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Saturday, January 19, 2013

In fashion, what comes around goes around …. and around and around and around. On Thursday, I read a Wall Street Journal story called “Transparent Style That’s Sheer Daring” by the lovely Christina Binkley, which was about see-through clothing being big for spring. That trend has been bubbling up for a while — I wrote about it for the Huffington Post in March 2012 — but the look is finally hitting critical mass. A lot of people think fashion fads blossom overnight, but styles often take several seasons or years to go from Never Is the Next New Thing™ status to “beloved by fashion influencers” to mainstream. I traced the slow progress of peplum looks for the Huffington Post back in 2011 and peplum is still going strong now; I’m not even sure it’s peaked yet. Similarly, this month, I checked out the jewelry section on a big retailer’s website and discovered the first two pages were entirely devoted to word and letter jewelry — the same concept I showed that same retailer (to no interest) in 2010.

Being first, or among the first, isn’t the best business plan in fashion. As Lisa Armstrong remarked in her recent article on Tory Burch for the Telegraph:

“…here is the bottom line: in fashion, you’ll always make more money packaging taste than lobbing little grenades of genuinely new design at the world.”

I compare the timing issue to catching a once-daily train. If you arrive at the station two hours early, the train ain’t in the station. You wait around feeling cold and lonely and looking at your watch, only to get on that fucking train at the same time as the people who arrived as it showed up or even a few minutes later.

Even though I know better now, I can’t put the brakes on new ideas and wind up designing jewelry that people find to be strange or disturbing, whether it’s a style that advertises one’s age, is mildly obscene or insanely detailed. (I and my customers have been told, in all seriousness, that my IDGAF and GTFOH necklaces are contributing to the coarsening of our civilization. Makes me feel so rock ‘n’ roll, like a mop-topped Beatle.) I console myself with what Lisa Armstrong went on to say: “But without innovation, taste eventually becomes arid.” And maybe one day I’ll accidentally show up at the train station at the right time, despite myself.

But these thoughts have nothing to do with the real reason Christina’s story jumped out at me. That was the photo of Rachel Weisz in a partially sheer Louis Vuitton dress at the Golden Globes.

vuitton


That’s Rachel in the black.

It reminded me of this Versace gown — also sheer on the top and bottom — that I wore in 2003.

versace_2003

Sorry for the poor quality photo. Click for original post.

The dress was vintage when I got it. Some peeps at Versace thought it was probably from a collection before Gianni Versace’s 1997 murder, so I want to tip my hat to the late, great designer for this one. If only I still had the dress, I’d be right on trend! But it fell victim to a bad tailor and I had to let it go.

At least I’ll be able to shop my closet for graphic pencil skirts. Also on Thursday, the New York Times ran a short item called “Skirts With a Point,” that said:

“The pencil skirt, knee length or longer, a little more hard-edge, is a big statement for spring. You will see it in denim (Miu Miu), in graphic black and white (Louis Vuitton), in guipure lace (Derek Lam) and embellished with fabric flowers (Dries Van Noten).”

skirts

New skirts by J. Crew (left) and Versace (ooh! right), courtesy the New York Times. Click for source.

skirtsI am all over this thanks to some early ’90s skirts by designer Todd Oldham. And what great timing too — designer/blogger/stylist Stacy Lomman has recently been helping me style these rainbow-y pieces. I was so excited to wear this skirt with an old Versace top in November …

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Click for original post.

… and, earlier this month, Stacy found two new tops to go with this Oldham skirt, so I’ll be taking this one for a spin soon.

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Click to read about the challenges of styling this skirt.

So a tip of the hat for Todd Oldham, too, for keeping me stylish in skirts that are at least 15 years old. My advice to y’all now: don’t buy any of the new sheer clothes or pencil skirts solely because they’re “in.” Only buy them if you adore them … and then keep them forever, because they’ll be back!

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25 Responses to “Fashion Repeats Itself: Transparency and Graphic Pencil Skirts”

  1. Sheila says:

    Oh, I love the graphic pencil skirt – well, pencil skirts period! I find it so funny that things we’ve (i.e. real people, not the trend-prognosticators) been wearing all along suddenly become “in.”

    Can’t wait to see that second skirt on you again, Wendy!

  2. nikki says:

    Great advice, Wendy! ;)

  3. Melanie says:

    You have the best colourful pieces in your closet. I love seeing you in them. I designed a maxi dress like the black one in ’92(?) when I had a clothing line – it was elegant but used holey black athletic fabric for the sheer part. Too early at the station! Your jewellery is fantastic and I support your coarsening wholeheartedly!!

  4. Performance and Cocktails
    Twitter: faultlessaplomb
    says:

    You might like to read “Wait” which also talks about the importance of timing, in business, in apologies, in personal life. A major algorithmic trading firm speeded up their activity by moving their server location. Profitability went down, and only returned to former levels when they introduced an artificial delay into the algorithms. Being first isn’t always best in trading too, it seems! But I think your originality is going to satisfy you more in the long run…

  5. mystyle says:

    Hi my dear!! Love the Versace pencil skirt and also your Todd Oldham ones too, you cannot beat the older designs! I’m really loving a lot of the early 90s designer pieces xx

  6. Veshoevius
    Twitter: taxnomywardrobe
    says:

    Oh no!! I can’t believe that gorgeous Versace dress was butchered by tailor – you look classically beautiful in it.
    I think it is great that trends and new silhouettes take time to build up traction and hang around for more than one season – who has the money and time to keep up otherwise??

    • WendyB
      Twitter: WendyBrandes
      says:

      Agree! It drives me crazy when fashion people declare something “over” after one season when most of the world hasn’t even caught on yet!

  7. Marla says:

    I love these wonderful skirts. They are so pretty. You look lovely.

  8. Pam@over50feeling40
    Twitter: over50feeling40
    says:

    I love the graphic pencil skirt…now I want a couple…but see through clothing on me could be little frightening!!

  9. Fascinating perspective on timing, innovation, and design, and fabulous skirts.

    The giant flowy pants I’ve been wearing since the early 90’s are suddenly getting attention. Though I better get started on my Big 80’s Hair right away, that’ll take a while.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I love both those stripy pencil skirts. I can’t wait to see what you’re going to do with the circular-striped one.

    Indira tried on a peplum top–in Target!–yesterday, and she looked so good I nearly fell over. I have my eye on several graphic pencil skirts. You’re right, trends sort of simmer, then bubble up, then boil over, don’t they?

    When’s your next HuffPo piece?

  11. You always look like you’re having so much fun wearing your clothes and jewelry. That last skirt is my favorite.

    Please keep “lobbing little grenades of genuinely new design” at us!

  12. stacy says:

    Fashion always recycles… I guess timing is everything. But, that shouldn’t stop us from doing what we want and what inspires us :-)

  13. THE-LOUDMOUTH
    Twitter: theloudermouth
    says:

    Rachel Weisz’s look is dope. And I’m loving the bright skirts!

  14. Jet aka Punk Glam Queen
    Twitter: PunkGlamQueen
    says:

    Such a shame about the Versace gown, it was beautiful & gorgeous on you! I bet you’d feel very rock n’ roll in the new Versace skirt, I love the print! Those Todd Oldham skirts are fantastic prints as well! I wish I still had my Oldham stuff ): (Boo bad memory… same as my 80s Sprouse stuff. I did find the perfume he gave me late last week when G and I were having fun going through my old fragrances. So cute with a little crown for a cap, and it never spoiled, still smells divine!) XXX

  15. Marti says:

    love your analagy of the train station and fashion. Very pretty Versace and the best take away “buy any sheer clothes or pencil if you adore them not because they’re “in” … and then keep them forever, because they’ll be back!
    Marti