Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's a question of interpretation

Fashion, like law, is all about interpretation. Not many people have actually read the Constitution in its entirety (unfortunately, thanks to an entire year of Constitutional law class, I can nearly recite it). But I promise you that the words "right to privacy" are no where to be found. Yet this is one of most often cited constitutional protections (next freedom of speech). Judges have poured over every fine printed word of the Constitution and found rights through implication, interpretation, and precedent.

Legal study lends itself to style. The looks that trot down the runway each season can hardly be taken literally for most women. Take Houndstooth. Alexander McQueen is famous for outrageous silhouettes and artistic pieces, but taken literally, this fall '09 look doesn't quite work for a career woman. Modify the jacket, add solid tights, reduce the size of the pattern, and you have a modern but realistic interpretation of this trend. Prada's focus was more wearable. The House's 40's style suits and ladylike ensembles are a reminder of Prada's ability to dress many women (who, unlike me, can afford it). But again, the portrait collar suit jacket needs to be interpreted for the average woman. After gaining notoriety for dressing Michelle Obama for the inaugural ball, Jason Wu's fall collection has received more press than any of his prior compilations. Wu's looks have broad appeal, but still require individual interpretation to feel approachable.

If the Justices of the Supreme Court interpret the Constitution for us, who can we look to for interpretations of style? Many brands themselves take on this task and you need only shop the shelves along Madison Avenue to find accessible translations of the runway's big looks. I love the way the design team at J.Crew takes trends from the runways and works them into very wearable styles that can be plucked off the rack and donned at dinner the very same evening. Equally successful is the woman with a few new accessories and a good tailor. Like those wide leg trousers, but wish they were just not quite so wide leg? Bring them to your tailor, ask her to pinch in the leg seam slightly, being careful not to change the proportion of thigh to leg opening. Love that big, loose, grandpa cardigan in every store window, but don't want to look like an amorphous piece of ripe fruit? Throw on a belt for shape. (Again, my Mother will be thrilled). Whether you're researching a legal brief for your boss or trying to chose an outfit for the first day of school, keep in mind: it's all in the interpretation.

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