Taking a look at the year in style

Too many fashion decisions reeked of ‘just get noticed’

The New York TimesDecember 26, 2012 

68697982

Actress Angelina Jolie at the 84th Annual Academy Awards at the Hollywood & Highland Center February 26, 2012 in Hollywood, California.

ETHAN MILLER — Getty Images

Is this a joke?

We were all thinking it at one point or another in 2012: when Angelina Jolie, at the Academy Awards, stuck a leg out of her Versace dress as if she were hailing a cab on a rainy night; when Ryan Lochte announced he wanted to design a fashion collection; when Neiman Marcus went Target and Barneys went Disney.

Many of the most memorable moments of 2012 are, in fact, symptomatic of an industry in which the players are struggling to retain their relevancy and their little (or big) shares of the pie, all while being challenged by the economy, a growing field of designers and a vastly altered media landscape. Every designer hire and celebrity appearance is endlessly scrutinized and that includes the unexpected ones. What are you wearing, Sasha and Malia?

In some ways this environment emboldens fashion to up its game and take more risks – even if that means the biggest risk is becoming a punch line.

Celebs trying too hard

The first rule of mixing celebrities and fashion: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt can do no wrong. Until they both do, and in spectacular fashion. First there was Jolie’s strange pose at the Academy Awards, on the red carpet, onstage and finally as an online meme. Then came Pitt’s mumbling ads for Chanel (“inevitable,” indeed), which spawned a cottage industry of parodies. Earnest-seeming celebrities who secretly try too hard? Who would have figured?

Seeing red over knockoffs

After a trademark dispute with Yves Saint Laurent over the ownership of red soles on shoes, Christian Louboutin either scored a major victory for the cause of designers who are the victims of knockoffs, or he left everyone more confused. While Louboutin did not actually prove that YSL had infringed on his design by selling all-over red shoes, a court did uphold his trademark on red soles – but only when the rest of the shoe is painted a different color. Did anyone tell Forever 21?

Attached to gadgets

Everyone wants in on the next big gadget, including Diane von Furstenberg, who shared her runway with the Google co-founder Sergey Brin to promote a new type of glasses that have a built-in camera and can give you directions. Though they looked insane, the designer and the technology guy were probably quite clever to join forces when you consider how fashion has reacted to technology developments in recent years by, for instance, scaling suit pockets and athletic clothes to fit popular devices. Even von Furstenberg now designs a nifty handbag with a built-in iPad case.

Tykes in tiny couture

The Council of Fashion Designers of America has encouraged designers to pledge not to use models under age 16 on their runways. Vogue said it would no longer feature them in the magazine. And yet the entire industry is skewing so young that serious designers now spend hours analyzing the style of Suri Cruise and her age set, while Lanvin, Versace and Gucci have started selling four-figure-price frocks for 4-year-olds. Last week, Burberry introduced an ad campaign starring Romeo Beckham, the 10-year-old son of David and Victoria Beckham. It’s enough to make you go “aww.” Or “ew.”

Guys in skirts – really

Men in skirts is becoming a thing, and it’s not just about Marc Jacobs this time. Thanks to designers like Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy, not to mention all of the Gaultiers, Yamamotos and Rick Owenses before them, skirts for men are actually, finally, really and truly, being seen on men. Just not to the office. We’re still getting used to shorts!

Olympic-style idiot

Ryan Lochte, the great marketing hope of the Olympics, was caricatured as a “sex idiot” on TV’s “30 Rock” this fall. But his real ambition lies in fashion, which is probably not as surprising as it should be. No profile of Lochte has failed to mention his impressive sneaker collection, or his walk-in closet, or his grills, or his attempts to monetize his favorite meaningless catchphrase, “Jeah!” So now he’s a style idiot, too.

Ew, made in China

Speaking of the Olympics, there was so much designer news that it might be time to consider catwalking a competitive sport. It was a major fashion moment during the closing ceremony in London when a group of English supermodels appeared in the show, but the bigger story was the outrage Ralph Lauren faced because the ceremonial uniforms he designed for the U.S. team were produced, like a heck of a lot of clothes these days, in China. (This was apparently even worse than the revelation that the Egyptian team had been outfitted in knockoff Nikes.) The episode prompted a renewed look at manufacturing in the United States, including by Lauren, who promised to produce future Olympic uniforms in this country.

In pink, on message

Four more years – of talking about what Michelle Obama is wearing, that is. The campaign conversation reached a new level of superficiality this year, when fashion enthusiasts shared real-time conversations about the styles of Michelle Obama and Ann Romney, even while their husbands were debating, or whatever. The pressure to send the right message was so great that both candidates’ wives appeared in hot pink, signaling support of National Breast Cancer Awareness month, at an October debate. Maybe now Michelle Obama can relax a little, or how about showing up for the inauguration in a see-through lace dress?

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service