Magazine

Real Israel: An anti-fashion statement

The trend to comment in public on what other people are wearing is boring the pants off me.

Susannah Constantine (left) and Trinny Woodall
Photo by: Reuters
I am a generally law-abiding citizen – I pay for my TV license, wait for the right signal to cross the road, give my dog rabies shots on time, and pay taxes. Yet lately I have been increasingly scared that I’m about to be shot on the street by the police – that’s the fashion police, armed with Instagram and a very definite sense of purpose.

The fear has been building up over the years. I think the first sign of the “reality” trend was the media columns devoted to catching celebrities and virtually undressing them, or at least giving them a dressing down: This one is captured in a skirt too long; that one, in trousers that are too short and wearing shoes that match each other but not the outfit.

The fashion statements, often accompanied by some kind of icon like a Smiley or a Bibi-style bomb illustration, are meant to be funny, but sarcasm, as we know, is the lowest form of wit, and in these fashion columns it often gets so low it hits below the belt (which is either too broad, too narrow, or completely unnecessary).

Why am I getting so hot under the collar about it (or even wondering whether I should be wearing something with a collar or a plunging neckline)? Because it’s no longer confined to the rich and famous or rich-and-famous wannabes.

Recently several Facebook friends have taken to airing the dirty laundry of (im)perfect strangers in public.

The self-styled arbiters of good taste have become the petty dictators of the dictates of fashion – ignoring the fact that wherever there’s a woman who thinks she’s dressed to kill, there’s another who wouldn’t be seen dead in the same style.

When the first few acquaintances captured passersby wearing something that was apparently either out of fashion or out of season – I couldn’t always tell which and I couldn’t really tell why I should care – I didn’t rain on their fashion parade and let them get away with the snide comments.

But while I was skirting around the issue, more and more Facebook friends were ahemming and ahawing at the length of skirts or making off-the-cuff remarks about the size and style of sleeves.

I often felt like shouting, “The emperor has no clothes,” but I didn’t come apart at the seams until I saw a photo that showed two young girls – the younger of whom, according to the discerning observer, was desperately “in need of a stylist.”

Even someone as fashion-unconscious as I am could figure out that the toddler was dressed in a style that could better be described as “vague” than Vogue – as I recall, she had a striped top with a skirt of completely clashing design and colors. Some of the comments on the thread hinted that she must be ultra-Orthodox because she was wearing long sleeves and shoes and socks in the heat of summer.

My first thought – which I posted – was, “What would a secular family say were an ultra-Orthodox man to comment on the inappropriate dress of a two-year-old girl?” Actually that wasn’t my first thought. My initial response was: I don’t know anything about this girl, her family, or the circumstances in which this photo was taken, so I why should I worry about what she’s wearing? She was a toddler: Perhaps she’d insisted on these particular clothes in that “terrible twos threatening a tantrum” way, or maybe she’d spilled food or drink on what she was originally wearing and been changed into whatever came to hand. She was dressed for a day out with her family, not a fashion show.

I KNOW this is an unfashionable statement for a modern, Western woman, but I admit I hate clothes shopping. Even worse: I particularly hate having to shop for shoes. My idea of the best way to buy footwear is to pop into a small local, family-run store (thus helping protect an endangered species), announcing which color I need and whether it’s for summer or winter, and letting the vendor do the rest. On a good day, I’m in and out of the shop in 15 minutes, and that includes the time spent discussing current affairs, which happens to interest me more than the latest fashion trends.

I appreciate, of course, the psychological benefits of looking good – although I believe the physical and mental benefits of feeling comfortable override them.

Still, my fear of being ambushed was heightened as I happened across the recent rerun of Trinny and Susannah’s first visit to Israel. Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine, for the unfashionably uninitiated, are two British journalists who have turned styling and makeovers into a lucrative, TVoriented art form with programs like the BBC’s What Not to Wear and ITV’s Trinny & Susannah Undress....

Last year, they hit the Israeli streets and markets; they can currently be seen as amateur psychologists in Trinny & Susannah Feeling at Home, which takes them off the streets and into Israeli houses.

Their format is simple, but of course, they have a certain style, and the fact that they are radically different in looks and personality – not cut from the same cloth at all – adds to their clout.

They first identify a person who, in their opinion, is in dire need of a new look (and often a new life). Then they open up a whole world of possibilities by coming up with new attire and style followed by a brief walk down a catwalk while admiring friends and family gasp at the sudden, dramatic change.

Such programs have their voyeuristic charm (and for male viewers, usually either Trinny or Susannah drops almost everything, as it were, and strips down to her underwear to boost the morale of a subject who hates her body, cleverly boosting their ratings figures at the same time).

The naked truth makes for good television, but I don’t think it adequately addresses the real problems.

I wonder what happens to the Prince/Princess for a Day when the fairy godmothers have to leave them. The style tips might be valid long after midnight, but what about their budget? And given the Israeli predilection for TV reruns, how will these same people feel when we continue to see them (warts, flabby thighs, family feuds and all) for years to come? I wish the trend of dispensing fashion advice by ripping people and their clothes apart would go out of style.

Avoiding the fashion cops is very wearing.

liat@jpost.com


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