can support us in obtaining and maintaining our dreams. And making your dreams a reality is absolutely In Style!

Tell us the difference a great outfit makes in your feeling of confidence and readiness to engage the world.

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