Bring fashion back to the masses

Summer is the time of year to engage in absolutely mindless reading. And read mindlessly I did, mostly of the fashion magazine variety. And in all the summer fashion issues that publications like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and W magazine put out, I realized that most of the clothes that high-end fashion designers produce for any season are completely unwearable off the runway.

In the most recent issue of Elle magazine, I read a brilliantly written story about the return of Christian Dior’s “New Look,” which defined the waspy-waisted, full-skirted fashions of the 1950s. The look has returned, with a twist — heavy metal details, boxy winter jackets and layered leather skirts constitute the new “New Look.” Most of these outfits, like so many others that fashion editors publish, is a style of dress that isn’t likely to be embraced by most women.

Although the new “New Look” is just one style that seems to be popular among the rich and famous jet-set, it’s just one style of dress that will alienate most readers. For those of us who can’t afford or pull off the styles that so often go into these magazines, reading about these new styles is the closest we’ll get to being part of the jet-set-go crowd.

While fashion writers and editors might publish what they do for the benefit of that sort of reader, it’s time for them to reconsider exactly what their job entails.

For so long, fashion magazines have been a haven for the stylish elite — a place for fashion designers to create art in a garment. To fashion insiders, a dress or a shirt or a shoe isn’t just something to wear; sometimes, it’s a museum piece, and it’s treated as such.

Who will possibly benefit from this shoe or this dress that nobody can ever wear? I agree that some clothes are so beautiful that they aren’t meant to be worn. But then what’s the point? If fashion professionals continue to let magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar sell magazines just to other people in that tight-knit New York-Paris clique, then the reality of bringing wearable fashion to the common man is a lost one, and fashion magazines will lose out on reaping the profit.

With the age of print-first journalism dying, magazine and newspapers have to make sacrifices, even those of the fashion variety. Digitally-based journalism, while helping to sustain the fashion publication niche, may not be enough. Bringing affordable, reasonable-to-wear clothes into fashion magazines is an important step in the right direction — not only will readers be less estranged from the fashion world, but they will also contribute to it.

And for fashion designers who approach their profession as an art, isn’t that what art’s all about? In a more involved fashion community, it can be.

Maddie Shannon is the former Arts & Entertainment editor of The Collegian and will be contributing occasional columns throughtout the semester.

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