Surgical Masks: The Latest Fashion Craze from Mexico

FASHION/HEALTH - When it comes to fashion, its become a cliche to wear a gas mask on the runway. Especially when it comes to fetish or BDSM garb. Its been OVERDONE. Stop doing it already! (I swear people are so unimaginative at times.)

But... with the recent spread of the Swine Flu (H1N1 virus) from Mexico, a lot of people are taking the wise precaution and are wearing surgical masks to protect themselves from the deadly plague.

Before I get into this I think its really important that people wear protection, even if you're not sick. You could catch H1N1 from somebody else, just by shaking their hand, opening a door, handling money, someone coughing nearby (or in an elevator) or any number of ways since its an airborne bacteria. The best way to prevent it is to be very careful about what touches your hands, what touches your face or goes in your mouth, and be mindful of washing your hands regularly.

So buying food at the cafeteria or restaurant near your workplace... big no-no. Bring a bag lunch. No, you're not poor, but you are cautious. Who knows what people are coughing onto the food in the cafeteria's kitchen... its best not to take that chance.

Far too few people in epidemics even take these things seriously... and they're the ones who get sick first. It is better to err on the side of caution, even if you feel weird about wearing a mask in public.

However, there are two things that concerns me:

#1. How effective are surgical masks at preventing the spread of the H1N1 virus? Really we should all be wearing gloves, washing our hands and faces multiple times per day, and wearing masks which are much more effective.

#2. How fashion friendly are surgical masks? Well... not very. But you could wear lots of blue to match them... or maybe even buy nurse scrubs and wear those, which would be kinda kewl even if you're not a nurse.

My solution has been to skip the mask and opt for a bandanna, folding it in half diagonally and wearing it as per bank robbers in the Ol' West. I firmly believe the bandanna, which comes in many fashionable colours and designs, is more effective because it covers the sides of the mouth much more effectively than a surgical mask.

If I wanted to go all out I could get a gas mask, but they're pricey and apparently take a lot of practice to learn how to wear properly. If the H1N1 virus epidemic reaches that point... I think its time to just call in sick (even though I am not) and avoid going to work for several weeks until this whole plague thing is over.

But in the meantime I think the bandanna option makes a smart (and much more fashionable) way of keeping myself safe. A thick scarf could also work, but depending on the weather that may be unpractical.

See Also:
Swine flu spreading faster than expected
Worldwide Influenza Pandemic Warned
Swine flu hits Mexico and western United States

The Purpose of High Fashion

FASHION - What is the point of high fashion?

Last year supermodel Carla Bruni (now the First Lady of France) wanted to bring herself down when standing beside the Queen Elizabeth II... She also chose a sombre grey dress-coat so to not upstage the Queen and for her shoes she wore a pair of plain black flats, while the Queen wore black heels.

Had she worn something exquisitely beautiful it would have been wildly out-of-place... plus with Carla Bruni it doesn't really matter. She'd look good wearing a burlap sack.

Most of us however are so ashamed of our bodies we wouldn't get caught dead wearing a burlap sack smock (or anything like it). We know we don't have the figure and we try to wear things that make us look better than we really do.

That's the purpose of high fashion. Its like make-up in a way. Or high heels. Or corsets. Its to make us look better. We aren't naturally stunning to look at, so we need high fashion as a prop.

If we all looked like supermodels there would be no need to go to such lengths.

Are we doing this for men? Not necessarily. Sometimes we just want to stand out or blend in. Depends entirely on the circumstances.

"We look at a beautiful person and think they are lucky," says Elizabeth Semmelhack, curator of Toronto's Bata Shoe Museum. "But if we look at a particularly fashionable person who is not possessed of raw beauty but rather a socially constructed beauty, then we're impressed. Real style is considered a magical skill."

High heels are now inextricably linked to pornographic imagery. Six-inch heels have elevated women's sexual allure to the point that flat shoes are now derisively described as "sensible."

Although frankly if I see a woman on the street wearing 6-inch heels, chances are likely she's a prostitute. She knows exactly what she's doing, especially if she has a fur boa, a short skirt and is showing a lot of cleavage.

Its always possible she's just a clubbing chick, but with those clothes she's still selling sex, except her payment is liquor and a guy good-looking enough to pass her drunken standards.

This is the POWER OF FASHION. It transforms a person from whore to madonna and back to whore again.

For women who are plain, or downright ugly, fashion is the way to even the playing field.

Lets take for example Susan Boyle, the bushy browed, wild-haired Scot who recently became world-famous as a contestant on Britain's Got Talent. The 47-year-old ugly duckling with the angelic voice has become a pop culture icon since her April 11 performance on the show partly because of the enormous disconnect between her appearance and her voice.

She's since had a makeover. Her grey hair has been coloured and styled. Her famous caterpillar eyebrows have been tamed. And she's traded in the unflattering mother-of-the-bride beige dress she wore on TV for a pair of fashionable, wide-leg trousers and a cool leather jacket. Though her supporters worry the makeover could diminish her chances of winning the competition, it's undeniable that she looks a lot better.

"This is why stylists are so popular," says Barbara Atkin, vice-president of fashion direction for Holt Renfrew. Women presume they can't learn these tricks themselves, so they hire a professional.

"Fashion offers women an alternative route to the spotlight, some sense of pride and dignity that they might not have if they don't approximate conventional standards of beauty," says Holly Brubach, former style editor of The New York Times Magazine.

Brubach is convinced the recent evolution of feminist culture has allowed women who aren't beautiful to participate in fashion. Feminism's first wave in the early 20th century liberated women from corsets and constructed silhouettes, she says. But in the 1960s, fashion was denounced as a male conspiracy.

"It was the hemlines issue, when the miniskirt was popularized and then seemingly one season later the maxi-skirt was in. Fashion was revealed as a commercial endeavour intended only to make women spend money."

In this era of post-feminism we have softened our dogma and now everyone can be stylish (or sexy).

It the dual faces of fashion – the model as front person and her plainer sister as participant. (Except behind the scenes the fashion models are hiding in plain sight wearing skinny jeans and t-shirts, because they're comfortable and they know they look hot wearing whatever.)

On TV's Ugly Betty the show's frizzy-haired protagonist stands alone as the unattractive employee of a fashion magazine staffed by beautiful people... except in real fashion magazines, the opposite is true... If you think the front row of an international runway is lined with lithesome Paris Hilton types, you'd be dead wrong. We're usually pretty butt ugly and our obsession with fashion is really about wanting to look better because we physically are below our own standards.

(We also work in an industry with an unusually high number of suicides, but thats another topic for another day...)

Try doing a Google image search for:

Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune.
Isabella Blow, the late stylist and fashion muse.
Ingrid Sischy (who looks like a man), formerly of Interview magazine.
Anna Piaggi of Italian Vogue.
Kim Hastreiter of Paper magazine.
Lynn Jaeger, formerly of The Village Voice.
Glenda Bailey of Harper's Bazaar.

They are some of fashion's most powerful players, always a breath away from the runway but never on it... and they're all pretty plain or ugly looking.

So we ask again, what is the purpose of high fashion? Its not to make beautiful people look better, its to help the rest of us raise ourselves a bit up on the beauty scale... without having to exercise.

Tween Fashion and the Girl-Next-Door

FASHION/ENTERTAINMENT - Young teens (aka Tweens) are all abuzz about the new Hannah Montana Movie, starring Miley Cyrus... but their adoration has also sparked an unusual fashion trend...


In an era when teenagers and young girls seem to be showing a lot more skin, this trend is a welcome change for parents concerned about their kids' promiscuity.

So instead we have the wholesome girl-next-door.

As opposed to the skanky Britney Spears look or the slutty Paris Hilton look. Or punkish Avril Lavigne or heroin-chic Amy Winehouse.

Adapted from the hit TV series from Disney, Hannah Montana is covered-up, ladylike and wholesome.

But what do the fans say?

"I saw the movie and really liked the clothes – I really liked the looser jeans and I want to get a flannel shirt. I liked that it was sort of peasant-y and plain," says Ruby, age 14. Ruby admits "I'm too old to have this admiration for her," and admits she had to pick her way past throngs of 8, 9 and 10-year-olds for a seat to watch the movie.

"I've always worn skinny jeans, but I liked that sort of casual, farmy look," says Ruby, who says she will be going shopping for baggier jeans, flannel shirts and peasant skirts.

Wow. Maybe clogs will become fashionable too? (That was sarcasm BTW.)

The Hannah Montana franchise is important fashion for tweens and young teens.

"Hannah Montana dominates the tween market," says Nadia Casarcia of La Senza Girl. "I saw the movie myself and we're definitely seeing a softer side of Miley. Even though there were two very different looks, she was more subdued. Maybe that's a reaction to some of the pressure she's faced in real life."

Miley Cyrus, who plays Hannah Montana, wore a very grown-up couture gown on the Oscars' red carpet this year, and has been criticized for appearing in Vanity Fair swathed only in a sheet, sparking controversy about her age and the amount of skin she was showing.

Fashion tends to go in cycles (hence why Madonna keeps changing her look). I think this new modest-look is simply a reaction to the overtly-sluttiness of the previous look being pushed on young teens.

So will this stick around? Maybe awhile, another year or two, but after that tweens will be older and moved on to something new.

Besides... aren't we forgetting something?

Miley Cyrus and her character Hannah Montana don't always dress the same... and Miley Cyrus is hardly the only female rolemodel out there that young women are emulating.

And then there's also feminists and their chance every summer to go topless and upset the religious wackos who think nudity is a sin. Or the opposite... there's young women going topless during Spring Break, etc...

So is America's young women becoming more modest? I think not. This is a quaint idea, but there's so much other stuff in the mass media and the internet now that young women really have a lot to choose from when it comes to deciding to dress like a madonna or a whore.

Outrageous Clothes that I will never wear

FASHION - Call it my biggest fashion industry pet peeve... but what is with all the clothes that, admittedly, none of us would ever wear in public. Or in private for that matter.

In the olden days of fashion design there was this thing called the avant garde, which was meant to represent anything that was so outrageous it was... controversial.

The term is also used in art history, to describe artists like Jackson Pollock or Andy Warhol who did something nobody else had ever done before.

Except when you look at the clothes shown here, you realize, yes, that's probably been done before. Its not very... experimental. Its like they're trying to be avant garde, but really they don't have a clue what they are doing. (I've tried to show a variety of different faux avant garde styles here, so you get a broad idea of the kind of bullshit nonsense these designers are pushing.)

I admit some of the clothes does look pretty kewl, and I could see wearing some of them to a gothic club... but its difficult to imagine where I might wear any of the other pretentious avant garde crap they're pushing.

I don't know why the fashion magazines even bother to show these photos any more. Is it like what I am doing? Making fun of it? No, they show them, talk about the designers and are totally serious about it. Its like they haven't clued in to the simple fact that:


Even retired fashion designer Pierre Cardin says Haute Couture is dead. Haute couture is basically just another word for avant garde.

Let's imagine for a moment if someone actually wore some of these things in public...

You'd have to get used to the idea of people staring at you all the time. You'd just look like a complete freak (more so than the goths, punks and emos look like freaks).

You'd also would have to have the hot sexy body to make it work. You'd definitely have to be female... a guy would never wear this stuff.

Its also not very practical. Its too cold for the winter, too hot for the summer, you can't wear a jacket over top of it and if it rains your clothes will get ruined.

In other words... nobody in their right mind would wear these clothes in public... unless they're eccentric or outright wacko.

You will never find a store that sells this avant garde crap either. Its not wearable or sell-able. It makes me wonder what the designers do with it after they're done on the catwalk... stick them in storage? Rip them apart and reuse them? Give them away as gifts?

I can just imagine the clothes being regifted from person to person until finally someone either recycles the material or trashes it completely.

I realize what the designers are doing of course. They're trying to make a name for themselves by doing something remotely outrageous. If they can get their name out there as a fashion brand... then they can start charging a lot more $$$ for their regular clothes lines. In other words... they're self-indulgent greedy little pricks... the same kind of pricks (and yes, they're mostly male) that only hire anorexic girls on the runway and are probably screwing the models (or snorting coke with them) behind the scenes.

After all when you make it big in the fashion industry, what else is there to do but f*ck around and snort cocaine? Like Kate Moss below.

Cage Shoes

FASHION - Cage shoes may be popular right now, but how comfortable are they?

Cage shoes may be the rage this season, starting at the spring/summer 2009 Yves Saint Laurent collection shown in Paris last October followed by designer Stefano Pilati sending his models down the runway with their feet encased in a shoe featuring thin strips of leather that form a grid-like pattern and perched on a metal cage-inspired heel.

And ever since these cage shoes have been imprisoning the feet of models and supermodels all over the blogosphere, setting people a-twitter.

I can't help but admit they look kewl, and indeed I wouldn't mind having a pair or two... but I've also tried them on several times at Holt Renfrew... and was very disappointed.

They pinch your feet, your toes and your ankles. They are HORRIBLY uncomfortable. I have yet to find a pair that fit properly and are comfortable.

I am soooooo glad I didn't buy them either, because I found out later they leave horrible waffle tan lines on your feet. So they're definitely more for partly cloudy days.

Fedoras, oh la la what a cock

FASHION - When it comes to hats and headwear, there is nothing more stylish than a fedora.

And nothing more geeky or tells the world you're a complete idiot.

I will say that women look fabulous in a fedora. Its very stylish and they don't look geeky whatsoever, but when a man wears it he ends up looking like:

1. A geek.
2. A pimp.
3. A complete cock (a British term to describe a braggart, idiot, jerk).

The last thing, the absolutely last thing a man will look like, is stylish and kewl. The men in the photos above... all look like cocks. They're trying really hard to be stylish. Too hard, and it ends up looking fake.

When you're stylish, you're not trying hard, you're natural about it. You're not pretending to be something you're not. You just are. Men wearing fedoras in an attempt to look stylish... well, they just end up looking like cocks.

As much as fedoras may be back in fashion for women, for men it could be years or decades before fedoras are considered stylish again.

I will say however there is a practical reason for wearing wide-brim fedoras. In the future, with global warming et al, it will be a wise move for more people to wear fedoras, cowboy hats and other ways to cover your head.

These short-brim fedoras... they're not practical, they're purely for style and people trying to look stylish. When people start wearing fedoras because they're a practical way to keep the sun off... then it will become stylish again.

See Also:
Fedora Femme

Does the Fashion Industry Ignore Average Women?

NOTE: For photos I managed to find several images of 'average' and 'plus-size' women's fashions, but its rarity. I experimented with Google image searches and I'd say skinny fashion outweighs average-sized fashion by a factor of 150.

FASHION - The average American woman is size 14.

But when was the last time you saw a size 14 woman on a catwalk? Or a size 14 mannequin in the store window? They don't exist.

But male mannequins and male models that size (or bigger) do exist. Why is that?

In these troubled economic times, it seems idiotic for an industry to ignore half of its potential customers. But that is exactly what the women's-fashion industry is doing by catering to size 4 women, according to the L.A. Times.

The average American man in contrast weighs 189.8 pounds and can easily find his size in department stores or expensive boutiques selling Armani. They know men won't diet to fit into a suit, but women will diet to fit into a dress.

Many women's designers limit their collections to size 10 and under, while department stores carry vastly fewer selections in women's so-called plus sizes and relegate those to fashion's "back-of-the-bus" by tucking them in hard-to-find corners of the store.

"I just don't want fat people wearing my designs," says one fashion designer. "Fat people aren't cool, and no hip designer wants uncool people wearing their clothes."

But these aren't fat or obese women. They're average. The fashion industry is ignoring AVERAGE women just because they're worried its 'uncool'.

Only a few chain stores, such as Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, Avenue and Torrid, focus on full-figured women, despite 62% of United States women being categorized as overweight (and approx 30% as being obese). Retailers are hurting for business, many are reluctant to even talk about plus sizes, let alone promote them, because they don't want to be seen as uncool.

It seems like the fashion industry is only marketing to the less than 5% population that is "super thin".

Where are the stores for fat women?

Where are the stores for average women?

The L.A. Times also reports that almost every major retailer, including Macy's, Nordstrom and even Wal-Mart, the county's No. 1 seller of plus-size clothing, declined to give interviews or failed to respond to requests. Why? Because they don't want to admit they sell to 'uncool' women apparently and are worried such a stigma would hurt their sales.

See Also:
Skinny Fashion Models / Standardized Women's Clothing Sizes
Skinny White Runway Models
Anorexia in Asia
Carre Otis
Fashion Waifs Disappearing
American Obesity Rates
The Perfect Female Body at Work