New York

Lest readers have any illusions as to what yours truly is really like at a given moment – let’s start with this moment. It is, in my part of the world. 10:34 AM on a windy, rain-soaked Sunday. On the TV, you’ll find yet another iteration of Winnie The Pooh playing, while Damien is coloring in one of his books. Pencils, print-outs of coloring pages and pencil shavings are everywhere. The Resident Buttkicker is being loud, proud and ubiquitous on one of his forums. Meanwhile, here I sit in all my Sunday morning glory, parked in front of my MacBook and the third jumbo cup of cafe au lait for the day, drop dead grungy, in a shapeless gray sweatshirt and gray yoga pants. I have a dim recollection of brushing my hair yesterday, but I’m not too sure about that. It is not the kind of outfit that furthers anything so ambitious as make-up.

In other words, I look like – crap. It fits the way I feel right now. The beginnings of a bad cold are lurking somewhere in my immune system, and I know my body is at war.

It is, in other words, the perfect time to do something stupid, silly, frivolous and utterly superfluous. It is time for the full-screen version of the Fall-Winter 2009 Paris fashion shows, and I’ve already made it a point this year to see abso-effing – lutely everything in New York, London and Milan.

Let’s overlook the banal reality that I will very likely rarely be able to afford anything I see. Let’s overlook the sad and sorry fact that I’ll never be a 100 lb, six foot walking clothes rack with endless legs and no cleavage to get in the way of “la ligne”. Let us also please overlook the fact that with a few notable exceptions, designers will never make clothes for my kind – you know, a woman of the real world. A woman who is neither 23 nor impossibly tall, neither drop-dead stunning nor possessing a Titanium Amex card.

“Not our kind, darling” I can almost hear Miranda Priestley, played by Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada”, sneer condescendingly. “Hopelessly ordinary.”

But if you think that the exposition of extremes known as Fall-Winter 2009, or any other season for that matter, has no effect on you, and what you dream about when you window shop and wish you could afford to buy, then think again. You’
re watching the CNN highlights and headlines version, the Screaming New Sensation edition. Eventually, wily makers of knockoffs and copyists will water the extremes down and digest them for the hoi polloi – that would be you and me.

If, like me, you came of age in that wretched-excess era known as the Eighties, then this coming fall and winter, you will drop into a time-warp. Those clothes you once pulled over your head with such exuberance, the Day-Glo Pepto-Bismol pink fluffy angora sweaters, the ultra-minis, the skinny-lapel jackets with NFL-approved shoulders, the Black is the New Black – will be back with a vengeance, and this time around, you’re not even close to 23. Or close to having any disposable income, for that matter. The only disposable commodity near you would be your thighs, and alas, cellulite can’t be recycled.

As I worked my way through four different fashion events and who knows how many designers hellbent on scaring most of us half to death with those shoulder pads and clothes fit for some post-apocalyptic Gothic Hades, where all hope truly Is abandoned and they supply the armor to prove it, I realized a few things. No one I know will ever be so hip it hurts. No one I know, not even my fashionista sister, would be caught dead in Rick Owens. And no one but me would ever be so depressed about it, either.

On the other hand. Sometimes, frivolity serves a purpose. Sometimes, you want to think that the most Earth-shattering decision in your life will be the breadth of your shoulder pads. Sometimes, you want to appreciate the occasional breathless Beautiful moment. Sometimes, you just want to sit back, enjoy the show, and watch the world’s foremost fabric artists have the world’s most expensive clothes racks strut their stuff. Sometimes, even the sublimely ridiculous, out-there statements of, well, let’s be generous and call it what is – creativity – can contain a beauty and an architecture of construction that takes your breath away, even if you would never in a zillion years of lipo actually wear it.

And sometimes, even as you live your sorry life far, far away from the lofty reality and heady heights of the fashion world, escapism can be a good thing. For one thing, I can dream of the day when I buy most everything from Anna Sui and Ossie Clark.

Dreams, after all, are what those people are really selling.

Dreams with some very serious shoulder pads.

(Photo courtesy of, Marcio Madeira)

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