Thursday, March 5, 2009

Know your Hollywood style icons!

No one expects fashion writers to be real journalists. At least nobody I know does. But I expect them to know fashion.

Which is why I was stunned by the first line of the New York Times "Thursday Styles" piece A Strong Woman for Hard Times: "There were times when you half expected Norma Shearer or Carole Lombard to come swinging down the runway, so wide were the shoulders at the Italian fall shows." Huh? I thought maybe I had been brain damaged by the photo of a gaunt Prada model in a dumpy raspberry cardigan and baggy, knitted brown shorts that made her look like a farm-fed Fraulein who could out-plow a team of oxen, but no. I read right.

Shearer and Lombard were silver-screen goddesses of the 1930s, the age of haute swank and slinky, bias cut even gowns so body hugging that underwear was a fleeting memory. If you want to talk shoulder pads, you want to evoke Joan Crawford, specifically the Joan Crawford of the 1940s, when she graduated from high-spirited flappers to tough women who face a tougher world with their heads held high and their gimlet eyes on the prize. Though smaller than she looked on screen — a mere 5' 4" — Crawford had shoulders like an Olympic swimmer (as did her robust contemporary, Greta Garbo), and her favorite costume designer, the legendary Adrian, opted to play them up rather than trying to hide them.

Does this matter in the grand scheme of things? No. All I'm saying is that if you're going to write about fluff, know the fluff you're writing about.