‘Clothes’ Call

Ever since the highly publicized ‘Deal of the Century’ was made, Ms. Couric (the highest paid news anchor in history), has had her face plastered all over (on buses, on buildings, smiling up at you from full page newspaper ads), and she has been the subject of countless articles (regarding every facet of her life) and the target of countless media pundits.

While I watched during her tenure on “The Today Show”, it was not so much a factor of being a huge fan, but rather, because I liked the show and the entire ensemble ‘cast’. And I am watching her now. But not because I am seeking out her specific delivery of the sobering daily news (I prefer Brian Williams and Charles Gibson). It’s because, she is a woman (at the top of her field), and as a fashion person, I am curious to see what she is wearing.

Which is funny, considering Katie is hardly a fashion icon, style setter, or one who has even portrayed a modicum of personal style throughout her career (though in all fairness, through the years she at least ‘evolved’ and has began to look more contemporary and ‘with it’ thanks to her staff of personal stylists). By her own admission, Katie would probably say she is ‘style challenged’. But since she has taken on a new public persona, much attention has been focused on her public image and I wanted to see how her personal visage and wardrobe would reflect this change.

I was also curious to see how a highly paid team of stylists with an apparently unlimited wardrobe allowance, would sift through all the clothing which is available ‘out there’, and come up with a revolving daily selection (I don’t think Katie has repeated the same outfit once) befitting Ms. Couric’s newfound, much more serious position.

The good news is that based on what I have seen, her staff and advisors have been pretty much ‘spot on’. As a woman news anchor (as in other facets of professional life), there are far more choices available for a woman than for a man (who lives in a ‘unform’). The only thing that may change for him is the color (or fabrication) of the suit, shirt, and pattern of the tie. For a woman, many things have to be taken into consideration and it’s a delicate balancing act to be sure. While she can still chose to affect a man’s uniform (a great pantsuit never goes of out style), she can also assert her femininity and play off her assets…if done properly.

The choices made have to be visual, telegenic, eye catching, and attractive, but at the same time, they must ‘read’ serious, businesslike, authoritative, and most importantly, factor in the notion of what is appropriate. While I don’t love everything, in general, Ms. Couric’s on air wardrobe is more grown up, ‘of the moment’, and has reflected the myriad of options that are now available for women at the top of their game. And so, the ongoing parade of Katie Couric’s sleek, fitted and well tailored jackets (some as part of a matched suit); cuffed trousers or narrow pants; skirts (at the knee or slightly above the knee showing off her well toned gams); crisp white shirts which range from simple and classic to more elaborate and highly detailed; timeless little black dresses; soft, knitted tunic tops (like the lacquer red bateau neck version she wore the other night)…are all testament to the ways in which a woman can now dress for success. Gone are the Today Show’s awkward put togethers, garish colors, and immature prints and patterns. In evidence are primarily neutral hued solids (white, ivory, gray, navy, and black) spiced up with a welcome flash of red here and there. Accessories are kept to a minimum but high heeled shoes are statement making though never off putting.

The bad news (for CBS and Katie) is that thus far, the results have been far from successful. Five weeks after taking over as anchor for the CBS Nightly News, Katie Couric finds herself lagging in third place behind NBC’s “Nightly News” and ABC’s “World News Tonight”. I am apparently one of the dwindling few (and the numbers are dwindling fast), who continue to tune in (though I don’t watch for the entire half hour). I guess after awhile, the fashion show becomes less interesting and more of a distraction. It’s not a matter of style over substance but the other way around. Certainly, within the realm of news broadcasting, there is a case to be made for a sober, non distracting uniform. The bottom line is that the general audience is not interested in the hoopla and publicity..they are clicking on and tuning in to hear the news and not to be treated to an ongoing fashion show.

And speaking of personal style…photojournalist Bill Cunningham has been chronicling the ‘off the runway’ escapades here in New York and in Paris, for decades now and he stands alone with his keen eye, faultless taste, and fashion historian’s knowledge. But he is not the only one with an interest in capturing the look and feel on the street. Scott Schuman, (aka The Sartorialist) is garnering much attention within the fashion world and is proving to be a force to be reckoned with. I first noticed him during New York Fashion Week — a nattily turned out young man with a camera, energetically running around and asking well dressed show attendees if he could snap their picture.

The results, which can be seen on his own website, www.thesartorialist.blogspot.com as well as on www.style.com, are not only visually arresting, but insightful, and he often adds his own astute and witty observations, which explain to the reader what is what that he found so captivating about his subject. What is also noteworthy is that in London, Milan, and Paris, he didn’t just focus on show attendees and fashion insiders, but turned his camera on anyone who had an individual approach to dressing, including mothers and daughters shopping or strolling, and octogenarians. He is definitely someone to watch.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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