Today I read a fascinating article in NY Mag (that bastion of culture) about normcore. Normcore? You know, the latest trend that has everyone dressing like 24/7 sports fanatics, ignorant tourists, and male adolescents. Throw on a white shirt, whatever jeans are most readily available, and the now-pervasive Adidas sneakers that would have made you vomit like four months ago (that you hid when you had to play indoor soccer). You know, those illustrating the informed person’s response to all the contrived wannabees out there praying they walk down the street Bill Cunningham happens to frequent, Oscar Wilde’s millennial progeny, and those people who obviously can’t have a real job because if they did they would never have enough time to weld themselves together in the morning. Normcore to high fashion: we’re not pretending that haute couture is an effortless when it’s obvious to everyone it’s not (you’re probably wearing a Prada jacket). We don’t need the attention. We also happen to love Phoebe Philo.
I find this all disheartening and rather ironic. Yes, normcore, you are now representing what is really “street style.” When I walk across campus this Winter, I am doing well to see someone who isn’t in knee length boots, jeans and a neutral jacket. Now, I am on a relentless search to find someone who doesn’t look like Nike’s next poster child any given Wednesday. On a similar note, I can appreciate Phoebe Philo like the rest of them and have nothing against comfortable, well-tailored clothing. But as I am constantly reminded that as a future lawyer I will need to confine myself to a neutral palate of revolving suits, I am inwardly disgusted. I also wonder in part if this Philo-esque appeal to homogeneity is a woman version of the grey flannel suit. It’s like if we contrive ourselves, or show individuality we can’t be taken seriously. I may be reading the situation wrong, but I don’t like that outcome. While I agree that clothing doesn’t make the woman (or give her power), I’d prefer AKRIS to Celine because I can have confidence to look like more than the carbon copy of the contents in the next cubicle.
I was talking to an aspiring architect the other day and I asked him why we should care what our buildings look like. He said What we create reflects the pride we take in ourselves as people. While I may not be totally on board with that rationale for buildings, I do think that my fashion sentiments lean in that direction. The whole contrived aspect of high fashion and NY street style does sometimes give me acid reflux. In a sense, I think fashion should feel effortless, because it is. Some people will still feel contrived because our imaginations are fearsome and wonderful factories of ingenuity. So yes, for those of you with no imagination or cares, normcore is probably just your style. But for those painstakingly attempting to look normal (and at such high prices?!?), you are nothing more than a troll.
We’re not all Isabella Blow or the Marchesa, Luisa de Casati, but we love them nonetheless because they were who they were. Yes, if they dressed normal it would be a fashion statement in itself, but I think everyone would be decidedly underwhelmed, not to mention bored. If the contrived aspects of fashion are being overdone, yes, there is no reason not to retreat to a more minimalistic approach, but normcore seems less like a creation and more like a bedraggled critique.
After G. K. Chesterton published Heretics, the Catholic church told him (basically): “Great. You’ve told us what’s wrong with the Catholic Church. So does everyone. It’s a lot harder to actually fix the problems.” In response, Chesterton published Orthodoxy, which laid out his solutions to the issues he originally championed. You can take that as moralistic, or just recognize that ol’ G. K. was a BAMF (for more see here). So in efforts to practice what I preach, I must admit that my latest ensemble (in preparation for The Grand Budapest Hotel) was nowhere in the vicinity of normcore. And like that noble edifice, probably far too decadent to survive in modern times.
But just in case… I’ve made a polyvore collection of the crux of what I was wearing.
But I have to admit it wasn’t all my imagination. I may have channeled someone….
I’ve included a younger rendition of her costume. But then again, if you like the original, who can argue with FENDI fur?