Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Not long ago while zipping around Marks, doing my usual bee-line from knickers to food, I saw a woman peering at her reflection intently while holding up a nice enough nude shirt to her chest. I caught her eye and she said: 'What do you think? I am not sure about it'. To this I promptly replied: 'It suits you, it's the right nude for your complexion. And of course nude is going to be very in for spring-summer, buy it'. She was pleased I made the choice for her but also added what I think of as a super-classic conversation-killer: 'Oh I don't follow fashion, but I'll have this then, thanks.'

I smiled and moved on but as I was pushing my trolley around the aisles, I wondered whether I should have told her to watch The Devil Wears Prada. It's not often that movies reveal earth-shattering truths to mankind not previously communicated via other means, such as a classic novel or The Bible or Shakespearean plays. Even less often does an earth-shattering truth come from a little movie which straddles the chick-lit and mindless popcorn-flick categories as well as this one does. I cannot say that Legally Blonde, much as I adore it, has any particularly poignant piece of dialogue (I am willingly discounting this bit here of course: ENRIQUE: 'Chuck is just a friend...' CHUCK: 'You beeeeach!').

There is a scene in The Devil Wears Prada however that makes for compelling viewing for all people out there who think they are unaffected by fashion, uninterested by it, and who never fail to make a dismissive point about it, often accompanying it with a flick of the wrist. I am not interested in fashion, I wouldn't know. This old thing here? Oh I don't know what year it was, I don't follow fashion. Fashion? What's that?

I always, always, always chuckle to myself when I hear such nonsense because I know something that these poor people do not know. Fashion is like taxes, death, hunger or the need for toilet paper. Fashion is ever-present and inescapable. You may choose to shun Vogue and Harper's, Harvey Nichols and Manolo, but even when you read Woman's Own and OK! and shop at GAP, Primark, Marks or some tragic market, you are buying something that was selected for you by the high-fashion cognoscenti, the ones that it is oh-so-much-fun to make a mockery of.

You don't need to watch the whole movie to get to its salient point. The key scene plays between Andrea, the clueless assistant, and Miranda, the editor. This is what Miranda says to her short-sighted lackey:

You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet, and you select... I don't know, that lumpy blue sweater for instance, because you're trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don't know is that that sweater isn't just blue. It's not turquoise. It's not lapis. It's actually cerulean.

And you're also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar De La Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent, wasn't it, who showed cerulean military jackets? And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin.

However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it's sort of comical how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you're wearing a sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room.

Too damn true but seems like an awful lot of effort to go through when someone asks me whether she should buy the shirt, don't you think?
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