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Essay

Essay: She's In Fashion

by Jessica Bumpus on 31 August 2010

Fashion journalist Jessica Bumpus examines homogenised dressing.

Fashion journalist Jessica Bumpus examines homogenised dressing.

A girl dressed in a Breton top and slouchy ‘boyfriend’ jeans; or a ‘trophy’ jacket with cigarette-thin trousers and ‘directional’ shoes; in a ra-ra skirt and T-shirt tucked in, Converse-clad feet and a distressed denim jacket. This, right now, is the ‘fashion’ body – this is what everyone looks like, dresses like, has pieces of in their wardrobes. If you want to look fashionable, this is what you wear – now. It demarcates those who possess the special fashion magic knowledge from those who don’t.

But here’s the thing. It’s not magic – it’s maths. For you needn’t have an interest in fashion to look fashion-able. Such are shops’ offerings now that, in essence, what they provide is the sartorial equivalent of flat-packed style. Said top plus this skirt, multiplied by that jacket and divided by those shoes equals the ‘fashion’ body - i.e. today’s buzz look.

It’s easy, you just pick it up from the rails and pay to be ‘in fashion’, to create your ‘fashion body’. It’s when we deviate that it becomes interesting – that’s when it becomes about style. Because that’s where the difference lies.

The fashion body will now wear the stripes and the kitten heels. The stylish body will now reject them until their fashionability dwindles and it’s safe to bring them back out from the wardrobe.

Yes, a Breton top is a classic but right now it’s having a heyday. It’s more stylish to bring yours out when stripes have slipped into spots, to have seen the promise of kitten heels last year before they took a wander down the catwalk and onto the shelves of everyone from Prada to Marks & Spencer.

‘Characteristic of or influenced by a current popular trend or style’ is the 2002 Concise Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of the word ‘fashionable’. Note the key words here to be ‘current’ and ‘popular’ – the same two buzz words that will work in winning an item floor, shelf or rail space.

The fashion body will now wear the stripes and the kitten heels. The stylish body will now reject them until their fashionability dwindles and it’s safe to bring them back out from the wardrobe.

This autumn, you’ll see a girl in an aviator jacket; a Mad Men cinched-in Fifties frock, kitten heels and a grown-up handbag; a camel coat and some wide-legged trousers - to which you’ll think she’s in fashion. She is. But does she have style?

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