I've been a closet follower of the Haute Couture world for years. I used to sit in my room watching the runway shows every season online and I could rattle off the main designers for any of the major fashion houses if asked (I have far more important things to remember these days but I do still think Karl needs to retire).
I grew up in some pretty conservative circles in which fashion was looked upon as vain and clothes were meant simply to cover (as much as possible) your body so any amount of fabric in any color and in any (horrendous) style would do. All of this in the name of God, of course. It was this mentality that had me watching Ralph Lauren's spring collection behind closed doors and peeking at the September Issue of Vogue behind the magazine racks when no one was looking. I spent years clad in culottes, mid-calf khaki skirts and shapeless shirts. I still remember going into Saks 5th Avenue in NYC on a high school trip wearing a khaki shirt and windbreaker (de rigeur for my alma mater at the time) and being shadowed by salespeople who clearly thought I was going to try to sneak something in my crocheted Wal-Mart shoulder bag. It was torture. Even though I was expected to conform to these legalistic views on clothes, I could no more scoff at McQueen or Galliano than I could Monet.
I no longer feel the guilt or pressure that I once did and I now feel sorry for those who insist on living in such a bleak world and not appreciating couture for what it is: Art. Beauty. Sculpture. (The list goes on). Nature is full of color, line, abstract forms and outrageous design, all formed by the hands of God himself. Man and Woman were his ultimate creations, his masterpieces, yet for some reason, a small clatch of people insist on covering these works of art in crap (I really did try to come up with a better word...sorry). One wouldn't put a Rembrandt in a burlap bag before putting it out on display so why would we cover the creation of The Artist in dowdy shapeless garments.
I'm not advocating nudity or frivolity at all, but I like to think of clothing as that "frame" so to speak. A way of enhancing the beautiful creation that we are.
The Sartorialist. While I dearly love the artistry of the couture shows (the makeup! the shoes! the head-wear! the lighting design!), I am fascinated by the creativity displayed by the average people Schuman captures in his photographs: a bit of vintage lace here, a classic suit there, a jaunty hat on fresh, windswept hair. More than the clothes, I'm always captivated by the faces of his subjects. In a refreshing departure from most of the fashion world, Schuman finds real people with wrinkles and flaws yet enormous amounts of character (take this Milanese gentleman, for instance). The hat, the loosely tied scarf, the perfectly tailored coat and the wedding ring hanging onto aging fingers. I want to know his story.
All this being said, I don't claim to be any sort of fashionista myself. I try, but since my wardrobe currently revolves around my daughter's feeding needs, I tend to resort to some sort of loose or stretchy shirt and jeans. I adore trips to Anthropologie, Banana Republic and J Crew as much as the next girl though (despite almost never buying anything) and I'm probably going to set an alarm reminding me when the Burberry accessories boutique opens on Rue La La tomorrow. I would probably pee my pants if I ever got a shot at owning a Burberry trench (the construction...the fabric...gah!).
Does this make me vain? No! I love beauty and I love art and the few nicer labels I own are always worn with a very deep appreciation for the craftmanship that went into each piece. So on that note, go treat yourself to a copy of Vogue then sit back and watch the latest Dior runway show. It'll do you more sensory good than that Kinkade on your wall ;).
All Dior images taken from The Daily Mail
Milanese Gentleman from The Sartorialist