So the Color of Our Backbone Is Black
BY MAGDA PESCARIU
Know I owe you a detailed report on the Spring-Summer 2018 fashion trends, since in the previous article I talked mainly about transparency, the most relevant look of the season. But meanwhile, the year has started off with a remarkable fashion experience that broadcasted what was happening socially, where waves of courage, energy and solidarity pressed forward to a much-needed change in the gender equality paradigm. So you see why I can’t go straight to chatting about fringes and feathers, pastels, plastics and polka-dots, without saying first a few things about the style choice that represented, at the beginning of this year, a landmark in fashion history and in its social significance. By the time you read my lines, the entire Awards Season will already be concluded – done, gone, talked about, dissected, probed, envied, frowned upon, or gloated over. People will go about their lives, pursuing projects and relationships that give their lives meaning, in both a private and a social sense. However, I think that the Golden Globes 2018’s all black dress code will go down in history as a testimony of fashion’s often scorned ability to make powerful social statements and to elicit cultural change.
In Europe at the time, I sat in front of the TV in the wee hours of the morning, waiting for the Golden Globes red carpet to unfold, unnerved with mixed feelings. I knew about Time’s Up calling for the attendees to show support for the movement by wearing black to the ceremony, and really appreciated the initiative as a cathartic way of speaking up about a toxic state of affairs that went unchecked since the beginning of time, but I wasn’t sure at all of how this black dress protest movement would work or how effective it would be. There was a certain risk of drowning a strong social statement in a sea of boring little black dresses and standard black tuxedoes, as it was of indulging a fashion style-code for aesthetic and egotistic sake, while forgetting entirely the revolutionary motive behind it. Providentially, it didn’t happen like that. I watched with pleasure and increasing pride every arrival of the night, as they were photographed, cheered from the sides, interviewed about their movement, and justly honored.
For a cut-throat world as divisive, narcissistic, conceited and competitive as Hollywood proved to be time and again, to be able to rise to the occasion in unison, so selflessly, so kind to each other, and in such good humor, it demonstrated not only a firm and resolute collective character, but also the maturity of a social group that has finally grown a backbone. It was a great moment, with substantial social consequence, as well as a great fashion moment, a protest symbol as part of a larger, deliberate statement.
The sea of black showed women standing together united, asking for a complete change of the rules that have debased their lives and experiences for far too long. What added to it was also the designers’ extraordinary creativity in managing to set apart each one of the hundreds of attendees – no two black dresses looked alike, no two tuxedos were identical. Each participant, emerging young hopeful or fully-fledged celebrity, got his moment in the spotlight, her message listened to, and enjoyed their individuality in solidarity. Like every time when people do something significant that is in line with what they believe, the experience felt transformative and exhilarating.
I crossed my fingers for the feeling to last and the potentially-iconic movement to evolve with wisdom, that is to avoid falling out of one extreme into another and the too tempting dérapage in between. Born and raised in Europe, with a decades-long life experience on two continents, where I got to work with several different cultures, I’m comfortable with men’s gallantry, friendly banter, witty innuendos and clever flirting, as I’ve come to know how to receive a compliment gracefully and diffuse with humor awkward attempts or ambiguous situations. But things are never quite so simple, nor are they only black and white. As women, we walk an extremely fine line to navigate through a world where a patriarchal, obsolete mindset is the norm, and the simple notion of being valued as equals at all times remains a daily uphill battle; yet we crave men’s respect and support in our lives as much as we crave their attention, affection and love. Nevertheless, what we wear and how we wear it should always be perceived as the creative expression of ourselves, and never as an invitation or excuse for any kind of aggression.
The 21st century woman doesn’t put up with a culture of gender-based victimhood anymore, as she’s too busy creating an environment of normality, regard, savoir-faire and joie de vivre. Speaking of which, respecting women’s passion for fashion and for the infinite possibilities it generates to celebrate our individuality, should be a mark of any civilized society. For dignity, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder as well.
The fashion styles introduced by this Spring-Summer season are a welcome visual and attitudinal antidote to any sense of hopelessness, helplessness or disdain still felt by women worldwide.
First of all, we get to wear potent, fully-saturated colors, bright monochromes or color-blocked, lively shades of pastels, but no neutrals at all. Lavender is the king-color of the warm season, crowning the purple shades palette that goes from pale lilac, African violet, and amethyst to antique fuchsia, rich magenta, and aubergine. I wonder whether the prevalence of purple shades this season has anything to do with purple being the color associated with dignity, power and wisdom, or it’s just a coincidence. Well, let’s just say that the enduring use of ‘suffragette white’ by women protesters all over the world is a fair indicator of fashion’s force as a tool for dissent; so, coincidence? I think not! Lavender is closely followed by sporty neon orange (aka the safety orange), considered to be the new millennial pink, brilliant yellow, apple green and glossy copper.
Denim is another staple of the season, present in a deep, double-dark indigo shade with much less embellishments and ripped-effects, giving a polished, more sophisticated look. Head-to-toe denim is seen proper even as evening attire for a formal event, when bejeweled and paired with exclusive accessories.
The trench-coat gets a makeover as well, using new cuts and trimmings on unusual fabrics, all shiny and slick. Fashion designers propose trench-dresses as well, in heavy silk, brocade, organza, satin or taffeta.
This warm season everything fashionable is see-through, nimble and illuminated. From dusk till dawn we wear tulle, lace, sheer silk and plastics – an avant-garde trend taking over from vinyl in trench-coats, windbreakers, hats, handbags and knee-high boots; we jiggle fringes, feathers and drawstrings; and we elevate our silhouettes with metallic shades, rainbow sequins or shimmering polka-dots.
To keep us grounded, a 90s urban vibe brings to the table a genderless and utilitarian style, emphasized by au naturel make up. From super casual to dressier, we can choose from anoraks, parkas, deconstructed jackets, work-wear jumpsuits with multi-pockets and zillion zippers, extra-long shirts worn as dresses, short suits (long jackets with short pants or skirts), or high-cut bodysuits with low-cut pants. Utilitarian doesn’t mean flairless at all, because the down-to-earth look is smartened up by whimsy scarves, turbans, single earrings and the unexpectedly omnipresent fanny pack. Yes, you heard me right. The silly fanny pack we are so used to associate with zany travellers is the uncontested ruler of this season’s handbags. Worn over the shoulder like a real handbag, or around the waist traditional-way, we get to see it paired even with evening attire and in most formal happenings. You ask me, I find the accessory insufferable. But dozens of looks from worldwide runways beg to differ.
This year has started with a few empowering moments provided by fashion. Ethereal clothes proved to have a meaningful weight in key progressive events. On catwalks all over the world, models of all genders found a place to promote the idea of expressed personal style and individuality in solidarity. Transgender, macho, boyish, curvy, plus-size, bad girls, good girls, and everything in between, got their voice heard, their confidence applauded, their aspirations showcased. Modern crusaders against inequity and intolerance, they trust to change a little bit the world through fashion’s clout and lasting power. I don’t know how, when, or if we’ll get to live in the world we are crusading for these days, but I’m content to recognize the color of our backbone and the clear sound of our newfound voice.
Years ago, at the end of The Interpreter, I watched Nicole Kidman’s character reading a foretelling quote from a fictional book, and her unmistakable voice came to mind while watching the arrivals at the Golden Globes, prophetically paraphrasing: ‘The power uproar around us makes it hard to hear. But the human voice is different from other sounds. It can be heard over noises that bury everything else. Even when it’s not shouting. Even if it’s just a whisper. Even the lowest whisper can be heard – over armies – when it’s telling the truth.’
We’ll just have to carry the torch and hope for the best.