The Good Eye
New Year's style resolutions
At the dawn of a new year, one is inclined to be optimistic about all things, style included. Yet the fashion forecast for 2014 is decidedly mixed, a hodgepodge of the conservative and the outré, perhaps due to an economic recovery so tinged with end-times atmospherics that it feels more like the Hunger Games than the New Deal. Strange bedfellows abound: cashmere sweatpants with spike heels, envelope skorts poking out like Risky Business shirttails from oversize blazers, blinged-out cartoon novelty prints, and, above all, the return of the classic Chanel bag, with its soft quilting and glinting chain – our nostalgia for decadent, cold-hearted Eighties chic seems all tangled up with our childish longing for breakfast cereal and Saturday morning cartoons.
Last time I checked, there were no vomitoriums in our Capitol. (Although some of us present for the passage of HB 2 could've used one.) So, for my first column of 2014, here are some of my resolutions for putting an Austin-y spin on the coming year's high-fashion trends.
Resolution No. 1: Shop locally.
Sure, the after-Christmas sales at Anthropologie and JCrew.com are tempting, but when you shop Austin, you shop unique. In 2013, I scored a black leather miniskirt at the Citywide Garage Sale, found a vintage Dooney & Bourke bag for my camera at Austin Antique Mall, nabbed gently used J Brand jeans at HEM Jeans, and learned what a floor-dusting knit vest can do for my wardrobe from Big Bertha's Bargain Basement owner and stylist extraordinaire Henry Tarin. With all the vintage leather I've bought on the cheap in Austin, I'm starting to look like a sofa in a De Palma movie. Which is to say: bitchin'.
Resolution No. 2: Knit recreationally.
I'm not a fan of compulsory crafting, but this year's high-end sweaters, featuring elaborate patterns from Fair Isle to Bart Simpson to full-on Cosby, have inspired me to pick up my needles again, this time for fashion. Locally, knitting classes are offered at Gauge Knits, European Knits, Hill Country Weavers, and the Knitting Nest, and you can download a pattern for an awesome vintage Seventies Superman sweater for a couple of bucks. Too much of a pain? Crocheting is easier, and more practical for springtime in Texas anyway. Start now and you can knock out a halter top or a knitted bow tie in time for SXSW.
Resolution No. 3: Retire exclusionary or derogatory fashion terms – starting with "mom jeans."
I adore Tina Fey, but after a decade, it's time to put this whole concept to bed. First of all, high-waisted jeans have, like everything from the Eighties and Nineties, become just another item on the fashion menu. But more to the point, the term is typical of exclusionary fashion terms that shame people – usually women – based on age, gender, class, lifestyle, and body type. Terms like "mom jeans" not only throw shade at women who can't afford or aren't comfortable in this year's designer trend, they also fail to recognize an essential truth: Context is everything, and style is everywhere, if you keep an open mind. The caftans my aunt wore around the house in the early Eighties, my grandmother's muumuu, and yes, my mom's jeans – they're all selling like hotcakes on Etsy. Today's mom is tomorrow's fashion inspiration.
Resolution No. 4: Set the menfolk free.
In a casual town like Austin, it's easy to get frustrated with men for not putting a lot of effort into their duds, but culturally speaking, everyone's to blame. We could all stand to take a page out of Buzz Bissinger's book – no, not Friday Night Lights, although it is his most famous work – and encourage men to splash out a bit more. The author and Texas football enthusiast recently announced in GQ that not only is he a fashion addict, but he does not discriminate between women's and men's clothes; he wears whatever looks awesome, and if it's made by Diane von Fürstenberg, so much the better. When we circumscribe men's clothing options based on gender, we are severely limiting our eye candy – and while eye apples and eye kale chips are great, everybody needs a little sugar.
Resolution No. 5: Do away with "taste."
Taste is the enemy of style. Teenagers care nothing about it, which is why they're usually at the forefront of fashion, even if you factor out their relative youth and tautness. Fashion favors the brave, so in 2014, let's resolve to be fearless. I'll wear my leather skirt if you wear your velvet jumpsuit.