Friday, February 1, 2008

Where Angels Cheer to Tread

So this is how angels dress. No doubt their dress is--as it is everywhere--dictated by social convention, pecking order, closeness to godliness, self-expression, economy, and the ability to fly gracefully.

This being the dress of angels, however, it must feature distinct adornment to separate it from the dress of mere mortals. That would be us, faulty creatures that we are, flailing about in our bad trends here on terra firma.

It is tempting to say that Christian Lacroix both speaks the language of angels and defies ours. In his Spring 2008 couture collection "Angels Passing By" he has offered salvation for our poor, Puritan selves who spend far too much of our time trying to be moral and responsible.

The world is in a bit of a mess, I'm afraid. It is time for a celebrity to wear something gauche and to feel beautiful while doing so. It is time to set aside the fear of public humiliation and to assume one's mantle of excess as the angel assumes her wings.

This is not a time for sober reflection. Leave to Hillary the practical, the matronly, the purposeful. To Hillary, who would not appear on the cover of Vogue lest she be clothed in an embarrassing meringue. Leave to Hillary's handlers the subjective matter of taste.

It is an unfortunate truism that the increasing independence of women in most instances does not extend to independence in women's dress.

Still, as progressive creatures, we who have no executive powers must feed our appetite for change. We cannot have change without first changing ourselves. We cannot swallow the world's bitter pills when our outsides are decorated with industry.

How dreadful it would be if we looked back in horror, discovering too late that we had spent our lives failing to ennoble our bodies with the frivolity they deserve. Good frivolity, of course, for those who understand the power of being a circus aristo.

There is an inherent problem with the wearing of frivolity, especially when it is not your own frivolity but the frivolity of another. How, for instance, would one wear the dirndl skirt and apron of the Bavarian waitress that is covered in the spots of the Dalmation? And what regressive, childhood apologia is required to pull off a giant, one-legged bloomer from which sprouts a perfectly sane, boat-necked short-sleeved blouse?

Here is where the Internet is used to happy advantage. The Internet has been blamed for many of society's ills, and indeed it does seem to have much to answer for. But it has also allowed for the immediate dissemination of information and image. One might be skating the thin ice of illiteracy, but one need not suffer the illiteracy of style. The Internet narrows the gap between information and reception, so that which might appear outrageous is so widely promulgated that it appears almost conventional. The punch-drunk shock of surprise is greatly diminished by repetition.

There was repetition in Lacroix's collection; Lacroix excels at reproducing himself. One gets, however, an increasing sense that the designer may tweak his collection like a wedding cake while at the same time exhibiting brilliant mechanics: How much is too much? Would another monster rosette be overkill? Let me just remove, put it back...take it off...double the size!

Gone are the more hysterical hiccups, the recent apogee of which occurred in the Spring 2002 couture. If one is Lacroix, one is permitted more than one apogee per career. The pie plates and face veils atop the over-Baked Alaskas have slowly given way to a modified busyness that is almost imperceptibly closing the gap between the designer and his couture clientele.

Still, there is the slight problem of how some of this might be worn. Uma can wear it, because Uma isn't vulgar. Neither is Daphne Guinness. This is not to say that the pieces are themselves vulgar, it is just that an innate personal vulgarity might be enhanced where it could otherwise be diminished. Imagine Stella Dallas strutting in Lacroix's mummer's coat, and then imagine her in Valentino.

Unlike certain fashion-school graduates, Lacroix completes every last detail. Even where his pieces throw the models into a bit of contrapposto, the detail does not overwhelm the overall design. This is what makes Lacroix outstanding and allows him to continue to build his cult of omneity. The art of Lacroix is the art of life, or in this instance Kodachrome afterlife. The designer need only be harmonious with himself. Giddily, of course.



WendyB said...

I love this: "It is time for a celebrity to wear something gauche and to feel beautiful while doing so. It is time to set aside the fear of public humiliation and to assume one's mantle of excess as the angel assumes her wings."

Suzanna Mars said...

WB, I think you're rubbing off on me!

Imelda Matt said...

I’ve always pondered the mindset of Lacroix, his ateliers and stylists when preparing for a show. Is it a case of throw the models in a pit of couture and force them to duke it out for a dress and as much accoutrement they can snatch?

What of when Madame visits the studio for her final fitting, do the ateliers snigger quietly behind their pin cushions like playground monkeys “Can believe she added another rosette”?

As always per, not crazy Lacroix.

Not a fan!!!!!

Suzanna Mars said...

Imelda, I fear that in this day and age the ateliers thank the heavens above that they have legitimate employment.

Thanks for the love!

Anonymous said...

what i love about Lacroix, is that he's extremely decorative and he's absolutely comfortable with it. he doesn't make much of a statement, nor exploits all this references-metaphors-justifications stuff. his clothes are just what you see - the hurricane of laces, beadings, embroidery and ribbons. he doesn't torture woman's body, he celebrates it while decorating, wrapping it as a precious porcelain doll. maybe that is not the most daring way to do it, yet he makes the woman look romantic and ethereal. i believe every woman has it inside of her - the will to be treated like a precious thing. maybe it sounds a bit sexist, but that's what it is. Lacroix creates a shelter for this vulnerable and fragile side of woman's soul. something other designers try (more or less successfully) to ignore.

alluretone said...

gosh i love Lacriox. his designs are so unique and different- how is it that he manages to add so many details in the most unusual colors and ends up with the most brillant pieces ever? when ever i look at his collections i'm just awestruck by the beauty.

Anonymous said...

oh my what an eloquent post... i myself thought of marie antoinette and cake.

Suzanna Mars said...

Jennine, there is a good deal of icing going on there. What I like is that there seems to be an evolution towards more restrained confections. And yet still OTT for the average mortal.

Will be interesting to see if these turn up in the society/celeb columns and how they will be modified.

laurakitty said...

I adore Lacroix for his use of volume and patterns- I think there is something deliciously fun about turning up at a party wearing a an amazingly poufy dress in a million colours and patterns amongst a sea of black. It's frivolous, yes, but it also fun, which is, I think, something sadly lacking from a lot of fashion.

enc said...

It seems like more and more people are feeling something akin to "I'll wear what I want!" I'm all for that. Let it be frilly, practical, beautiful, hideous, stylish, wearable, unwearable, trendy, classic, or naff.

As for Lacroix, I love his work: not because it's my taste, but because it's his taste. I don't like to flog the word "unapologetic," but in his case, I will. He's doing what he wants, and he's unapologetic about it.

If he simpered around making excuses for his vision and frivolity, then I'd lose respect for him. There's so much staid usefulness and accessibility already available in fashion. Why not something completely otherwordly and alien? Or, cut it down to brass tacks, and ask: why can't we enjoy his work strictly for the craftsmanship? Or the entertainment value?

The world needs Lacroix.

riz said...

I have always said that Lacroix is underrated as a coutourier. I quite liked this collection. It exhibited his signature frillery (not a word) without being flippant.

Incidentally, did you read A. Wintour's suggestiong for Hilary Clinton in teh latest Vogue, Letter from teh Editor? It's hilarious. Quite hilarious...!

PS - We just had to watch Stella Dallas for our film feminism course. So that's an interesting connection...

The Vogueite said...

what a beautifully written piece. are u like a fashion professor or something?!

at first sight i was taken aback with this collection, but i grew to love it.

Suzanna Mars said...

Riz, Stella Dallas immediately came to mind when speaking of vulgarity (although as portrayed the character was well aware of it)--better reference for me than to pick on some celeb living or dead...

Have not got into the Vogue yet. I get sidetracked very easily.

Vogueite, nice to see you again! I'm not a professor. I am the eternal student.

Claire said...

Suzanna, I haven't had time to sit down and have a proper read of your blog since mid January. So, I just had the bright idea to copy and paste your last two weeks of posts into a word document, to read during my long plane ride home on Monday. I copied it at 9 point font size and still, there is 24 word document pages to read.

So Prolific, you need to channel these lessons into some sort of book!

Suzanna Mars said...

Claire, I like the idea that my words are traveling to places beyond cyberspace. Enjoy!

I hope you post some type of travelogue on your own blog; I like to live vicariously.

riz said...

Claire - That's a brilliant idea - I should start doing that myself.

Suzanna Mars said...

Riz, that's what my mother does. It just dawned on her that I wasn't writing them especially for her.

Sm. said...

Hi Suzanna,

A pleasure to meet you! I was just in LA a couple weekends ago and was blown away by the shopping! I got lost in Fred Segal, and then went nuts at Mango (the Mango in Vancouver is located in the international departure gate of the airport, so it requires I buy a plane ticket to Japan in order to visit it. Your city of LA is much more convenient!).

This post reminded me of one of my favourite magazines: the Spring 2007 issue of Acne Paper. The issue's theme was playfulness, and featured all sorts of jaunty editorial and fashionably adventurous rebels. You should take a look if you can get your hands on it. There are some clippings on the Acne Paper website.

I find it exciting that blogging and all these street style sets are setting the bar higher up in terms of dressing outside of the box. It's great to see Wardrobe Remix sets on flickr just bursting with great original style.

Suzanna Mars said...

SM, certain of our blogging community is leading the way with the remix, particularly because of their wonderful improvisational skills. I will permit myself the obvious mention of Susie Bubble, but also Flying Saucer (an ethereal beauty, she), the very original and darling Curella...there are too many to list and the ones I find most original in their narrative I have listed in my blogroll. I'm sure I will find more.

Thanks for stopping by!

P. S. I will check out Acne Paper, even though nursing a zit.