Thursday, September 27, 2007

An Ugly Fashion Fable

Once upon a time (4 years ago) a 64 year old farmer’s wife bought a purse that she soon realized was “too high fashion for Nebraska.” So she packed it up and shipped it to the East Coast, where all things high fashion can find a home. Like a hot potato, this bag quickly ended up in my hands with cries of “Isn’t it ugly? It’s so you!” and it was. The 1980’s heavy-metal faux croc styling and absurd zipper tassel were irresistible. And the cost of this bag? Probably little more than what was spent shipping it to its true owner.

Immediately I toted it around my then-hood, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to the disgust of a few close friends who didn’t mince words. “God, that’s an ugly bag.” As I walked down the street its prominent horse-tail tassel swung along behind me, prompting such looks that I began to lose faith. But then hipster girls in coffee shops gasped “Oh, I love your purse!” And female co-workers slyly queried “Nice bag, is that a Falchi?” It was anointed cool.

Years later, after fixing the zipper twice (still broken), contemplating cutting off the horse-tail (treason!), and stowing it away in the back of my closet (“it really is ugly”) only to take it out again (“it’s so cute!”), I was flipping through W magazine and saw an ad for the new Gucci bag. There, attached to its fabulous zipper, was not one but two of the aforementioned unique characteristics that made my bag so special/ugly: the slightly S&M tassel. And then, in a Vogue ad, Bally jumped on the tassel train with a look that was similar even in shape to Ugly Bag. “My God,” I thought, “is Ugly a trendsetter?” Implausible, yes, but could it be true? Had my Nebraska bag been farmed for a trend by fashion spotters endlessly trolling Williamsburg for hipster chic?

Perhaps, but more important is what Ugly Bag teaches us. First, high fashion can be found anywhere, even in Cornhusker territory. Second, high fashion is subjective. What is ugly to one may look chic and fabulous on another. So look closer in your Gaps, Strawberrys, and H&Ms. Seek out the unusual key pieces, a little something from Jack’s or the local jewelry shop that proudly displays gigantic, gold horsehead rings in their window. You might find your “Carrie” necklace or an ugly little something that isn’t really ugly, just “too high fashion” and thus perfect for you. And I’m pretty sure it will cost a lot less than a Gucci bag.


Ellie said...

You've given me courage to pull out my grey wool Annie Klein "pedal pushers" I wore in the 70s with bright purple knee-high leather boots.

The boots are long gone but have always had faith that I could don the pants one day.

I think Santa Cruz, CA is ready for a new fashion statement!