Fashion Back in Context

What happens when the irony is stripped away?


The concept of cable knits and duck boots did not suddenly appear in my mind as if by divine intervention. It worked its way into my urban wardrobe after I decided that my long-romanticized concept of ivy covered prep schools and coastal New England had a place — albeit an ironic one — in Manhattan.

It’s just that when The Row and Marc Jacobs later confirmed this with thick cable knits in their Fall 2013 collections, I think I forgot where the initial inspiration came from.

One thing I used to like about returning to college after being in Manhattan was noticing my new style cues against the crowd standard. I remember feeling pride when anyone remarked, “What’s with all the black?” Or when an old friend texted to tell me that I “looked like I worked in fashion.”

I loved, more than anything, when my west coast friends said it was obvious that I’d been living in New York.

This hunger for style validation waned over the years, especially once working in fashion lost its novelty and became a job. This is probably also when I stopped trying so hard to “look like” anything just wore what I wanted (i.e., cable knits, oxford shirts and that which causes friends to ask whether I was just at a barn). But the feeling, that hunger came back again on a recent train ride to visit my mom in Rhode Island.

I’d suddenly become very aware of the fact that I was wearing leather pants and black, thick heel ankle boots. I wore flannel, denim, and yes, a cable knit to top it off. But The Row and Marc Jacobs made it cool — remember? I wondered what these Rhode Islanders thought of me — a leather-wearing urban rebel whose monogramed initial “D” surely stood for DANGER. I felt excited.

But when I stepped off the train and saw my mom, she was basically wearing the same thing. So was the family of four throwing luggage into the wood-paneled hatchback, and then later, too, a set of true sail-boating fishermen. That they all were wearing jeans or khakis instead of leather pants was beside the point because everything else, from the white turtlenecks and Norwegian knits, to their fleece-lined duck boots, was exactly what I’d been replicating back in the city.

Only the irony was completely lost and the joke — if there was one — was on me.

These items I was wearing were suddenly put back into their context, and I was disoriented. I didn’t harp much; there are worse things than wearing the same outfit as your boat-building neighbor named Bob, but it forced me to reflect on style and trends both in and out of their intended environments.

Take the recent resurgence of equestrian wear as a trend. It’s getting a lot of playtime in fashion thanks to 2014 being the year of the horse (can I get an AMEN?), but wear a pair of Gucci tall boots and a Zara blazer, then stand next to an intercollegiate riding team, and you’ve just dressed yourself as one more mounted member.

Pajamas. Remember when everyone wore pajamas to fashion week? Me too because that was the most comfortable time in history, though if you were to add slippers you’d simply look jet-lagged.

This is also, however, the best part about fashion: its ability to take inspiration and style from just about anywhere, even the nuances of daily life. Then it’s up to us to interpret, reinvent, and interject irony as we see fit without going full on literal Irish fisherman.

When the trip to see my mom ended and it was time to leave the cable knit’s natural environment, I brought some things from Rhode Island that I’m sure, when mixed with the right amount of irony, will look really, really great in Manhattan.

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  • This is hilarious, I’m glad I didn’t cave in to the pyjama trend. Mind you, you can still wear them to sleep! Cable knits and duck boots will be harder to recycle!

    Mafalda ❤

    • The Provoker

      Same here, I knew it was going to not really be picked up, and great job on this, it’s true, once they’re put back in their places, it’s hilarious and not at all trendy any more, almost a bit embarassing o_O I also especially like how you wrote about a hunger to style validation, I too suffer from that case, anyone else? Come on, fess up.

  • Rebecca

    Hear, hear…take the ordinary & style it into extraordinary.

  • a.n.a.l.u

    Amelia I love your writing! We should think in the circumstances we are going to wear the trends and avoid the similarities, especially because it´s akward and looks like a joke for those who doesn´t read WWD every day.


  • Kayla Seah

    Nothing wrong with cable knits and Oxford shirts! Love the way you captured the essence of trends vs. originality.

    xx Kayla

  • CarlotaLMorais

    Made me think! You are very right, seams like we always try to achieve that very specific cool look we saw somewhere!
    Liked this very much 🙂

  • CDJ

    I bet Jay, B, and baby blue feel the same way when they stroll through a construction site in their timbs. let’s just not forget who wore it first….. (me)

  • Christina Ooi

    Such a good post… and it’s so true. Sometimes I just wear things I’d wear for weird events and it looks ‘in’ but the reality is it’s all just context.

  • Annie

    This is one of my favorite posts/collection of pics to ever be featured on this site. Proper respect.

  • Kiri Yanchenko

    But this is sort of the best part about fashion — its ability to take inspiration and style cues from just about anything, even the nuances of daily life. Then it’s up to us to interpret, reinvent, and interject irony as we see fit without going full on literal Irish fisherman. HERE HERE.

    I love that you state what I have been thinking – I get off the train and I am dressed the same as my mum. Yes we start dressing similar. I have always thought that I would try and dress different. Yes I would borrow items from the fashion elite and style them differently. BUT I think I may just evolve to look the same eventually. And if I want to fit in at fashion week when I get there that’s ok right….??


  • Luisa Santana

    Leandra, you have an inner prep that is so obvious.

    • Quinn Halman

      Amelia wrote this (amazing) piece!

      • Luisa Santana

        Right! haha I’m sorry.

  • Amelia, did you or any affiliated parties ever belong to the St. Francis Yacht Club? Cable knits a la East Coast , seem to keep their West Coast Ambassadors housed in those buildings and boats. As are double-breasted , brass button blazers.

    • Amelia Diamond

      No but next time I’m there I’ll sneak in and try to steal a club belt or something!

      • Ha! I could so see you on a boat, in the Bay. And yes, them belts are so preppy/tacky/wonderful.

  • Ruth

    And to think that I just threw out my Sporto duck boots (30+ years old with a crack–fixed with duck/duct tape–in the rubber). Sad, sad…still miss those boots. They were, however, never ironic. (hm) Except, ironically, those boots were older than, perhaps, all of you girls! :)..ah, long live the Duck boots, with or without irony.

  • Katharina

    Oh no, I missed the PJs thing!! Though a friend of mine once wore one to school. That was still back in the 90ies. Guess she was a trendsetter. 🙂

    Katharina // Katinka

  • Maryse

    J’adore !! 🙂

  • shardashome

    Nice Collection!!!!


    check some Indian Collection

  • A very interesting topic and damn well written about 🙂

    Coincidentally, I got my brand new Yoncé package (CD + DVD) short time after reading this. In case you didn’t: it comes in a black jacket that happens to be pussy pink on the inside. Now … any idea how I could switch that package from ironic to non-ironic context and back? Because my fingers are simply itching to play with that … Love it!

  • When you teach a bunch of college students who already wear pajamas to school (and not in a high fashion kind of way), it’s hard to jump on the trend and feel like a grown up.

    I did, however, fall head first into cable-knit sweaters. Not because they were trendy, but because it’s cold as shit here and they keep me warm. That, and I look really good in off white. 🙂

  • DiscoFashionArt Blog

    Love the graphics on this post – very clever

  • Anne

    You have to get to the L.L.Bean flagship in Freeport. It’s surreal. Duck boots sprouting like weeds. Actually, just did a review of the mammoth store on my blog:


  • anna louise

    Are you really trying to be ironic, or are you just embracing a style that is cute, comfortable and easy and overthinking it? Related: is it really ironic if you are trying to be ironic? Or is it doubly ironic (ironic that you are trying to be ironic when it’s just fun.) Just wondering!

  • Great post!! Fashion keeps reinventing in the minds of such a talented people like you, Amelia.
    In India, we have the sarees which are back with the new designs and a new way of wearing. The prints and works are reinvented from the history.

  • Silvia Saunders

    when does ironic stop being ironic…?

  • I’m sure it will look fabulous wherever you’re wearing it. Plus the fact that you’re wearing leather pants. Can’t go wrong there. 😀 I’m imagining the outfit and I think I need it too. Thanks!

  • Nice post.
    Pajamas used to be fashion statement once.
    They are only good in bed.
    However, cable knit sweaters are really need of time (cold).

  • This is amazing! So well edited. the costume/uniform trend is certainly prominent this season.

  • Nancy

    Is it just me or do these preppy knits look obscene with big boobs? I’m not the one to say ‘this makes me look fat’ but when and if I wear these guys, I make sure I’m double sport-bra-ed.