Is Getting Street Style Photographed Considered Fashion Week “Basic?”

Amy Odell asks the hard hitting questions

09.10.15

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Getting dressed for fashion week fills me with dread.

Truthfully, getting dressed for anything fills me with dread. Except getting dressed for bed, where I wear a faded t-shirt I got for free at a perfume launch party four years ago.

Here’s the problem with fashion week: if you go dressed in a normal outfit, like this show is any old gluten-free Noho brunch date, you’ll end up walking past street style photographers in silent embarrassment as they stare at you and decide you’re not worth photographing — before freaking out over the way more fabulous outfit behind you. (Note: this rule does not seem to hold for the French, who can seemingly arrive at shows in a free t-shirt from some perfume launch four years ago, with a Givenchy bag slung over their arm, and, in a whirlwind of epic chicness, cause everyone lose their g-d minds.)

Conversely, if you go dressed in outlandish, recognizable designer things — because, after all, if you can’t wear the Zoolander-y part of your wardrobe to a fashion show, where else can you wear it? — you’ll be swarmed by street style photographers but derided by your peers, who think posing for photos is a desperate bid for attention. Meanwhile, the industry and those who follow it have no problem showering adoration on celebrities who show up to red carpets wearing something no one but them would wear for the very purpose of getting photographed.

Clothes are supposed to make us feel confident. At fashion week, they often make us feel anything but. With the onslaught of street style photographers, the shows have become a game of sizing one another up, judging who is trying too hard, who isn’t trying hard enough, and who just looks straight-up confused. It’s turned fashion week into a petri dish of newly bred insecurities.

Are we dressing for ourselves or the photographers? Once, when I was a staff writer for The Cut, I undertook an experiment to see if I could get shot by street style photographers. (You can read the extended version of this ridiculous story in my book, Tales From the Back Row.) Stella Bugbee, the Cut’s current editorial director, recently reminded me that even though I pitched this idea, when my editor assigned me to the story, I became embarrassed. I refused to do it until she convinced me that it would be worth doing.

But she was right — the experiment worked. I got photographed. All it took were some Miu Miu shoes, a Chanel bag and shamelessness. I learned that walking into a show feels better when a dozen photographers don’t treat you like a walking tampon.

People shun street style now because it’s become “basic.” The idea of being basic – thinking your taste makes you unique or quirky in some way when in fact your taste also defines just about everyone else – goes against the notion of fashion. When we think fashion, we think either effortless Parisian woman with perfect front-tucked blouse or runway looks that are objectively ugly but also positively BRILLIANT because they’re clothes that you’ve never seen before. Basic is putting on something you think is unique, showing up to fashion week and then realizing everyone around you also looks like a walking circus tent.

But, so what? I love the movie Clueless, mocha Frappuccinos and comfortable pants. You’ll frequently find me with a hair elastic around my wrist. If I owned a fascinator, I would definitely wear it to fashion week because the reality of my life is that I’m not going to the races with Kate Middleton any time soon. I’m basic. That’s just who I am. You can’t wear chiffon shirts with trainers or avant-garde sweatpants or other conceptual clothes to brunch because it’s unrealistic, and besides, those clothes just don’t fit on the tiny metal stools in every #cool restaurant now. Fashion week is their home, no matter how basic it’s become. Weird shoes are meant to be on display. So I plan to wear all of mine to fashion week.

I write in my book about how fashion is, at its heart, a study in how deeply we long to stand out in order to fit in. Because even though people sneer at the street style scene, there is one thing no one really wants to see you wear — and that is comfortable pants. So if you’re looking for me, I’ll be one of the women in high-waist suede culottes.

Amy Odell is the author of Tales from The Back Row and the editor of Cosmopolitan.com.

Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.

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