Thursday, January 12, 2006

Just Say No to Prada

I’ve been overdosing on chick lit lately (and enjoying every minute of it, of course) and because I’m reading books so close together without a break, I’m starting to notice certain small things that are either overdone or not done enough. None of them are major—I probably wouldn’t even notice them if I wasn’t plowing through my To Be Read stack like Kirstie Alley through a six pack of chocolate SlimFast. My favorite chick lit books tend to be the “Career Girl in the City” variety, and I’m probably a little harder on them because I am a Career Girl in the City, but come on. At the top of my list is this: Learn some new designers.

Seriously, people—I’ve had it with every It Chick, editor, starlet, and ball-busting female boss character having a wardrobe full of the Big Three: Prada, Armani, and Versace. First of all, not everyone with a pocket full of cash spends it on designers who have been coasting on brand recognition since approximately 1996. This also goes for Fendi, Dolce & Gabana and Gucci. A good rule of thumb: when fourteen-year-olds are running around sporting a designer’s logo over their training bras, actual fashionistas lose interest. Really, for people who know designers a huge logo is a desperate cry for hipness, not a sign of quality. There are hundreds of other designers turning out things that are just as beautiful, just as expensive and just as likely to induce a shoegasm in the dressing room at Neiman Marcus.

Secondly, has anyone actually looked at what the Big Three are putting on the shelves these days? I won’t bore you with the details of my rant concerning the Fall of the House of Versace, but let’s just say that having J. Lo as a muse has never done anyone a favor, Donatella. Even Prada—the tasteful old workhorse of yesteryear—is producing fewer gorgeous stilettos and more monstrosities like this little number from their Spring 2006 collection. Now look at that and tell me anyone with a subscription to Vogue can still take Prada seriously.

Third, if your character works at a women’s magazine, she would know all of the above and dress accordingly.

Before you set off to write about a heroine known for her fashion sense and sophistication, do some research. If your target audience is a twenty-something single woman with disposable income and a huge shoe collection, get to know some women who fit that demographic. They have their own language, and they can spot a non-insider from forty feet away. Read Vogue--that’s Vogue, not Glamour--and visit to see all the beautiful things being made by indie designers that can’t afford to blitz the major fashion mags. Subscribe to the Daily Candy mailing list for the city where you story is set, and find out what’s happening there. Most of all, don’t assume that Carrie Bradshaw is the epitome of big city fashion and model your character’s wardrobe after her. Trust me, she’s a freak. Even Betsey Johnson can’t explain her fashion sense.

And while you’re checking out all those websites and shops, pick a designer you’ve never heard of and buy something nice for yourself—a Helen Welsh bag, a pair of Casadei pumps, a cashmere sweater by C3. Go on—you deserve it. I won’t tell.


Blogger Bookseller Chick said...

Um, Mel, what is this disposable income that you speak of? I have not heard of this magical thing. I'm supposed to have something left over after taking care of my basic needs like food and shelter? I think I'm in the wrong business.

But back on topic, where does your opinion fall on the magazine W. I find it to be a showcase for the more over-the-top creations, but I know people who swear by it.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Melanie Hayden said...

You do make a point. My disposable income is rather undependable at certain times of the year.

Confession: I love W. I broke down and subscribed after the Brad/Angelina photo shoot because I was afraid to miss something. Their editors seem to have a good handle on how to balance couture with stuff that women actually wear. It does tend more toward the unique collections--like Balenciaga's latest, which is. . .bizarre--but they also have good spreads on how to take the theme of those stranger collections and make them into appropriate every day looks.

7:07 PM  
Anonymous Barbi Kremen said...

Okay Mel, here indeed is why I am incapable of writing chit lit. I am just completely clueless where fashion is concerned and incredible grateful to have a woman in the know, such as yourself as friend. Rant on sister!

12:09 AM  

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