Friday, June 26, 2009


At the laundromat I read the magazines I usually never read. Family Circle, Women’s Home Companion, and maybe some tracts of some kind. This time I found a nice big juicy copy of Vogue and stole it. Even when I had money I stopped buying this magazine when their target demographic went to sixteen year olds. Of course, they do put out a “beauty at any age” issue in the fall for women who are sixty but through the judicious use of surgery, exercise, botox, cosmetics and non-eating somehow manage to look sort of like sixteen-year-olds. In certain lights.

The issue was the famous “Sex and the City” wedding dress layout with the skeletal Sarah Jessica Parker photographed in designer wedding dresses that cost as much as some people’s first house. They are gigantic, extravagant, and more or less white, though the girls in this series which became this movie which prompted this Vogue issue (that’s packaging!) are anything but virgins. Although, there is a lady lawyer who never gets around to sex with her husband. It’s the CITY! A woman’s got to move fast and put in 18 hour days! Beautifully dressed!

The whole movie is just a less witty version of Jane Austen’s novels with the subterfuge that it’s about sex when it’s really about money, status, and “love sweet love.” Austen didn’t have to include the down-to-earth black girl, though she may have smuggled in a few practical aunts and servants. One thing Austen’s girls has in common with this bunch is bosom-centered clothes. In fact, if you know Empire gowns, they sometimes spilled the boobs right on out of the top, not just bulged up by tight corsets. No corsets on gauzy high-waisted Empire gowns. In my estimation Mr. Big doesn’t quite measure up to the best of the Austen men, especially since he has no title. He’s only a contractor of some vague sort.

When I was a kid, the equivalent of this trope was Brenda Starr, top-notch reporter, and her mystery man was a doctor who did mysterious and dangerous research. He gave her black orchids to wear with her flaming and frothing red hair. In those days the girl across the street and I drew paperdolls, very sexy as I look back on it, and clearly a transition between babydolls and the search for a man. It was much simpler to just draw some. All the paperdolls stood with their hands flung out to the sides, their feet together (the men had a wide stance, as was suitable), and a minimum of underwear over their big boobs.

We colored them with pencils after drawing them in ink. My most fabulous number was a Brenda Starr ball gown with a strapless top, an out-of-control black tulle skirt caught up here and there with black orchids and -- ha, ha -- a giant black orchid as a corsage, as big as Sarah Jessica Parker’s giant flower dress in the first scene of the movie. Any Freudian would recognize a vulva symbol. Even I do now, but then I was really into displacement, sublimation, suppression -- whatever worked to get through life. I may have overdone it a little.

I never watched “Sex and the City” on television. The wrong demographic and bad timing. By the time it came around I’d been there and done that, just not in the city. I ran across references to the series here and there but in general I never watch TV anyway. So I ordered it on Netflix. It was a little fluffy. Kinda “the four little kittens have lost their mittens,” except for the conformist who wanted babies. (Isn’t there a message there?) The character who is “like a man” -- meaning a sex addict -- can’t resist an Italian stallion who showers in public. That’s not quite like the liberated Jo March falling for Rozzano Brazzi as Professor Bhaer, but close enough, given that times change. Of course, Alcott wrote a character more like Walt Whitman (older, bearded), which would have been interesting considering the lightweight gay moths flying around the flames in this movie.

What I really liked was the “extra” material on a separate disc, all about the costumer. I’ve read about her before with her leather face, penciled eyebrows and intensely bright crimson hair. She’s got the gift of being outrageous and glamorous at the same time, but she doesn’t design -- she finds. And she has a closet that’s practically a warehouse, though not so elegant as the one Mr. Big builds for his true love in the penthouse that is their sign of true love.

All this was on my mind when I went to Great Falls yesterday where I did not buy a Vogue. But my eye was caught by another mag, which I didn’t buy either, but I did stand and look at it for a while. It’s that outrageous imposter who fools everyone with his pretences, using the illusion that he’s just an innocent foreigner -- maybe a Martian -- to ask insulting and way-too-personal questions, usually cleverly calculated to cause the unwitting stooge to give away his or her prejudices. This time he’s nude on the cover of a man’s magazine, beautifully made up and lit. Since his legs are demurely curled to the side, we cannot see what sort of wax job he has. (The lady lawyer in the movie is stingingly criticized for wearing a bathing suit without proper waxing.) He’s quite appealing. In fact, he looks a whole lot like Sarah Jessica Parker, which was no doubt intended.

SJP, as she is often referred to, for her part bravely discusses the raw courage it took to appear in the movie with NO makeup, though she reports wonderful support and tact from the crew -- in fact, as much as if she had been bodily instead of facially nude. She looks AWFUL. But real.

What struck me down there in the Big Box Store development was the real fashion statement. This is worn by everyone of every age and gender: baggy shorts, camp shirts, ball caps and either big harness leather sandals or big rubber tennies. Everyone looked like students at an English summer school session for four year old boys about 1940. What does it mean for everyone, large and small, to go around looking like Christopher Robin? Is the new demographic four years old? Can Pooh be far behind? More likely Eeyore these days. Sixteen and female. I recommend sublimation.

No comments: