Thursday, January 31, 2008

Out on a (Fashion) Limb

I've decided that whoever the eventual Republican nominee is, there is a strong likelihood that Republicans will win the White House in the fall.

As evidence, I present this.

Years ago I joked that you could usually tell who was going to win an election by what the fashion designers thought about it all. After all, the couture they're planning right now will be the items available for the victory parties, and they always try to pick the winner and design accordingly.

And what they're picking for fall is conservative:

But some style watchers bemoan such conservative attitudes, arguing that they represent a creative retreat. “Fashion is supposed to be about change,” Mr. Cohen said. “Fashion is risk. But as profits increasingly rule the roost, that risk has disappeared.”

The paradox is not lost on him. Once a standard-bearer of the vanguard, “fashion has become the most conservative of all industries,” he said.

Of course, the word "Camelot" gets thrown around in the article, too, as does the phrase "the White House years of Jacqueline Kennedy." So I suppose you could argue that the designers really believe a Democrat will win this election, though it's hard to imagine either Michele Obama or Bill Clinton pulling off these looks. (Not to mention Hillary; the one good thing about her mature years is that she's finally given up on wearing anything but androgynous pantsuits, which is good because putting her in a dress is not unlike the proverbial lipstick/pig analogy.)

So do the fashion designers really think we're in for a conservative administration? Are they betting their circle skirts, skirt suits, and tasteful tailored offerings on a Romney administration?

Only they know for sure, but at least one part of their prognostications is demonstrably incorrect:

“Any time the economy becomes tough and we see the stock market bounce around, the natural tendency is to pull back,” said Robert Burke, a New York retail consultant. But for the fashion industry, such a strategy is counterproductive, he said. “Too conservative an attitude is not the best approach,” he said. “People are not going to be interested in paying luxury prices for basics.”

Mr. Burke, you're a silly man. Women have put up with the fashion offerings of the early 2000s with growing despair. No rules, anything goes fashion only works when you're either gorgeous, staggeringly rich, or both. People are not only going to be interested in paying luxury prices for basics; people, particularly women, are going to line up in order to do so. Those of us who can't afford luxury pricing will wait in line outside the clearance stores or ransack bargain basements once the effects of the new conservative look start to filter to these places. There may be overbuying and hoarding, too, because we know it will be years before you decide to offer conservative basic clothing that people can actually wear again.

So whether you're designing clothes in the (probably hostile) belief that we're in for another Republican administration, or whether your sartorial efforts are directed at motivating the voters to create a New Camelot (defined as any election in which a Democrat wins the White House), we can't help but applaud. In a refined way, of course; those elbow-length gloves won't allow us to do anything else.

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