‘Hero’ Worship

On many levels, 2007 was a rather interesting year for fashion, and depending on one’s involvement with and/or attachment to the world of fashion (professional, personal, emotional, sentimental), the past year can be dissected and examined in many different ways. As it already has been ad nausea.

The beginning of a New Year signifies many things; a brand new fashion cycle is one of them. More so ever since the show schedule has been moved down. This year, New York Fashion Week which begins on February 1st through February 8th is earlier than ever and so it’s a natural thing to begin focusing on ‘what’s next’.

Something that Nancy Aronson Chilton, press director for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, said (on the evening of December 13th), has stayed on my mind and is worth keeping in mind as we make the rounds of the upcoming fall 2008/2009 collections. Not surprisingly, I knew I would eventually blog about it.

At the cocktail soiree to celebrate the launch of a new exhibit, “blog.mode: addressing fashion”, I spoke with Ms. Chilton about the inherent challenges that went along with mounting an exhibition that was a ‘first’. Eventually, the subject changed to the coming year’s major spring exhibit, “Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy”, which will run from May 7th through September 1, 2008 and will kick off in high style with a very high profile Gala Benefit on Monday May 5th. (The Honorary Chairman is Giorgio Armani, who is ‘sponsoring’ the exhibit, and the Co-Chairs are George Clooney (talk about ‘hero worship’), Julia Roberts, and Anna Wintour.)

In discussing the premise behind the exhibit which is “all about using the idea of the superhero as a metaphor for fashion”, Ms. Chilton keenly observed, “What does a superhero do? He/she goes and changes into clothing that empowers them — and they can do anything.” I have not been able to shake that imagery from my mind.

When you think of the word hero, what comes to mind? Undoubtedly, Wesley Autrey, (last year’s subway superhero and brave father of two who saved the life of a perfect stranger by literally throwing himself over the man as hey lay on the subway tracks), firefighters, soldiers fighting on the front lines overseas, or those who came to the rescue on 9/11 are universal examples. But that said, there are other definitions of the term. And while nobody with a sound mind would be as bold or crazy as to draw parallels between true heroes (those who risk their lives to save their fellow man) AND something as superficial or frivolous as fashion, our clothing certainly has ‘heroic’ or empowering qualities which should not be overstated.

Regardless of how ‘into’ fashion one is, or how important a role it plays in one’s life, we all wear clothes. It’s one of the first decisions we make in the morning before we head out the door. We not only make a variety of wardrobe changes throughout the week, but some of us even make several wardrobe changes throughout the day (I keep thinking of Nancy Chilton’s description and conjuring up images of Superman as he went into that tiny booth to shed his suit and become a true hero in his iconic uniform).

In many cases, our choices are not just based on how to best cover our naked bodies (required by law), but also, how we wish to project ourselves based on a number of factors and situations. Sometimes, the right choices have the ability to empower us to “do anything”, just like Superman (well, sort of). We might not be given X-ray vision, or the ability to leap from tall buildings in a single bounce, but the right clothes can turn us all into ‘heroes’ of one sort or another (heroes in the work place, in the social arena, or wherever one wants or needs at that moment in time). Clothing can be magical and empowering and that quality cannot be overstated.

What could be more ‘heroic’ than reliable, fail safe, wardrobe ‘basics’ that (regardless of vagaries of fashion’s ‘ins’ and ‘outs’) truly ‘save’ the day…or night (depending on the situation)? Items that you can always count on through thick and thin (perhaps literally)? Such as that impeccably tailored jacket that instantly molds your torso, takes 5 pounds off automatically, give you a waistline or shoulders that you don’t really have, looks good over anything and everything, can be worn in a myriad of ways? Or that great dress, skirt, tunic, etc. which you can always rely upon when you need something to wear for a cocktail soiree, party, special event? Or how about that perfect white shirt of trench that goes from summer to winter, can be worn east, west, north, south, day or night? And what about that striking necklace, cuff, or ring that you know can make anything look amazing.

There is no denying that one’s clothing and accessories can be life affirming, if not necessarily life saving. Undeniably, great fashion designers (like Coco Chanel and Yves. St. Laurent, both of whom perfected wardrobe ‘staples’ and elevated them to another level), can be viewed as ‘superheroes’. They are the ones creating articles of clothing and accessories that not only cover us but protect us from the elements and environment, keep us warm, cool, dry, make us look and feel good, and empower us by helping us as we venture forth in the world.

– 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.

1 Comment
  1. What a fantastic post. The idea of fashion as powerful tool that’s really anything but frivolous was my inspiration to start writing my fashion blog. Your explanation is marvellous and I now can’t wait to go to that exhibit…!

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