In the 1970s, the New Yorker’s fashion critic, Kennedy Fraser, wrote about clothes nearly every week. Yes, she reported on the collections. And industry personalities. But she also wrote about fashion’s role in the greater culture, whether discussing hemline lengths or blue jeans. In a New York Times review of A Fashionable Mind, Fraser’s collection of those essays published in 1981, writer Maureen Howard puts it pretty succinctly: “The book is about clothes – the wearing, buying, making, selling, discarding of clothes – and so, of course, it is about us and our society.”
Fraser is undoubtedly a rare writer: one who has the ability to take an arguably shallow topic and give it the kind of depth even a serious New Yorker reader could appreciate. But lately, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the fashion critic in general, and how that role has changed, and sometimes disappeared altogether—for no good reason.