Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine

Fools for Fashion

At a dinner at the French ambassador’s residence for the stunning actress Fanny Ardant, my girlfriends showed up dressed to impress, and they looked, frankly, well-dressed … forWashington. They were fluffed, buffed and doneup in a few dozen varieties of overcooked silk, satin, lace and chiffon. But when Fanny stood before us on the grand staircase with the (nowdeparting) ambassador, she, in a simple, but chic black sweater and skirt, showed us all what it means to dress well. My dear husband whispered, “Can you explain why Washington fashion doesn’t look like that?” To which I responded, “Darling, that would be like trying to explain John McCain’s campaign.” In Washington we wear clothing, but we do not do fashion. Fashion is for frivolous people in Hollywood and New York, not here in the nation’s capital where sober folk do the serious business of waging war and spending the taxpayers’ dollars. For every Robin Givhan story about Washington fashion in The Washington Post, there are four she writes about someplace else. When she does do a D.C. fashion piece it’s usually about a criminal fashion faux pas, like Oscar de la Renta putting the First Lady and three other mere guests in the same dress for the Kennedy Center Honors. The horror. Jacqueline Kennedy brought chic to the White House and for three years in the
we wear clothing, but we do not do
fashion. Fashion is for frivolous people in
Hollywood and New York.

1960’s women here tried to keep pace with her. It was fashion ecstasy. Camelot couture. But, friends, that was half a century ago. Jackie took most of Washington’s chic with her, and what little was left went to the grave with Susan Mary Alsop and Evangeline Bruce. For a while we had International Best Dressed List hall-of-famer Deeda Blair, but she has since moved to New York. But, guess what? I’m here to say it’s okay. Stop trying. It doesn’t matter if you can’t tell a Marc Jacobs from a Michael Kors or a Versace from a Valentino. It’s excusable, too, if you think Proenza Schouler might be a spa in Europe and that Stella McCartney could be Paul’s new wife. You are forgiven. And if you think Earnest Sewn, True Religion and Citizens for Humanity might each be a cult, that’s okay, too. If I told you Kate Moss swears by Erotokritos would you think I was referencing a Chelsea sex club or a stylish frock? Console yourselves. Kate may know lines – fashion or otherwise – but she doesn’t know a line-item veto. To a lot of Washington women, and men, fashion is a mystery, or simply a chore like washing the car or putting out the garbage – the sooner dispensed with the better. But there are some who try. Hillary Clinton seems to want to emerge from that unfortunate fashion rut she fell into with her Senate kit of dark man suits and jewel-colored flared shirts. To her credit, she’ll pop into Ann Hand on the downlow for some girly baubles. When Condi Rice has that vaguely dominatrix thing going on it’s kind of interesting. Nancy Pelosi gavels the House to order, but before filling that daily public role, she privately gets suited by Armani and coiffed at George’s. As for the men, don’t get me started on the populists who mingle with the common man in their ready for Meet the Press $3,500 bespoke suits. To this end, there is a thriving style business just below the surface of the city’s official face – manicurists, hairstylists, make-up artists and, last but not least, a small army of personal shoppers and stylists. Put Georgetown’s Deb Johns and Saks Fifth Avenue’s Lisa Crawford on truth serum, and you’ll get an earful of juicy dish. What they know could spice more than a few columns. But still, the insecurity rules. My friend the blond, bold-faced activist confessed she doesn’t go out before first asking herself, “What would Jackie wear?” The low-rise jeans, halter tops and baby-doll tee’s would end up in the recycle bin, that much is for certain. My advice? Mix it up and have some fun. Goodness, in my closet I have couture as well as H&M. I also have one wardrobe for “everywhere else” and another that is just for Washington, because even silly girls like me want to be taken seriously by pundits, pols and Supreme Court justices.



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