Inspiration Vs. Aspiration

Because I am the last to everything, I finally saw an episode of The Rachel Zoe Project. She’s the “super stylist” who became famous for dressing celebrities like Nicole Ritchie and Lindsay Lohan all the time, because the paparazzi followed them 24/7 and they didn’t want to be photographed only in sweats and tank tops. Her 60s/70s/sundresses/platforms/giant sunglasses style is very popular today, especially here in California.

I have notes.

1) She was six months pregnant in the episode I watched and looked like she had maybe eaten a big burrito for lunch. WTF?
2) I don’t get her husband. He squawks about how Rachel spends too much money but then agrees to leasing a 7,000 square foot house for three people. (And a bunch of clothes?) He also decides to hire some guy basically to hang
out with Rachel and be her friend for the remainder of her third trimester. That’s right: money CAN buy friendship.
3) Whoever the wise wag was who noted that after 40 you choose your face or your ass should probably revise that downward to 35 for the super, super svelte. Just sayin’.
4) Rachel herself is charmingly self-deprecating. She says at one point that she never thinks that anyone will ever come to a party she hosts. And you can tell that she really, really means it.
5) I kinda like her spirit. I disapprove of her weight, but I do like that she’s attempting to shift a paradigm of fashion that has existed since Coco Chanel’s reinvention of the fashion house in the 1920s.

Fashion for almost the last century has mostly focused on the “High”: collections shown in Paris, Milan and NYC sold at a high price to the upper classes, then knocked off and distributed through middle-end shops and department stores and finally discounted to the lowest prices to the masses. Fashion, while maybe inspired by the street styles of London or Brooklyn, really is a few style makers (mostly men) dictating in a trickle down way what we women wear.

Fashion for the last century has been, for the most part, Aspirational. We see what comes from on high, then we want it. In college everyone wore flannel shirts, jeans, boots, leather belts. Marc Jacobs, a high fashion designer, had designed my college uniform with his infamous “Grunge” collection in 92. As well as the casual, jeans and floral dress heavy styles that lasted pretty much throughout the 90s.

You may be noticing that ankle boots are having a moment. They actually first showed up in the 2007/2008 collections of Chanel and Prada. Vogue declared 2009 “…the year of the ankle boot.” From there they filtered through the fashion pages into other midpriced collections like Nine West, finally making an appearance in our every day life this fall: Kohl’s, Payless Shoe Source now has variations on the ankle boot.

Something different is individual fashion bloggers who each have their own unique style and have garnered followings. Reading someone like Tavi is like reading one of my back issues of Vogue in ’92. Sonic Youth? Grunge? 70s revival? Been there, done that.

What I like best is bloggers who have their own unique style little affected by the big designers. Women like Nie Nie who has created her own sort of wholesome Americana style. Or, LuLu Letty, whose style does not pay any attention to the overlords of fashion: her style is sublimely unique: featuring moccasins and penny loafers, Graphic sweaters and vintage blouses and skirts. Lulu Letty is a fashion original. I find her inspirational: she has created a new look by not using the usual touchstones and created a style her own. Another favorite of mine is Danimezza, another fashion blogger who creates chic, timeless looks for herself in plus sizes. Her outfits are about as polished and unique as it gets.

Do you think that Fashion should be aspirational, mostly looking to a few tastemakers to determine the trends for the next few years or would you prefer to follow a more inspirational look?

How do you pick your clothes? Do you look online at bloggers? Do you look at Vogue? Do you follow trends at Macy’s/Kohls/peer pressure?

In this economy, should we still admire clothes that we will never ever be able to fit into or afford? Or should we look for inspiration elsewhere?

Postscript: I was looking for dresses for a wedding a few years ago and went to a Barney’s sale. I found a lovely couture gown, by Isabel Toledo, for Anne Klein. Apparently there was only one collection done. Isabel Toledo went on to greater fame after designing Michelle Obama’s inauguration outfit. Anyway, the dress was a different color and hem length to the one shown on the runway. It looked very different than the dress did on the runway. The dress was originally $1800. I got it for $250. I felt pretty good about that.

From the runway

To the hanger

To being worn by a size 6

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7 Comments

Filed under Design, Discovering joy

7 responses to “Inspiration Vs. Aspiration

  1. love the fashion focus. I think that at 34 I am still trying to define my style. It has changed so much over the years, but maybe that is just the natural progression playing out. I love how Rachel dresses people.. I just wish she could have more confidence in herself.

  2. I look at fashion blogs and Vogue for inspiration. I feel like I’ve been trying to develop a personal style for a while now, but I’m just not there. I wish I had more time to dedicate to shopping (HA! as if that was the only factor needed for shopping! HAHAHA. I crack myself up). I like the new trend of designers at lower-cost stores, I think that’s fantastic. As a lover of fashion, I’ve always hated how I can never afford the real thing (nor would I want to spend that kind of money on clothes even if I could afford it)….so I like that the fashion industry is finally getting it.

    Nice score, btw!

  3. Pretty dress! I don’t think I actively try to cultivate a personal style. I like classic pieces but truthfully, lately, I haven’t been able to give it much thought. When I was younger I went through a period in which I was obsessed with Vogue and the couture designers. My turning point came when I saw a t-shirt in one of the collections and it was listed at $800. I was shocked b/c it was just a simple cotton t-shirt. That sort of destroyed the magic for me.

  4. Ah Rachel Zoe, that woman is bat shit. I don’t know how she is sustaining a pregnancy, seriously!

    As for fashion, I never think much about it really. I just wish people would make things that look good on those of us who will never be (healthily at least) less than a size 8). That which looks good on the willow figure of a grown woman in a pre-pubescent girl’s body does not look fabulous on a size 8-10 with C-cups and wide shoulders (and a considerable amount of stomach flab).

    Having said that, I think in general, I like people who are inspirational over aspirational. Aspiration does not make room for innovation and I think we always need more of that in the world. So my vote goes towards inspirational (and in touch with reality).

    Thank you fashion industry for hearing my pleas!

  5. Mo

    I am useless when it comes to fashion.
    However, in a fit of masochism, I watched the show. I HATE THAT WOMAN. Seriously. i think it’s all the complaining about getting “fat”.
    Urgh. She makes me bitter.

  6. I’m cable-ly challenges so this is my first time knowing anything about Zoe whatshername.

    I think you look stunning in that dress! I now consider you my fashionista blogger friend!

  7. Never heard of her. I find it difficult to go shopping these days. So much in the stores these days is designed for skinny 21-year-olds. Even if I were skinny (which I’m not), I am 50 years old. My rule is that if it looks like something that I wore when I was 15 or 20 or 30 (hello platform heels & stirrup pants), I shouldn’t be wearing it again. ; )

    It’s difficult to find stuff that (a) fits, (b) doesn’t make me look ridiculous or (c) fits a mature figure but looks frumpy (think elasticized waistbands & oversized shirts). And, of course, is moderately priced.

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