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[whitespace] The New American Revolution

While European designers chase the uniformed dragon of the 1980s, Americans revel in the mismatch

By Katy Bell

Remember when you were a kid? Remember how great it was to dress yourself, to emerge from your bedroom wearing your absolute favorite plaid shirt paired with polka-dotted knickers with some fine shiny Mary Janes? My friend, it's time to think like a juvenile again.

Stand in front of your closet. (Please, I'm trying to help you cultivate a greater sense of hipness by unlocking your inner fashion genius.) Stand still and survey the situation. You should be looking for color and texture. Move it all to one side of the closet. Take all the flat black items and banish them to the back.

Now take a deep breath and quickly, without thinking, choose the strangest, most wrong combination of garments to make an outfit. OK, good. Now put them back and do it again, repeating as many times as it takes to get loose with your fashion clutch. Do it one more time, this time putting on the clothes. Do not consult a mirror, you are above mirrors. Mirrors squelch the fashion spirit like a disapproving parent.

My point is that while European trendsetters seem to very satisfied redoing the American 1970s and '80s, we Americans are advocating some kind of nonsensical, intertextural, just-rolled-out-of-bed look and I, for one, love it. Fashion reports are demanding you mix seasons, deliberately mismatch color and style and otherwise express your premillennial confusion.

For those of you who had anywhere from a few to zero items remaining after the culling of the black, do not despair. Incorporate some colorful costumy pieces into your wardrobe and enhance the boring black. First stop on your list should be a fabric shop with lots of trims and freaky stuff. Think fur, especially, as well as feather boa-type trim. This can be added to the hem of a skirt, or across the top of your favorite shoes. Consider making some unexpected holes or slits in your existing favorites with some careful cutting. Troll the thrift stores for post-Halloween get-ups, or do what I do--never pass up a big garbage bag of clothes on the street in front of your house. I have uncovered many a fashion jewel using this method.

MIX, MIX, MIX. MUST NOT MATCH. Chant these words continually as you plow through your clothes each day. Wear something that sparkles with your fatigues, ruffles with Dickies, whatever you like. If your mother would make you change, then it's perfect .

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From the November 22, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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