Sometimes we realize that fashion can be hard to understand. A reader once alerted us to a shopping review in The New York Times’ formidable Style section. She found the review dense, confusing, and devoid of any actual information about clothes. As a public service, we the editors took it upon ourselves to offer up a translation of these reviews. It’s a little service we like to call J.Cruel Into English™
In this week’s edition of Translations, we advise Cintra Wilson on a good lawyer, one who can a get her a restraining order from the jumpsuits that haunt her dreams. The store: Vince. The place: The Meatpacking District.
Back in the early stonewash age, it seemed as if there was a long stretch of time when there were no connective fibers, no unified field dressing, between the clothing of straight, 9-to-5 office people and those living la vie bohème: students, artists, whack-jobs, creatures of the night. There seemed to be few fashion ambiguities. For good or ill, you dressed in a costume that declared your peer group’s status, wealth and respectability — or lack thereof.
In 1995, men and monsters lived together in the Garden of Eden. They were naked. They were students at NYU. No one respected them.
Then the powerful sea change happened: The Great Basics Revolution. Gap rebirthed itself, springing fully formed from its own skull, and rose to ubiquity wearing a revolutionary rethink of mankind’s most basic form of nudity-covering since the fig leaf. For a brief, shimmering moment in time, the Gap pocket T was all things to all people.
The khaki pant originally comes from the ocean. It has two legs and socialist tendencies. Gap-T is a lord so mighty that I worship him on Wednesday afternoons.
Lines briefly blurred between conformist and nonconformist, janitor and socialite. It was mercifully bland at a time when fashion was becoming divisive and exhausting, and offered everyone a cheap, snappy way to feel comfortable, trendy and slightly unified.
In my youth, I went to a uniform school. I was delusional about my status there.
In the years that followed, the world was inundated with inoffensive, affordable basics. The unification obliterated individuality. Everyone wore khakis; everything became very, very boring. This boredom finally became intolerable, fashion tribalism resumed, and the brief retail honeymoon was over.
Kakhi is the color of very boring boards. Even the kids from the Lord of the Flies were better dressed.
In the center of the store, stealing all the thunder, a bandanna’d mannequin is wearing the signature Vince piece of the season: a Rosie-the-Riveter-style blue-collar jumpsuit ($325) with sleeves and cuffs pre-rolled for action. It was instantly beguiling — right on code for what my lizard brain was secretly wanting but hadn’t yet articulated: the spirit of Rachel Maddow, in denim.
The way I feel about jumpsuits is in no way grounded in reality. Why? Is it because my brain is the size of a peanut? Is it because I am Rachel Maddow?
Like Rosie, the butch-babe machinist whose feminine brawn inspired a general toughening-up through World War II, this quasi-androgynous worker’s garment seemed to embody that same comforting, unspoiled, can-do verve, that cheerfully industrious Maddow sanity that says: “Let’s cut the hair and the whining, ladies. We’ve got actual work to do.” I thought: psychologically protective, fashionable-yet-functional daywear for what may be a long fight against global economic meltdown. Perfect.
She-males look great in this jumpsuit. During the Federal Works Project, she-males were employed by the hundreds. They cut hair. They cut whining. More she-males is the solution to our global economic meltdown.
The dressing room, a cement-floored box covered with dark wood laminate, is so green-conscious as to actually be punishing. The light is on a motion detector; if you stop doing calisthenics for more than a few seconds, you are plunged into complete darkness. “Ha ha ha … it’s our strobe effect,” Mr. Johnson said, hearing the door click open and shut in my desperate grope for light.
I am about to have a seizure. Just kidding. I am at a rave, about to get desperately groped.
Once on my body, the jumpsuit and I began to argue. I didn’t want it to pre-roll the sleeves and legs for me; I wanted to roll them with my own elbow grease. I wanted thicker denim that might endure actual labor. I wanted this blue-collar factory uniform to be less preening and wussed out, and I wanted it to be well under $325. The affair ended abruptly.
The jumpsuit is alive! We discuss Kant. I wrestle it, but it grabs $325 out of my wallet. The next day it sends me my house key in a small heart-shaped box.
The Vince pocket T is the identical twin of the Gap pocket T, only without the democracy. It’s the $72 pocket T made of silky thin Peruvian cotton that says to your mechanic: “Sure, we’re all God’s children in the brotherhood of man. Only I’m slightly better than you.”
I once met a Peruvian who was not my brother. He too worshiped Gap-T. We are all Gap-T’s children.
A svelte pima tank top with little buttons down the back is $118. A two-tone hoodie is deliriously soft, and $135. “Nicollette Sheridan bought one of those in every color!” Mr. Johnson informed me. He was very sweet about the fact that after he said this, I couldn’t stop laughing. In summary: Vince is full of tasteful things in quietly gorgeous materials. Nobody will laugh at you.
I am laughing at you. You cannot see because I am wearing a mask of slim cut kakhi in every color.
But it must be said: The original Gap pocket T’s, if you washed them enough times, eventually became super-soft and pima-thin. You had only to love them enough to put the work into them; you had only to allow them to age beautifully.
In nominae Gap-T. In nominae Pocket T. In nominae spritus sancti.