I like totally spaced out on Fashion Week (Fall 2009 collections) which wrapped up in NYC yesterday.

On the topic of “fashion,” I tend to defer to Robin Givhan on this blog. Like me, Robin knows fashion is more than just expensive clothes. And we don’t obsess over Anna Wintour’s sunglasses.

In the Washington Post today, Robin’s wrap up for fashion week included what I was suspecting since the announcement of the move of fashion week from Bryant Park:

The decline in our consumer culture has caused a significant amount of stress in the fashion industry, and that, in turn, has caused it to cleave in two. There are designers who respond to the dire state of the financial system by doing some of their best or most creative work. The crisis serves as a challenge, daring them to make themselves more relevant and irresistible to consumers than ever. But another group of designers seems to be cracking under the pressure. Their indulgences appear even more narcissistic and out-of-touch than ever.

I’ve noticed swing towards clothes that are wearable, I mean daytime, to work, look fabulous and sane wearable. Things real people can wear. That makes me happy. Eighties retro does not. This year some designers are trying to bring back the good ole days of the GOP with Reagan era glam. Back then, I stuck with the classics. If you were talking party politics, in the 80s I was a throwback to the Eisenhower and Kennedy eras. I’d even settle for Calvin Coolidge. Does anyone wear fair isle sweaters anymore? I had no fashion sense or the money to buy one in those days. I did like the old Banana Republic when it was into it’s “Out of Africa” thing, a totally un-PC concept, but the classic clothes were very fashionable. One of my favorite pieces was a green flight suit tailored for a woman meaning fitted in the waist. Great for those impromptu sleep overs. No separates to leave behind. The downside is when you have to use the public restroom. This is just for women. Having to practically undress to take care of business will make you reconsider the wisdom of Depends. Apparently jumpsuits and adult onesies are making a come back this spring.

Yeseterday, I fell back on one of my old cheap thrills — buying fashion magazines. I scooped up the Spring fashion March issues of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar–the old school fashion magazines. I admit, I was anxiously awaiting for Vogue to hit the stands — featuring Michelle Obama on the cover, the 2nd First Lady to land the spot (Hillary Clinton was the first). But let’s be honest, Anna Wintour’s no fool. Michelle Obama equals sales, and this draws advertising dollars. A stimulus for the magazine.

March Vogue is noticeably thicker than March Bazaar which features Sarah Jessica Parker (SJP) on the cover, the other pop culture fashion icon. Sarah’s fashion spread is a tribute to former Bazaar fashion editor and fashion diva Diana Vreeland in which Carrie Sarah is styled in the role of Diana. Vreeland’s deliciously chatty autobiography, D.V. (first edition) still sits on my bookshelf. I’ll never part with it. But I couldn’t say the same for SJP. In the photos she looks detatched from the concept. She’s not channeling D.V. She’s wearing clothes and posing for the camera or being directed by the DP. In the article, it’s quite obvious SJP does not relate to the over-the-top grand style that was D.V.:
In response to one of D.V.’s “Why Don’t You’s” columns in a vintage bazaar where the fashion editor suggests “rinse your blonde child’s hair in dead champaigne,” SJP says, “That kind of decadence is foreign to me; it’s just such of another time. Especially in these times. It’s just so crazy.” Sarah had a much more successful spread in Vogue last year to promote “Sex and the City: The Movie” appearing with her on-screen on-again-off-again lover Chris Noth (Big). Annie Liebowitz did the photography. Vogue Editor at Large Andre Leon Tally was on the styling team for that spread. Tally is a protege of D.V.’s during her Vogue years.

Andre Leon Tally authored this month’s Vogue cover story on Michelle Obama, “Leading Lady.” There’s no fashion spread. The photos were taken during the Obama’s transition pre-inauguration stay at the Hay Adams Hotel in DC. Here we see Michelle being…Michelle. And that’s more than good enough for Andre. Andre hasn’t jumped on the Michelle band wagon to be her fashion guru. She knows what she likes, and she wears what she loves. And for Andre MO’s fashion choices have been “fearless.” One of my favorite moments in the article is when Andre recalls the first time he met MO at Oprah Winfrey’s Legends extravaganza in 2005. He was seated with MO and Tina Turner.

Did I remember what Michelle was wearing? Not at all. What I do remember was how informed she was on so many topics. And when she said she actually knew who I was, I was so flattered my jaw dropped.

Like many active American women, MO doesn’t believe you have to sacrifice comfort for beauty. I’ve seen transformations of political spouses that would make one think the Stepford Wives creators had taken over. But whatever adjustments MO had to make on the road to the White House, there’s still plenty real good Michelle Robinson Obama stuff there. She makes the clothes, the clothes don’t make her. It’s called confidence.

MO’s choices have not always made the grade with fashion critics. The most memorable moment was the November 4 election night cardigan she wore over the Narciso Rodriguez dress, Michelle Obama says…

In the end, someone will always not like what you wear–people just have different tastes. Some will think that a sweater was horrible, [but] I was cold; I needed that sweater!

I’ll fist bump with her on that! If I’m cold, I look it.

How ever Michelle Obama relates to or uses fashion, let’s face it, from this point on the world is watching. In addition to putting a new spotlight on one of her favorite and established designers, Narciso Rodriguez, she’s brought attention to new hands-on designers including Thakoon Panichgal, Isabel Toledo (the swearing in lemon grass ensemble), and Jason Wu (the inaugural gown). It’s change to believe in.

Unfortunately, in my catch up on fashion week, I have yet to see Michelle Obama’s influence play out within the fashion establishment. Where were the models that looked like Michelle especially in Narciso Rodriguez’s show as it appears on the fashion week website (see video below). The only model of color on the catwalk is wearing a mask covering her head and ending at the tip of her nose. You can only see half her face. We know who Michelle Obama is from across the room.

I’ve slapped Bazaar on the wrist for this before, but it is not unusual for them to have a “whites only” fashion spread. Have they not read the memo yet? There are some stock photos taken from the runway of black , brown, red, beige, and yellow models in editorial columns, but rarely is there a feature model or models of color in the fashion spread. [Tyra Banks did do a “let’s pretend I’m MO” spread in 2008, but enough of the pretending already.] Bazaar’s brought commendable age diversity to the fashion editorial pages (because women over 40 buy clothes too), and then I flip to another page and read this:

Then there is Africa. Fashion is focused on tribal prints, animal patterns, vivid yellow and orange colors, and the nobility of primative carvings.


Considering I bought Bazaar, yet again, despite my protests, I can only say “shame on me.”

The time is right for a little reality to settle in with fashion at least for now. Perhaps the strongest fashion statement anyone can make is to just be your beautiful self.