"Oscar de la Renta sent some of his most intoxicating evening wear down the runway in February. One of his ball gowns will cost as much as a scooter. (Yes, that's the new analogy. Who's buying cars these days?) And the team at Proenza Schouler sent a fully sequined jumpsuit down their runway in New York. They got behind a showpiece that, if produced, would cost more than the mortgage payments on most of those houses currently in foreclosure."I agree with the article that high-end fashion is out of touch with America, but honestly, hasn't it always been in its own stratosphere? That's part of its allure--it's a glamorous dream. Only movie stars on the red carpet wear runway clothes, and even then it's tamed and tailored to a more reasonable cut, to be less of a spectacle. So what if there is a flurry of brocade--we want to dream about opulence now more than ever.
Even as a small child I knew that lipstick represents the economic climate. From an NY Times article, I found out that this idea is aptly named "The Lipstick Theory". Women want to look and feel pretty, especially when the money falls short. Lipstick is a relatively cheap and easy indulgence.
Just looking at them is a unique pleasure, akin to the high one might get from window-shopping. The point is not the purchase; it's the fantasizing. There is something psychologically pleasurable about simply being around beauty. We are made better by our surroundings.Ultimately, the fashion houses are just businesses. They sell ideas to the masses (of which I am definitely one) and clothes to the uber-rich. I couldn't afford a couture gown even before the stock market tumbled.
That was the thinking during World War II. Governments understood that their citizens needed beauty, art and music to make life livable. In Europe, while some fashion houses such as Chanel closed, others struggled through the war even as materials necessary for production were rationed or completely unavailable. In the United States, women were encouraged to maintain their beauty rituals as best they could. They were asked to keep up appearances. To keep looking forward. The fighting, after all, was for a future that was better than the past. The beauty industry -- from lipstick to party dresses -- symbolized hope. A well-turned-out woman, one who had managed to make herself pretty, had managed a kind of victory.