The Fashion Seen (July 1976)
How many of you out there I’m sure never had the chance to speak your mind about the reckless abandon of the clothing industry? If you’ve been in the shower all last month as has my next-door neighbor, you might not be full in the realization that the fashion designers and the clothing manufacturers have been behaving like a veritable Leopold and Loeb with regards your habits in dress. Not having a copy of Bartlett’s with me at the moment, I can’t be sure, bit I would be willing to bet my personal set of Bio-Rhythm cards that whoever said “clothes make the man” did so after the industrial revolution, and truer words were never spoken. Just so, you can be equally sure that somewhere out there some hermaphrodite weirdo is coming up with new ways to teach old clothes horses to jump through new belt-loops.
However, if you were to come with me down to the Federal Clothing Dump and Mandatory Privilege Exercising Yard, you would see a solution to the problems of the day-in, day-out ebb and flow of the fashion racket. Although it usually is busily occupied as the Incompetence Compensation Bureau, each day hundreds of the “in-crowd” effluvialites flock to stand in long lines to ogle the passing parade of the very nattiest of the natty, the flesh-and-blood personifications of the word “ginchy.” Here, of course, the emphasis is on the refinement of the technique, rather than the willy-nilly, random regurgitation of facades that are de rigueur elsewhere. Here, everyone knows through trial and error the basics of hip, modern, and yet timeless dress. Here, the models are real people, not the moth-minded sycophants of the amphetamine culture. But why take my word for it? Accompany me now to the Office of Unemployment Opportunity in Santa Monica, California, and see for yourself these bold, daring, rugged individualists just like yourself who have broken the strangle-hold of the fashion world’s self-perpetuators, and are making vast strides into the as-yet untapped domain of utilitarian dress.
You will see the entire entourage of “must” wear. For example, the young man slouching against the wall as if to show off the fine projectiline contours of his military-style coiffure, is in reality modestly exhibiting his ever-tasteful full-dress privates’ uniform. There are, to be sure, many off-shoots, so to speak, of this familiar knock-out, but none can really compare with the uniform en toto, and this young man has outdone himself to ensure that the image is perfect. Not content to satiate the casual admirerer, he has gone all the way with the extra fatigue jacket and the pants tucked just-so into the spit-polished commando boots, good for many seasons of dependable service. You know you have found a winner when the mere sight of this spiffy get-up evokes the odor of starch from the recesses of your mind. Masterful though he is, he is just the beginning!
The “designers” of the fashion world were caught with their zippers stuck when they introduced the expensive, silvery materials with which we are all now so familiar. The same for the “inventors” of reflective gewgaws for people who must maintain a high visibility at night. They were preceded by many years by the famous offerings of Wino Brothers Mills, whose pants can be seen all around us even as we talk. This with-it crowd can’t afford to be as behind the times as you probably are. A case in point; the elderly gentleman lounging on the bench along the side over there. Note his pants. See the material? It is obviously old, but it still has that famous shine that Wino Brothers have made their trademark. And when you are out “slumming it” in those lesser-known but oh-so-fun backstreet bars, you will be glad that the shine from those pants can escort you home safe and sound.
Even though the movement is practical, it is far from placid! The avant garde is as at home here as anywhere else, with stunning results. A striking example is the mature woman standing in line C1. Here, the opposing forces of symmetry/asymmetry are juxtaposed in a brash, devil-may-care manner. The “status quo” is represented by the ever-popular full-length moo-moo, with the contrasting theme of rebellion taken up by the long-sleeve khaki work-shirt worn underneath. The design is further accented by the collar of the work-shirt, one side of which is worn normally, while the other side is smartly cocked at a jaunty angle. Breathtaking, yes! But the whole thing is really complete only with the proper attitude of total quiescence. Mind you, these are not trained models. This is a posture that can easily be attained by even the most lax among us!
Suppose you were faced with this dilemma: you wish to “go utilitarian” but the only things you have in your closet have “Gucci” written all over them. There is a solution, and it is amazing in its simplicity. Quick, go to the kitchen and get the blender. An electric beater will work, too, in a pinch. The industrious have even used a whisk. Anyway, a successful application of any of these involves nothing more than a vigorous set-to for about ten minutes (spend a little more time on your hair if it is naturally thick or a little too clean). Voila! Instantly you, too, have the Hamilton Beach look that your friends will covet. Here at the Office of Unemployment Opportunities, anyone can see what a favorite it is.
The males of the species are no less sheik, taking a page from the Alaskan’s book. In Alaska, as you know, the natives need something that is warm in winter and cool in summer. If you think this sounds like something a utilitarian would be interested in, you are right! But besides being functional, it is so distinguished. Of course, the item of which we are speaking is the daring Perma-Fuzz look. Not too long, not too short, beards have never had it so good! And, true to the principles, this easy-care style is never out of favor.
So, next time you are looking in vain for a parking place near Saks, the next time you misplace your I. Magnin charge plate, the next time you can’t find the special something that you want even at Lanz’, you might think to yourself that it is time to try the utilitarian way, where practically everything goes!