Yesterday, Cathy Horyn wrote on her blog, "What is alarming is that fashion is such an oligarchy today — yes, more than in the past, despite the rise of independent magazines, blogs, and small hardy labels." I admit I looked up oligarchy, which is a republic ruled by a very small elite. Once I knew what it meant, I felt her idea was something that was both so true and so false that it needs more discussion (and, apparently, my dictionary). On the one hand, it's an unfortunate fact that much of fashion is now manufactured and assembled like swing sets from Sears. Watching The Today Show and their constant barrage of "style rules" feels a little like learning third grade multiplication tables, with better florals. The Hollywood red carpets are similar, except the guidelines include a love of soy substitutes, a nod to Marchesa, and a boyfriend who's friends with Ashton Kutcher. Meanwhile, Cathy often illuminates the influence of Vogue, as it extends beyond its pages and into American boardrooms and homes with unprecedented - almost laser like - force. A good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you view it, but most certainly in keeping with the oligarchy theory. And yet... Fashion can't really go from Vogue or Rockefeller Plaza, or the Chanel boutique or Old Navy or the thrift store, until you decide to buy something, to pull something on, and to wear it outside. So in a strange way, fashion is also one of the most democratic mediums we have, because ultimately, its very existence is decided by the masses. Financial issues cut into that idea substantially, though carrying a Chanel bag doesn't necessarily elevate your level of fashion, just your status within certain circles. One could also argue that until a magazine highlights a certain aesthetic, large groups of people won't embrace it. Okay, but a lot of today's best trends came from the streets first - jeans as appropriate cocktail wear, sneakers to prom, even the needlepoint on this year's Chanel runway and (yes) the keffiyeh scarf at Balenciaga and Dior Homme... We'll say much more about this in the future, but for now, it's your turn.
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