Festival Fashion Don’ts

The news that the U.S. Olympic team’s apparel, supplied by American designer Ralph Lauren, is being manufactured in China has caused a firestorm of criticism. The concern relates to something more than national pride – it relates also to issues about the working conditions of the workers who produce the clothing.

According to Robert J.S. Ross, a professor of sociology at Clark University, who wrote an op-ed piece entitled “A fashion don’t”  published in today’s Los Angeles Time, the Olympic team women’s skirt produced in China costs $498. Ross states that Chinese producers officially pay their workers between 93 cents and just over $1 an hour, although unofficially many workers earn less and rarely get a day off. Ross urges the U.S. Olympic Committee to ensure its logo gear is sweatshop free, wherever it is made.

Attending festivals is a delightful part of the summer season, and seeing what the vendors have to offer is part of the fun. For instance, the Festival of the Arts in Hermosa Beach, California, held on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends each year, is a delightful opportunity to enjoy festive music and tasty food and to shop for artwork, clothing and trinkets under the Southern California sun.

I relish the opportunity to browse through handmade artwork, clothing and jewelry designs at the festivals. There’s something wonderfully special about acquiring an item created by a local vendor, and always associating the item with the place it was purchased and the story behind it.

What I find sad, however, is seeing the throngs of women crowding the booths where jewelry is being sold for as little as a dollar or two.

I can’t fault the high school students or others with limited resources for taking advantage of an opportunity to buy something fun for a song. For the rest, consider: If the jewelry is being sold for so little, imagine what the vendor paid for it and its likely source. These products are a fashion don’t.

“Marie Claire @ Work” Still Not Grasping the Concept

The second edition of “Marie Claire @Work,” supplement to Marie Claire magazine, is out, showing a picture of actress Salma Hayek on the cover. Unlike actress Katie Holmes, who appeared on the cover of the first edition in a bathing suit, Hayek is dressed in a fashionable version of a suit. She looks spectacular in a cutaway jacket and  tight skirt from Alexander McQueen and “her own” low-cut vest that flaunts her cleavage.

The look is entirely appropriate for a mega-star known for her sex appeal. However, posing in a look that draws all eyes to her breasts and the rest of her extraordinary figure, she is not a role model of how to dress for women who want to succeed in the corporate world. There is a time to look breathtakingly sexy. While at work is not that time.

The “@ Work” supplement is a publication targeted to professional and other working women, self-described as “Your Get-Ahead Guide for Career, Style & Success.”  The rest of the “@ Work” supplement is a combination of good advice and some very misguided ideas. Among the features is a six-page spread entitled “Office Supplies” purporting to demonstrate: “Style investments inspired by yesteryear’s essentials” including “rings the size of paperweights.”

This photo from the ”@ Work” supplement demonstrates Marie Claire‘s idea of how a work look might be accessorized, putting together five wristwatches, a bracelet, and eight cocktail rings. The appropriateness of the styling has as much credence as the likelihood of finding the pictured powder blue manual typewriter at a place of business.

Another photo from the same feature shows an open-weave lace skirt accompanied by bracelets and rings that almost certainly would catch on the weave of the skirt. The peek-a-boo style of the skirt, as attractive as it is, presents another office no-no.

In choosing work wear, it’s important to consider the image one wants to convey. Overtly sexy fashion choices and an over-abundance of jewelry do not support a professional image. There are all manner of ways to adapt current fashions so as to look stylish and yet be office-appropriate in dress.

It’s time for fashion magazines that purport to provide style guidance to working women, to employ stylists –  or to engage image consultants – who have spent time in the corporate world outside the realm of fashion, and who can provide the magazines with a reality check.


Great Legs

Barbara Walters repeated the old saw on The View this morning, “Legs are the last thing to go.” She swiveled toward the audience, proving that she does have an enviable pair of legs.

Indeed, all the ladies of The View who show their legs (Whoopi Goldberg always opts for pants) have shapely legs. Indeed, think about any and all of the women you have seen in the movies or on network television, and see if you can identify a single woman who doesn’t have great legs. This is true whether the female celebrity is tall or short, full-figured or slender, average or spectacular in all her dimensions: Great legs are a must for what is deemed a media-worthy image.

In real life, however, many women are not blessed with what in today’s standards are considered great legs. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has received all manner of criticism about her pantsuits over the years, criticism that as often as not has ignored the fact that she dresses in part to flatter her legs, which, by current standards, are proportionately short and considered less than ideally shaped.

Watch any of the makeover shows, and time and again you’ll see the experts take women out of slacks and put them in skirts. Look at your great legs, they exclaim — see how fantastic you look! It’s an easy fix for women who have great legs. It’s not a fix at all for women who are not enamored of their legs.

Short sturdy legs deserve celebration too. They may never appear on celebrities or in advertisements in the media, but they carry us where we want to go. Skirts may not present a comfortable or attractive option to the woman with such legs. For her, the perfectly cut pair of pants is the sine qua non of fashion, an elusive treasure.

Sticks & Stones

You know the old rag… “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” It seems that O’s creative director, Adam Glassman, takes this a bit too far in the feature “Your Biggest Dressing Dilemmas . . . Solved!” in the January 2012 issue of O, the Oprah Magazine. The instructive and interesting feature, while full of excellent advice and no doubt well-intentioned through-and-through, has the unfortunate effect of labeling the models pictured with all manner of insulting observations. Muffin Top, Pooch, Armpit Fat, Chub Rub, Cankles, and so on, with a model illustrating each insult. It sounds more like a schoolyard than a fashion spread.

Can the lovely model pictured next to the large photo captioned “Turkey Neck” ever live down that moniker?

How about adding a few more…  Fat Ass?  Bubble Butt?  Mosquito Tits?  “Short people have no reason to live”?

Let’s go back to Ms. “Turkey Neck” for one more look. The hoop earrings she is wearing are large with irregular shapes along the edges. To me, these shapes relate to, and therefore emphasize, the folds of her neck. They also dangle so low as to draw attention to her neck. What would have made her look even more attractive:  a pair of earrings that sit on her earlobes and draw the eye upward. I would choose a design that is visually light, not heavy, to work with the overall pastel loveliness of her look.

Clueless as to What Works at Work

I was excited to see the brand new, recently published supplement to Marie Claire magazine, Marie Claire @ Work.”  This might provide a wonderful resource for my blog readers, I mused.

Alas, the first impression given off by the magazine supplement is one of cluelessness. Actress Katie Holmes is the cover model, not exactly the archetype of a working woman, although goodness knows, in-demand actresses with children and high-visibility celebrity husbands no doubt work very, very hard.

Holmes appears to wear a sleeveless garment, seemingly uncomfortably  crisscrossed over her breasts with gold metallic strapping that then fastens around her waist. What manner of professional work apparel is this?

A quick peek at the credits reveals that the garment is a belted swimsuit. Yes, a swimsuit. Belted. From Michael Kors. Something NO professional woman will be wearing to work unless, of course, she’s a swimsuit model.  (And hey, it’s not like Michael Kors doesn’t design all manner of beautiful looks perfectly appropriate for the professional woman at work. He does.) Articles about brilliant career women juggling their home lives and professional successes cannot make up for this inexplicable faux pas of a first impression.