It looks like fashion is dead. At least, it seems it’s dying in the year 2018. As someone who has spent a life loving fashion, the industry has left me and many others, sadly disappointed. OK, so fashion is not one of the key ingredients necessary for life. We don’t need silk dresses or cashmere coats to survive. A variety of choices in our closet may not fulfill our basic human needs, but fashion certainly brought joy and happiness to those of us who loved the art for art’s sake. Searching through the departments at Nordstrom or Saks, feeling the fineness of the fabrics, exploring the craftsmanship of detailed seaming or manually soled shoes was equivalent to spending a day in a museum exploring the gifts of the world’s greatest painters and sculptors. Fashion was art in our daily lives. So, what has happened to it?
Fashion has told the story of each generation for hundreds of years. It has spoken for the generations through famine and war, and prosperity and growth. Fashion adapted itself to the times and people of all walks of life could indulge in fashion not only as a means of clothing oneself for public display, but as a way to reveal and express a bit about their own personality. You could read a lot about a person who wears a minimal wardrobe of all black and the person who fills their closet with vibrant designs in an array of patterns and hues. Fashion has been an art form for individuals to speak without saying a word. To tell the world his or her story. To indulge in a fluid art that we adapted each day, for every occasion. Alas, it seems we have entered a period in time when fashion is no longer a valuable means of expression.
Until the current age of electronic media that has all but pillaged print media, fashion aficionados would flock to newsstands every month to pick up the latest issue of the all-important fashion bible, Vogue. Then we’d pile on Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, and maybe a Lord & Taylor catalogue. Half the fun of living a fashionable life was pouring over the glossy ads, coated in the latest fragrance insert, imagining all we could do with our favorite picks of the season. We’d budget and save and maybe even go into debt for our coveted ‘must have’ pieces. Getting dressed in the morning, especially on a day we debuted a new sought-after addition to our wardrobe, was a joyful event. Looking at the outfits our fashion mania friends and coworkers indulged in made us just as happy. Fashion was a way of life for us. And now it’s 2018.
Today when I go to do my grocery shopping, I am far more likely to see folks walking about in flannel pajama bottoms and suede slipper loafers than in the latest skirt or shirt from the runway. Even when I visit a venue where one would expect the public to make a bit of an effort, such as a museum or the theatre, it is far more common to see the same old jeans and Ugg boots on everyone who walks by than a unique silk dress or even a neck tie. The day of people taking pride in their appearance, regardless of their penchant for the current fashion, seems to have died. Young people have no interest in indulging in finely crafted leather goods when they can spend that money on the latest smart phone or gadget. When it was once ‘cool’ to sport the latest star-athlete endorsed running shoe on campus, it is now far more ‘in’ to show off the latest laptop or video console. Appearance is no longer a sign of wealth or even respect for oneself. Designer labels seem to be lost on everyone under the age of 40. Those young folks who do take an interest in ‘trends’ are more intrigued by the fast fashion rubbish endorsed by the latest reality star than in the fine craftsmanship and design of a creatively, professionally trained designer. While our grandmothers fought for the freedom for women to wear pants without a negative connotation attached to them, today’s young women seem to have shunned that article of clothing altogether in favor of the gawd-awful legging found everywhere from outlet malls to discount stores. Because apparently, real pants with a button and zipper are too hard to put on. While pajamas were once a staple of the cozy evening at home, they are now considered by many to be ‘casual’ day wear. And those of us who worship the art of fashion are sickened.
Today I no longer have a professional career and I long ago donated the majority of my career wardrobe to family and friends. I am free to spend my days in easy, comfortable clothing but I still respect the art of dressing and the impact it has on how I am viewed. I love myself and I find fashion is still a big part of the impression I make on others, despite not going out nearly as often. While I am now more likely to be found in a pair of cords or jeans wearing a cotton shirt or cashmere pullover, there is still love in what I wrap my body in. Finding beautiful casual clothing however, even on a more minimally purchased schedule, is not as easy as it used to be, thanks to the onslaught of online, fast-fashion shoppers who apparently don’t give a thought as to how they appear to others.
The middle-class meccas of Nordstrom and Sak’s Fifth Avenue, as well as more moderately priced Macy’s and J.C. Penney’s, are struggling to survive despite repeated efforts to compete with online and fast fashion shopping venues such as Amazon and H&M. Why spend $75.00 on a pair of name-brand pajamas at an after-Christmas sale to wear to Wal-Mart when you can order them in bulk from Amazon and have pull-on pants to last for a week? Why invest $150.00 in a pair of Stuart Weitzman loafers when one can buy a pair of knock offs for a fraction of the price at a local outlet mall? The younger generations in particular seem to have no allegiance to fine quality and long-life investments in their closet. Who loses? Everyone does. The designers, manufacturer’s and retail stores are making less money as the consumer repeatedly purchases cheaper products both in terms of quality and price, from fewer providers who are consuming the majority of the profits. That leaves minimal options for those of us who love fashion as an investment in art to enrich our daily personal lives. Quality is harder to find and more expensive when we do.
Those of us who love fashion as art, who appreciate the effort put into enjoying the beauty and the quality of real fashion, are sadly disappointed in modern society’s waning interest in maintaining a truly fashionable lifestyle. But as our society becomes less interested in growing, prospering achieving and preserving the American dream, and more content to ‘settle’ with a life of mediocrity, fashion will remain stagnate and have much less to offer those of us of fashionably discerning taste. And what a shame for future generations to come. Indeed, we are on the verge of losing a truly beautiful art form.
Images courtesy freeimages.com