Look At Those Clothes!

Musings on style and fashion

Well, Fashion IS Funny . . .

Photo by GaborfromHungary

My alert and intelligent friend Jen A. sent me a link to “I Miss You When I Blink,” a  wickedly funny blog written (and written very well, I must say) by writer, editor, and illustrator Mary Laura Philpott. Mary Laura is an equal-opportunity skewer, which is to say that she pokes intelligent fun at myriad aspects of American culture. But my favorites are her sends-ups of the goofy ideas and obnoxious extremities of “high” fashion—and especially high fashion advertising. Think dirty-looking, carefully uncombed hair; regular clothes (not clown suits, hospital scrubs, baby rompers, or Angeline Jolie’s wedding dress; well, maybe including Angelina Jolie’s wedding dress) with giant lips or eyes or faces or kids’ drawings all over them; surly models; models deliberately posed to look dangerously sub-par in the intelligence department; models wearing tons of makeup to make them look like they’re not wearing any makeup … Mary Laura’s list rolls joyously on.

Fashion is fine art, fashion is craft, fashion is a cultural sub-language, fashion is sometimes sublimely intelligent and beautiful, fashion is sometimes stunningly ugly and very stupid and unintentionally funny in what it proposes we do and wear and who it thinks we are. Partly that’s the price you pay for being an art form doing what it’s supposed to do—pushing at the edges. And partly it’s the price you pay for being an industry that will do anything to sell overpriced stuff to people who don’t need it.  Lucky for us, we’ve got people Like Mary Laura around to remind fashion (and us) that if you can’t laugh at yourself, then mercy, child, you deserve to be dunked in a pool while wearing your ridiculously over-sized plaid jacket.

Just a cautionary note

Caution sign by PenywiseAs Mary Laura points out, hers is a blog for grownups, so you’ll see a few salty words here and there. I’m honor bound to point this out because the litmus test over here at Look At Those Clothes is this question: “Would I want Vivienne to read this?” The “Vivienne” in question is not The Style Sisters Vivienne but rather the real-person version in the form of  my five-year-old best friend. She would be very upset with me if I were to use bad words, and thus I cannot do so in any forum in which she might participate, and I happen to know that her mom reads bits of this blog to her. (Hi, Viv!)

More on Mary Laura

She’s editor in chief of MUSING, the online literary magazine produced by Parnassus Books, an independent bookstore that highly awarded writer Ann Patchett opened with some friends when Nashville lost its only two bookstores within a year or so of each other. (YAY!! ‘Cause what good’s great  ‘cue and country music and tons of ice-cold Coke without BOOKS? Gracious, that would be as boring as a world without clothes. And just to show ya Nashvillians know a good thing when they see it, Parnassus has people lined up at the door when they open in the morning!)

IMG_0571Mary Laura is also social media director for Parnassus and in her spare (!) time she takes on freelance writing, editing, and illustrating work and raises her two kids. (She’s written some graceful essays on parenting over at The NY Times.) She’s also the mommy of a whole flock of adorable Random Penguins, who’ll soon have their very own book, Penguins with People Problems, published by none other than Penguin Random House. (Joke Alert: Not.)

One more very important thing to know about Mary Laura

Her family’s motto, shared  as she fist-bumps with her kids every morning before they hop out of the car at school: Be brave. Be kind. Be wise. “That,” Mary Laura observes, “pretty much covers everything.” Yes.

Categories: Fashion & Humor

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2 replies

  1. Thanks for the hat tip, Elizabeth! Hi Viv! I happened to remember that blog just yesterday while driving down Main St. I was admiring the ice sculptures and the giant piles of snow, when I saw a dressform wearing a skimpy summer dress outside a shop. Reminded me of Mary Laura Philpott’s commentary on the barely-clad model dragging her fur through the snow. : )


    • Yes! #4: “If you’re truly hot, you won’t get cold.” Wonkishly speaking, I think part of what’s going on with this fashion ad thing is that you can’t make a propositional argument with pictures alone. Pictures can certainly be deeply moving; they can convey emotion (provided the viewer shares the cultural references and norms). With one picture, you can suggest a narrative; with a series of linked pictures, you can actually tell a simple story. But you need words to put forth a clear, explicit, and nuanced argument.

      So without words, these fashion ads and editorials, as they’re called in the biz, can only hint at the message they want us to take from the people, the poses, and the props they’ve chosen. And, as Mary Laura so ably points out, those hints and that message are often so obscure and/or so dumb or insulting that the clothes sell despite them, not because of them. Or wait–could zillions of people actually be buying this stuff because they seriously believe that, among other silly ideas, looking bad is the new looking good?!? I’ve gotta go lie down …


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