On Fashion when it's Dull

It's strange, being bored by fashion.

It's not fashion's fault, and I suppose it's not mine, either. Most of the fashion world is going through a bit of a fallow period right now. Even globally, the rise of Instagram and selfie culture means it's all much of a muchness, with everyone seeming to curate the same brand of meticulously carefree kookiness, posing and and editing for hours for a post they'll tag #soawkward.

It's cynical, and cynicism without wit is tedious.

This, of course, is not the end of the world; just growing pains of the democratization of fashion. We're past the fashion gunslinger days of the early internet's Wild West but not yet to the point where a new guard is ready to topple the pigeon-toed hegemony of  Brooklyn girls who slap on a Blossom hat and Valencia filter and call it Fashion.

Instagram has taught people to model clothes. Modeling is not as easy as it looks, so good for them. It hasn't, however, yet taught the uninitiated how to inhabit clothes, how --through discernment, critical thinking and introspection-- to make a random collection of textiles and trinkets become extensions of something deeper. Just as the right composer can turn mathematical vibrations into the glory of music, the thoughtful dresser can turn a necklace into a leitmotif, a cut of trouser into an idée fixe. That is fashion as intellectual pursuit, as self-examination, as art. It's the only bit that fascinates me.

So what's to be done in the meantime, when the world is enraptured with its own unexamined artifice?

For me, not much. Mostly I just observe, follow a few blogs --I See a Different You is about the only one that doesn't drown me in ennui these days-- and spend time in my own head. I do research on topics that interest me, learn about unfamiliar traditions and spend time watching old people.

Old people are always an inspiration.

I'm not talking about the aging beach bunnies with their bad animal prints and worse eye jobs, clinging to youth because youth is their only synonym for beauty. I'm talking about those antediluvian dames selling pomegranates or fresh eggs at the pulga on Saturday who are have no interest in dressing to please anyone and no money to waste on fashion's flavor of the week. Their style has been distilled so thoroughly, their clothes so infused with their inner selves that an oft-mended huipil whose embroidery bore witness to the rise and fall of the Cold War looks every inch as stylish as anything Anna Wintour could dream to wear; provided, of course, you have eyes to see it.

I don't despair of fashion. There will always be interesting people doing interesting things, and eventually one or two of them always make their way to the fore, bringing their friends and fresh, new ideas. In fifteen years the current crop of pretty young things will cringe at their old clothes and in thirty their daughters will covet them.

'Twas always thus, but maybe one of those daughters, bored of seeing the same thing everywhere, will see at me at the pulga --an older lady, stylish and secure but not nearly in fashion-- and be intrigued. She'll go home and think about what it means and soon a little light might pop on in that media saturated brain of hers about creativity, intellect, authenticity and how little true style has to do with whatever's wafting down this season's runways. A new intellectual dresser will be born. And if not, who cares? It's only fashion.

Boredom + Mania = Adventure

The thing is, after you've had one of those near-death experiences, the whole carpe diem question comes on in full force, asking why the hell you're spending time doing mediocre copy editing and marathoning The X-Files while there are rosebuds to be gathered etc..

Even before the accident I thought about that often. My brother died without leaving the country. My grandmother dreamed of visiting the Hermitage but put it off until months before she died. Ever the dour Calvinist, she returned from Russia declaring one of the world's most magnificent museums "showy" with "too many stairs" but at least she went.

By August I hadn't left the house in three months and had gone completely stir crazy.


As you can see, After Plumcake's had a bit of work done. Fresh start and all that.
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