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What Else I Learned from the Women

Go to enough fashion shows, and I’m talking several a day for three or four weeks, and you start to notice the girls. Yeah, you start looking at the clothes, you’re fascinated with the ruching and the knife pleats, the jabots, the inverted leg-of-mutton sleeves, you know, the details and intricacies. But after a while you can’t help but notice that there are humans wearing the stuff. It’s like what Tom Waits said to me once: “After you’ve seen Lawrence of Arabia enough times you just look at the camels.”

Now, this is not the same as it ever was. Time was that if yours truly was attending a fashion show it was, pardon me for sharing, to check the chicks. Sadly, I am now interested in the fashion. Why? I’m not sure. I am telling myself that the girls are not what they used to be, but maybe it’s me that’s not what I used to be. Anyway, there I was sitting in the front row at Calvin Klein, in the middle of the show, when a young friend and colleague asked me, “Which one of these girls is your type?”

Now, for my young friend and colleague I think this was interesting, because to him none of these girls was his type. Girls are not his type. And I think he was surprised when I responded, “None of them.” I mean, straight guys are supposed to dig models, right? Well, for me that was once the case, but somehow I got over it. I did admit that they were mostly way too young to appeal to me. I am not interested in girls, I suppose, mainly because I like women. And today the runway is populated by girls and definitely not by women. When I said “none of them,” I wasn’t exaggerating. “They’re all too young,” I said.

But I know this is not simply a matter of the length of my teeth. There has been a sea change in the nature of females demonstrating potential wardrobe to the public. Back during the days of the true supermodel any red-blooded American hetero of a certain taste level would have coveted a certain percentage of a good runway show. No, I think it is attributable to certain other factors.

Today’s girls tend to the generic. Personality is no longer a desirable characteristic for the designers or those who stage their shows. Once it was desirable for girls like Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Stephanie Seymour, Cindy Crawford, etc. to walk down the runway with personality, imbuing the clothes with a certain je ne sais quoi seal of approval. Today the girls tend to look interchangeable, and it just may be that the designers want to be the stars of their own shows.

Today’s girls tend to be young. Like, really young. They might look like women in six-inch heels with a ton of makeup, but it’s all illusion. The day I was flying from Milan to Paris there were quite a few models on the plane. I felt protective toward them. I mean I sort of felt guilty about feeling that way, but gee whiz, they were talking about school. What if they were my kids? No way I could muster up any lust for this lot, even on a mammalian level.

Which brings up our next point. Mammals. I mean, in a way attraction is supposed to be about survival of the species, no? But in many ways the girls we see on the runway show few characteristics which point to their evolutionary credentials. Such as the mammal thing. A-cups would often be wishful thinking. And I’m not going to get into body-mass index or any of that stuff. I have been approached to sign petitions about the health of the girls and all that, but no petitions are going to change things. We need to create a fashion world that actually promotes survival of the species. And in the service of that noble idea I am proposing that we males, who have at the behest of feminism refrained from such spontaneous public commentary as “va-va-voom!” and “hotcha-cha,” reintroduce the praise of healthy, promising development into our vocabulary.

Or something.

But what’s interesting is that after a few weeks of intense exposure to the runway one begins to develop certain ideas about the camels, I mean models. Let’s review some of today’s leading runway girls and share our thoughts on what they may or may not represent.

What skills need a model possess? Well, she has to be able to walk. You might underrate this skill, but professionals don’t, especially after you’ve seen a half dozen girls fall over a few weeks. The very best walker in fashion is the Russian model Vlada Roslyakova. Unfortunately this photo shows her from the front.


You actually have to see her from the side. Her shoulders are so far back behind her feet you can’t believe she doesn’t fall over backwards. And she doesn’t fall at all, no matter how high the shoes or slick the runway. And her demeanor, well, she could have done that evil queen of Narnia as well as Tilda Swinton.

Beauty isn’t what it used to be in the modeling business, but there are a few beauties allowed out there on the runway. Magdalena Frackowiak is one model who could have made it in previous eras, with her great bones, elegance, and a sort of Eurasian exoticism that screams for a movie casting shot, especially if they decide to remake Taras Bulba or The General Died at Dawn.

Magdalena in Stella McCartney:


While the fashion shows are more lily-white than ever in my memory, certain designers are more representative in terms of casting. Jean-Paul Gaultier has always had an eye for models of all races and he’s no different today. His girls are multi-racial, non-anorexic, and occasionally bootylicious.

Here’s Yasmine Warsame in Gaultier:


And Liu Wen:


It wasn’t all that easy to keep your eyes on the models at the very pretty Giambattista Valli collection, mainly because of the incredibly stunning Natalie Portman sitting in the front row, prettier than a picture, and extraordinarily elegant like Audrey Hepburn come alive. But it was great to see pulchritude permitted with girly dresses and humanistic hair and makeup.

Here’s Alana Kuznetsova in Giambattista Valli:


So don’t count pretty and beautiful out, even though they may seem to be a minority viewpoint. The great classicists know what it’s all about. Giorgio Armani, for example, knows what guys like, including transparency and, um, you know:


Now sometimes the girls grow on you, even if at first they don’t seem to differ much from one to the other. For example Karlie Kloss, a top model who seemed to be in just about every show, and is seen here in the very pretty Gianfranco Ferre collection; she’s someone who makes an impression over time. You don’t know what it is, and then you begin to get an idea. It’s something about her look, but also how it goes with the way she carries herself.


I wound up thinking it’s about the way she carries her head, with her chin down and her eyes looking up. It something about the head. About the head. In other words: It’s a total fucking mystery.

But I have to say that generally I have tohood and happy marriage, but gee guys, I don’t want to do ‘em anymore, I just want to feed ‘em.


This chick Magdalena is a real beauty. Look at the bones of her face. But then look at her legs. Wouldn’t you be afraid of leaving bruises? I just want to buy these girls cheeseburgers.

What should a model look like? Like a direction evolution might favor. How did that song “I Am Woman” go?

Strong…invincible… Here’s my friend Rachel. She’s not a size zero. She was a supermodel in the nineties. She’s an architect now. She got a life.



Another lovely post Glenn. I too am growing weary of this era.

I think you're right that one of the principle reasons we're seeing the very young/very thin era is that the designers want their clothes to be the focus. The model is reduced to walking clothes hanger, and must look the part.

I do however detect a second reason. I believe that designers (consciously or not) are attracted to what we might call the 'sexual potentiality' in these girls. They have the height of adult women, but their sexual characteristics have yet to fully form. The 'budding' woman is more exciting to designers than a static one, because she includes an idea of transformation that they want their clothes to be associated with. Designers have an opportunity to capture this metamorphosis with their own cocoons. Sexual potentiality is privileged over sexuality, with the hope that the clothes take on a potentiality of their own, or convey potentiality itself.

I'm not saying it works, I'm just saying I see it AT work.

Thanks for that post. I absolutely agree. These models are too young, too skinny and yes, they are human beings displaying what society demands. Never mind the outfits. Our society is driven the overall trend towards younger women, women who look like very young teens. This really reflects somewhat the needs and underlying thought currents of what we as society have become. In the late 1940's and 1950's models were much different because society as a whole went through the evils of depression, war etc. so the models were plumper and more mature because we were not. Today the models are young and skinny because we are not. With a depression peaking out over the brim of the horizon it will be interesting to see where the trend will go in the next 20 years.


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