After a Fashion

Life is cruel, but it doesn't have to be unattractive.

READERS WRITE I received this heartrending letter that I felt compelled to share with you:

Dear Style Avatar, Airport experiences have been very distressing for me lately. Please address these questions in your entertainingly authoritative column: 1) Why don't people make an effort to dress nicely for travel anymore? And 2) Is it ever acceptable to wear "stirrup-pants" with high heels (or for that matter, at all)? I anxiously await your arbitration on these issues. Thank you - K. Red

Dearest K., Of the absolute heaps of mail this column receives (threats, mainly, along with a few crude Polaroid photos), your letter pathetically begged for attention. First, the Style Avatar must commend you for your sensitive and probing questions regarding these explosive issues. Your bravery in daring to explore these murky waters is beyond reproach. Naturally, your first question conjures up the much larger (and uglier) issue of why people don't make an effort to dress nicely period. But for the sake of brevity, we'll address the travel aspect. The Style Avatar yearns for a time when travel was a romantic, high-style event in which the actual transportation itself was part of the experience, a time when getting there was part of the fun. Once upon a time, life was more gracious and travel was a glamorous affair -- think of the Orient Express and the great ocean liners. Or, better yet, the early coast-to-coast plane trips that took a couple days. Imagine having a berth on a plane. And a traveling suit. And of course, you could smoke everywhere, and stewardesses looked like stewardesses. Why don't stewardesses want to look like that anymore? You know, the little peaked hats and smartly tailored outfits? They always looked so efficient and chic, with seamed nylons and severely done hair. It goes without saying that having a stewardess who looks like she's in the Air Force inspires more respect than one that looks like a dental assistant. Not that it's the stewardesses fault. Uniforms, in general, have gone to hell-in-a-handbasket over the last few decades - a sure sign of cultural and moral decay. Think of nurses in old movies; their uniforms told you they were efficient and dependable because they were white and crisply starched, and again, there was the ubiquitous peaked hat and seamed hose. Maybe it's the peaked hat we miss so much, and need so desperately now. I know... how about if all of us who are on a mission to restore a "fashion order" to our desolate planet were to wear little peaked hats so we look more efficient and authoritative? Then, not only are we increasing our own visibility, and making people listen to our urgent message of color-theory and proportion, but we'll all be able to recognize each other on busy streets and at charity luncheons and things like that. And then there's the seamed hose....

Oh, dear. I've digressed again, haven't I? A thousand apologies, but you can see what a loaded question K. asked. Anyway, the only clear-cut explanation for the general trend towards unattractive travelwear is that most people just don't care how they look anymore. Or, worse yet, they think they do, but all sense of style goes out the window because they'll all tell you "I must be comfortable." That is the saddest phrase in the English language, or any other language. That, the ugliest of all phrases, is responsible for such carnage as tennis shoes worn with business suits, jogging suits as eveningwear, and shorts at job interviews. But, why, why does "comfort" have to mean "ugly?" Besides, don't you want to make a good impression and look your best when you arrive at your destination? Life is cruel, but it doesn't have to be unattractive.

As for question 2, stirrup pants are only appropriate for costume purposes. They should hold no place in anyone's personal wardrobe. The Style Avatar hopes that you're not asking because you own some. If you do, my only response is to paraphrase the mother in Carrie, and say, "Take them off, we'll burn them together and pray for forgiveness."

THE DIRT I already told you that the Calvin Klein Company is up for sale. With a steep one billion dollar price tag, there are few with deep enough pockets to afford it. The leading contender? Don't be surprised if we announce that Calvin's being bought by none other than Tommy Hilfiger. Tommy's always wanted to be Calvin, anyway.

Write to our Style Avatar with your related events, news, and hautey bits: style@auschron.com or PO Box 49066, Austin, 78765 or 458-6910 (fax).

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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