Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Power of Fashion

The frenzy of activity pre-, during, and post- fashion week in the fashion capitals of the world is over. Designers and their entourages have folded their tents and gone home. Suddenly, all is calm and soothing silence. My notes have been filed away until the spring, when we will know which of those spring/summer trends will actually make it from the runway to the closets of real women everywhere. Will we throw caution to the winds and show up at that backyard barbecue in a crisp white frock? Will we risk looking like our grandmother’s favorite tablecloth and wear that lace dress to a garden wedding? Only time will tell. But, whether we decide to embrace or sit out the spring/summer fashion trends, we women have always understood and appreciated the power of fashion.

In 16th century London, Anne Boleyn, fresh from the French court, caught the eye of Henry VIII, a very fashion-forward monarch himself. She dazzled him as much with her elegant style as with her lustrous dark hair and flashing eyes. Her dropped bodice, long fitted sleeves and beaded headbands were immediately copied by every lady at the English court.

By the end of the 17th century, the first fashion magazine, Le Mercure Galant, was using elaborate engravings from metal plates to keep Frenchwomen up to date not only on the latest Parisian fashion trends, but on the lifestyles of the rich and famous that went with them. From these engravings would come the expression that a well-dressed woman looked like a “Fashion Plate.”

In the 18th and 19th centuries, American women could actually get their hands on a small piece of the latest Parisian designs. Articulated wooden dolls dressed in the latest French fashions from head to toe and from the inside out, accessories included, would arrive by boat to great fanfare. Local seamstresses would charge their clients a fee to look at them, and an even larger fee to take them home and study them.

Earlier this month, Vogue Paris celebrated its 90th Birthday with a splashy, over-the-top (quelle surprise!!) black-and-white bash. The theme “Eyes Wide Shut” was eerily appropriate.

Glossy fashion magazines and the designers they promote have run headlong into the reality of changing tastes, dwindling clientele and troubled economic times, all of which have taken a heavy toll on their bottom lines, not to mention high profile casualties such as Christian Lacroix.

Can they survive? Can Haute Couture survive the demands of a hyperactive society addicted to instant gratification? Or will the industry be forced to turn out McFashion to survive?

The death of Broadway has been predicted for more years than I care to remember; and yet, despite financial and artistic reversals, it continues to pick itself up, dust itself off and come back time and time again. Like the theater, change and innovation are the lifeblood of fashion. This is, after all, an industry which must ultimately give women what they want or suffer the consequences.


  1. I think we all have a need to express ourselves and thank God so many do it through fashion. Hopefully the couture designers will keep creating no matter what the economists say!

  2. I'll drink to that!!! Veuve Clicquot, anyone???

    I do believe haute couture will be w/us as long as there are the inspired artists (YSL always springs to mind here) to conceive it and the talented artisans ("les petites mains") to create it.

    And let us hope that will be forever.

  3. i am interested to try the outfits displayed on the actual catwalk that ive seen....its bec ive witnessed it by myself plus being able to talk to some designers. i love history and featuring this is nice.

    your new ff-wer!

  4. Je trouve ça original d'évoquer la mode sous un jour historique... Les grandes dames savaient déjà divinement se vêtir !
    Merci pour ce billet d'Histoire...

  5. Merci Tatieva. De temps en temps j’essaie de glisser quelques notes d’Histoire dans mes « Posts » On suit le fil du passé pour bien apprendre le présent.

    Comme vous dites les grandes dames savaient déjà divinement se vêtir ! Mais, ou sont ces grandes dames de nos jours ?

  6. Pretty! Thiis was a really wonderful post.

    Thank you for providing these details.


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