Behind Every Fashionable Woman … 

… is the man who designed her dress

In reviewing Kit Kittredge for The New York Times, A.O. Scott took a closer look at the iniquities of boyhood and girlhood in terms of contemporary cinema. Personally, I got an American Girl doll back in 1986, but I outgrew it before the company exploded into the behemoth it is now. And while the phenomenon of male-dominated movies has never bothered me (I grew up reading comics and would usually rather go see the latest summer action blockbuster in the theater, and put Film Forum’s gorgeous art-house feminist cinema on my Netflix queue), it is sad that the Disney protagonists of old were all women, while their Pixar contemporaries seem to be all men. But then, I usually just feel sorry for folks who feel like they live in a world without female role models, since I work in an industry where women dominate men 100-to-one.

Think of the power brokers: Grace Coddington, Carine Roitfeld, Anna Wintour, Glenda Bailey… these are the people for whom others step aside. While it was terrifying running into Wintour as a summer intern at Vogue, I also loved the idea of a woman inspiring real fear and reverence, instead of just having the reputation of being a bitch or a crazy person. And the muses of fashion are all these dynamic, complicated, fabulous women: Loulou de la Falaise, Bianca Jagger, Jane Birkin, Kate Moss, Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Yet when these amazing women get all dolled up in $20,000 worth of fashion, what they’re often looking at in the mirror is the vision of a man. The fashion powerhouses — YSL, Oscar de la Renta, Armani, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein, Lacroix, Lanvin — and even more contemporary greats, like Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler and Phillip Lim, are all lorded over by men. Of course there are note-worthy exceptions (Donna Karan, Prada, Versace), but overall it’s long been historical fact that men design for women. Who cares if they’re gay, they’ve never been endowed with the complex proportions of a waist and hips, or pushed their breasts into the right-fitting bra, or even been able to wear the things they create, for the most part. Granted, I genuinely believe the male designers who claim to be creating clothes for interesting, powerful women, but isn’t it odd that one seems better equipped to really “sell” for women than men? Tom Ford’s female successors certainly haven’t done much for Gucci, and while Alessandra Fachinetti seems to have made a fair statement with her first collection for Valentino, it’s ultimately just a different take on a well-established male brand. Where are our Coco Chanels? Braving the recent Alexander Wang sample sale, I watched a pair of women try on some gorgeously slinky dresses, giggling to themselves that Wang was just so good, and I thought, “How powerful and sexy can any of us really feel, outfitted in a get-up that’s ultimately a man’s idea of what a sexy woman should be?” How odd, indeed, to preen and primp ourselves into a idea of what’s beautiful that we didn’t even invent.

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