When It Comes To Fashion, Try This One On For Size

Janet's World

August 09, 2009|By Janet Gilbert | Janet Gilbert,Special to The Baltimore Sun

When I was growing up, fashion magazines were my preferred coloring books. Even today, I have to fight the urge to grab a permanent marker and draw goatees and hideous scars on the models, embellish their hairstyles or compose amusing "thought balloons" to explain their aloof, unhappy or dangerous gazes.

These days, I usually thumb through fashion magazines to pass the time in waiting rooms. Unfortunately, I'm still not getting the fashion industry's intended message. For example, I'm never able to figure out how to incorporate the new season's styles into my wardrobe because I'm too lightheaded from sniffing the cloying fragrance samples. Either that, or I find myself so distracted by the photo's setting or mood that it eclipses whatever fabric, jewelry or designer line is being advertised.

Basically, fashion ads still remind me of the photos that were tacked on the wall of my fifth-grade classroom as thought-starters for creative writing assignments. I can't help but wonder: Why is that distinguished man in a tuxedo holding a box turtle? Who is the woman in the strapless gown sitting on the abandoned freight train car waiting for? What happened to the parents of these toddlers in embroidered rompers at the county fair?

Which is not to say I don't enjoy fashion magazines - I just enjoy them for all the wrong reasons. They give me ideas for animated shorts to be directed by Tim Burton, or drawings to be sketched by Dali's descendants. As a result, I'm not very influenced by fashion ads; you'd never call me trendy or fashion-forward. I tend to buy clothes or accessories because they speak to me, not because I've seen them on some waifish woman with kohl-encircled eyes leaning on a gas station pump in East Destitute.

Recently, I bought a cute yet undoubtedly garish shirt that has the words "peace," "love" and "hope" all over it, and what's more, it's bedazzling - though I'm not sure that's the proper fashion industry term for "dotted with glittery gems." But this shirt just spoke to me, and it said: "You may be able to change the world by wearing me, and besides, I have just been marked down." When I wear it around, I must admit that I do feel peaceful and loving and hopeful, as well as exceptionally shiny. Please enjoy the photo of me in my Peace/Love/Hope shirt on my Web site (janetgilbert.net).

If you look carefully at my photo, you will see that I have included another of my quirky yet endearing purchases: my Maryland license plate purse. When I saw this item, it also spoke to me: "Janet, you have yet to wear out a license plate on your vehicle, and yet you have retired numerous purses. Isn't it time you expressed your Maryland pride with a clunky yet indestructible handbag?" Indeed, in the past eight months I have spilled coffee on this purse, left it to bake on the dashboard of my car and flung it into the backseat numerous times, and yet it still looks exactly like a purse made out of an old Maryland license plate.

You will note that I tried to replicate a fashionable setting for my photo. Too bad I did not think to hire a successful professional photographer, such as my friend Mij Enoihccev, whose name has been spelled backward for privacy. Mij would have probably chosen to juxtapose my luminous Peace/Love/Hope shirt with the setting of a decrepit crackhouse in the predawn. Thus I would have been catapulted from the role of columnist to the role of fashion trendsetter - everyone in Maryland seeing Mij's artsy photograph would immediately want to purchase a sparkling Peace/Love/Hope shirt and Maryland tag purse.

Except for a few children, who would be using their Sharpies to give me a mustache as well as a big Harry Potter scar on my forehead.

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