PRINT December 1994



The worst fashion trend of ’94 was Anna Nicole Smith’s ascension as Seventh Avenue’s preeminent physical symbol, in apparent response to the worst fashion trend of ’93, Kate Moss’ hungry-looking waif skeleton. This was a case of replacing one tasteless stereotype (undernourished human coat-hanger) with another (big-busted vavoomy tart). Either way, women were made to feel inadequate. And suddenly the WonderBra became popular in accordance with this new urge toward full-figuredness, and the pressure was on Vogue readers to wipe away decades of feminism and go back to being Jayne Mansfield.

Fleshed Out
But then the worst fashion trend of ’94 gave way to the best fashion trend of ’94, when Smith let herself go and became as uncontoured and flaccid as every other piece of trailer trash, whether real or imagined, in this great country. This was truly beautiful, and when Smith was depicted on the cover of New York magazine with a bag of Cheez Doodles between her capacious legs—even though she says she was tricked to do so—it represented the glorious reality that women weren’t being dictated to anymore by unrealistic clichés.

Michael Musto’s column “La Dolce Musto” appears in The Village Voice. He contributes regularly to Vanity Fair and is a contributing editor of Spin.


Cutting Edge
The woman fashion gave us in 1994 has been remodeled according to J. G. Ballard’s prescription: “Fashion,” he says, “is the recognition that nature has endowed us with one skin too few, that a fully sentient being should wear its nervous system externally.” Now fashion has become a substitute for surgery. With its rubber gloves on, it has nipped and tucked the woman, its corsetry and boning causing a sharp intake of breath (ough . . . you won’t feel a thing), an impossible waist, and an oh-so-swollen chest. Fashion has padded her hips and exposed her wrists, reshaped her shoulders and molded her feet (arched and immobilized by the height of her heels). Her breathing is erratic in its tailoring’s tight-fitting suck, her skirts are slashed, ready to fuck. Fashion’s full treatment of her offers lacquered nails, blown hair, shiny skin, and bruised lips. Her brain is awash with monochrome stars. In fashion’s new fabrics hewn from space, she is deftly sewn into her new bodily shape, which is architectural, forming a new silhouette. From the table she rises to confront the male gaze. She is thrilled to say goodbye to feminist pretenders whose baggy clothes match their ideals; all that now coordinates are her bag and those heels. She proudly stands nipped, tucked, sucked in, and fucked out.

Sharp Disadvantage
You know she’ll have to go under the scalpel again next year.

Camilla Nickerson is fashion editor of Vogue.


You knew the unstructured and deconstructed bubble had to burst. When an unconstructed look is readily available at the Gap and Banana Republic, what is high-end fashion to do but emphasize its distinction in fit, whether the nuova forma of Giorgio Armani menswear, the ’40s looks of Gaultier and Galliano, or the corseting of Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, virtuoso achievements of high-end fashion that call on the tailor’s capabilities. This is to vindicate neither any cyclical theory of fashion nor a conspiracy theory, but to note that fashion, as an art of consumer fulfillment, proceeds not just by avant-gardism but by design needs. A bulging baroque is logically counteracted by the satisfactions of structure.

A drift to sameness in clothing, models, and styles in fashion journalism is dulling the potential pleasure and audience for fashion. To look at one fashion publication is to see them all. Where is point of view? Where is selection and discrimination? Where is acknowledgment of women’s (and men’s) complexity? Where is the reality of modern dress amid images that look at best Photo-Secession and at worst ineptly out of focus? Through the range of media depicting and reporting on fashion, style seems to be presented more monolithically than ever, all photographers and magazines sharing the model of the moment and converging not merely on the same designers but on the same garments. A pragmatic, pluralistic (the first quality engendered by national sentiment and reified by recession, the second an ideal in democracy and a reality for a heterogeneous population) society requires something more than a party line promoted by a coterie of photographers, editors, and stylists (pace Robert Altman) who wear basic black but advocate extremism. The result, of course, is the visual banality of the contemporary fashion image as well as its failure to stimulate our everlatent interest in fashion.

Richard Martin is curator of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


Udder Glory
Among the more propitious trends was the return of glamour, especially “distressed” glamour, minus the status anxiety of ’80s-based dress-up. The democracy of grunge seemed to leave a healing legacy: even fashion-industry darlings felt OK about mixing expensive stuff with thrift-store purchases. Mixing in general is applauded—fancy with casual, real with fake: in fashion, as in everything, the hybrid is the future. Also, after the recent fixation on protowoman prepubes, the “return” of boobs delighteth and relieveth me. Instead of closeting the primal mammalian power of the boob and feminine flesh as “problematic” forces to be reined in or dieted away, while the best-selling “WonderBra” represents yet another “technologization of the feminine,” if we see the celebration of curves as an option rather than a compulsion we may be getting somewhere.

Calvin Crime
Among so many “worst” style moments to choose from, one we are bound to look back upon with utter disbelief is the widespread practice of displaying the waistband of one’s undershorts peeking out over one’s pants as a spontaneous walking advertisement for Calvin Klein. Is this just a more obvious case of the usually subliminal identification of underwear consumers with the buff pinups in Calvin Klein ads on buses, the print media, and TV? Or is it a kind of sublimated self-infantilization, its diaperlike effect alluding to the appealing self-absorbed narcissism of the baby? Whatever, it sure is tacky.

Another style moment that delighteth me not is the chronic “baby-doll” look announced afresh in the fashion press every season. Yuck. Short Empire-waist dresses, puffy sleeves, Mary Jane (en français “baby”) shoes, baby barrettes on people over the age of 12: consistently these are the styles that most seriously challenge even Christy Turlington’s ability to look fab in anything. Seeing Turlington model Anna Sui’s recurrent baby-doll garb, her elegant lines intercepted foolishly by bands of fluff and puff signifying fun, made me think (for like ten seconds) she really deserved her megapayment for that day. Self-infantilization fashion—oversized, pants-falling-down ensembles for both boys and girls, a kind of never-never land cult of kids not big enough for their britches—is getting as tedious as a depressed teen.