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Limelight -- All that glitter
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 08 - 08 - 2002

All that glitter
By Lubna Abdel Aziz
You cannot escape them. They are out there, they are many and they are after our very souls. Twice a year they lock themselves up. They ponder and meditate, they devise and design, they create and fabricate, then they get out their gilded scissors and needles, produce their gilded creations and sign them with their gilded pens. They dispatch their messengers to the fashion capitals of the world and to the rhythmic beat of enchanting music, they march up and down their runways and catwalks in grand style, representing their visions of our future. Like fools, we madly rush in, to empty our pockets and buy their wares and refashion ourselves in the shapes and images they have decreed. We become replicas of their designs. We are born anew; and only then can we breathe again. We are fashionable therefore we exist. Every one of us is a unique being, made up of the sum of our experiences in time and place, a mix never before known in the world, never again to be duplicated. Yet despite this great desire to be unique individuals, we follow fashion blindly, like the mice of Hamelin following the Pied Piper into the river.
This fall the word is 'glitter'. We are to shine from top to toe, so have they ordained. The style shows for Fall 2002 have taken place in the world's fashion capitals, New York, Paris, London and Milan and their message is the same -- twinkle and sparkle, glitter and glimmer, glisten and lustre, from collars to cuffs, from pockets to epaulettes, from turtlenecks to tubes. From desk to disco, you are to be a luminous vision of glossy radiance and you will be provided with all the necessary tools, from head to heel -- sparkling hair products, mascara, eye shadow, nail varnish, face finish, fluorescent lip colours, an out and out phosphorescent brimful.
Men, in the recent past, stuck to their guns, remained constant and faithful to a unified simple image. But for years now they have worshipped at the altar of fashion. They have created their own re- creators who have created for them their own cosmetic lines for hair, face, and body. From neck to shoe they follow blindly, paralysed and hypnotised by the gods of fashion. All "Boss-ed" and "Armani-ed", they also must shine and shimmer. The mystery about the seasonal trends is how all these designers come up with the same ideas. Do they have secret, underground meetings, where they confer and concoct the season's styles, or are they all inspired by the same muse? Are they fed the same foods and drinks? Do they vacation at the same exotic locales, from Marrakech to Yemen, from Laos to St Petersburg, or do they have spies, sneaking and snooping into each other's sketches? Whatever the reason, they more often than not share the same ideas as to what we should look like, facilitating our task to honour and obey. It used to be that only a few big names dictated the season's trends. The big names of the designers are still there on the grand couture houses, even though they are retired or deceased. Their spell lingers on and they still rule our spirits from their graves. Coco Chanel has been dead for over 30 years, but her style, her name, her products, her fashions are more popular than ever. Karl Lagerfeld breathed new life into the signature Chanel, sacrificing his own in the meantime. This last decade no woman could be caught dead without a Chanel item, sunglasses, belt, chain, shoes, suit, scarf, or her splendid trademark -- the quilted black purse with the braided chain and the double-C monogram.
Gucci is designed by Tom Ford who has performed magic to the style and name of the Italian icon. Now Ford has taken over the YSL line and is creating new interest and a whole new clientèle to ma�tre St Laurent's 'Rive Gauche' line.
Dior is John Galliano's baby nowadays. Though many have previously designed for Christian Dior since his death in 1957, including Yves St Laurent, Marc Bohan, and recently GianFranco Ferre, with Galliano at the helm, everyone today vies for a piece of 'Dior'. It is the same with Versace, Givenchy, Anne Klein, Bill Blass and Chloé, all designed by others. The only designer of the old guard still in control of his own couture line is Valentino, who has a staunch following and a style as strong and as fresh today as it was 50 years ago.
If 'glitter' is not your thing, then 'black' surely is. The fashion world's favourite colour is back. Since Coco Chanel first introduced her little black dress in 1938, fashionable women have preferred it to any other colour. Beguiling and bewitching, black is big, it is beautiful and it is displayed on every runway for the coming season. It is subdued, sombre and sad, yet it is also smart, sophisticated and seductive. The fall colours in general are muted and quiet; coffees, creams and dove greys that gently and softly blend, lit up by threads of gold and silver. But if colour is your thing, you will find plenty of orange and purple, in tops and bottoms, hats and shoes, even furs and feathers.
Denim, like black, never really goes away. There is nothing like your favourite pair of jeans except your future favourite pair of jeans. Tucked into your stiletto boots, the skinniest jeans provide instant glamour, especially when worn with wispy chiffons or silky leathers.
Hollywood's 30s styles found favour on the runways. Those slinky, sticky, bias-cut, jazz dresses that cling and cleave as a second skin, are in. Imagine looking like these silver screen sirens, Jean Harlow, Greta Garbo, Ginger Rogers. Some kilogrammes must surely be shed to carry that look. So if you are not skin and bones, opt for the big jacket with the shoulder pads, which had once become extinct. It has returned in a dazzling array of styles and fabrics. From fur to leather, from silk to suede, this Marlon Brando boxer look with the zipper up front is all the rage. The contrast in style and fabric is piquant and quite delightful. So is après-ski style for elegant wear.
Ignoring skirts, except for the stringy, shiny stretchy mini, Armani amongst others explored every possible variation of trousers. Bloomers and breeches, knickerbockers nicked at the knee with stocking boots, come in every style from fine wool, silk and tulle, jewel- encrusted with glittery crystals.
Never sacrificing female elegance, the impeccable tailoring and intricate beading for which design maestro Armani is known, were unmistakable. When asked who inspired this season's collection, Armani sighed: "I didn't have one particular woman in mind... but Sophia Loren -- what a scent this woman has!"
If you have some glitter, a black slinky dress, tube trousers, a boxy aviator jacket, a great pair of jeans, add an embroidered waistcoat or jeweled vest, and you are in business this fall. If you need a coat, make it a belted wrap coat, preferably with a faux-fur collar. If investing in the season's fashion is not in your plans, here are a few items that you probably own that will make you feel quite trendy. A huge Bohemian bag, a leather jacket, a pair of trousers flared or straight, knee-high boots, fur collar on sweater or coat, preferably brown or coffee blends, hoop earrings, blazer-style jacket, big shoulder pads, a swinging jersey skirt, chiffon anything, add your own dash of glitter finish, et voilà -- instant glamour.
So when the perfumes of autumn fill the air, and the gusts of cool breezes drive away the summer heat, make sure you step out, spotlessly sparkling, and glitteringly glamorous. And remember if you don't glow from within, no amount of glitter will make you glow from without.

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