I am a big fan of the 1970's. Put me in a room with Richard Milhouse Nixon, hotpants, and a few rounds of LSD, and you have a scenario worth writing a textbook about. People find my fascination with the decade quirky and cute. For example, Arsenio loves it when I waltz into work in 3-inch platforms and my favorite knit caftan, sit down, and crank up my "Village People" greatest hits CD. That's how I help the office get down to business. Honestly, I don't know how they ever got work done before I came in.
As new knit caftans are difficult to come by, I tend to buy much of my clothes- especially my undergarments which are SO much cheaper when they've been around the block- vintage. Thus, when a few days ago I found myself out of clean underwear and disinclined to do laundry, I ventured out to secure new clothing. A comrade of mine had recently told me of a vintage clothing store not too far away that had been known to be the repository for cast-offs from celebrities, and had recently received used goods from (among others) Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and David Beckham. When she excitedly called me to tell me that there was a rumor that Bai Ling had just dumped off a load, I immediately dropped jaw, work, and trou (just because) and hightailed it over to rummage through her leftovers. With any luck, I too could one day drape a dead swan over lace up ballet flats and be judged for it.
The store itself was unremarkable, and nothing about it hinted that any of the aforementioned celebrities had paid a visit- no paparazzi, no white powdery trail, nobody had driven a car through the storefront window as far as I could tell. There were tons of cool clothes though, and within a few minutes I could tell that this expedition could take hours, days, possibly years. I called in sick to work and told them that I thought I might have SARS.
I browsed through the relics of the 1950's, a pile of what appeared to be Joan Collins' wardrobe from her Dynasty days, a whole set of matching catsuits, a pair of leather hot-pants with a ¼ inch inseam, fastened at the sides with metal hoops what? Allow me to backtrack.
"a pair of leather hot-pants with a ¼ inch inseam, fastened at the sides with metal hoops."
Surely, I thought, this must be someone's idea of underwear, or perhaps half of a dominatrix costume. But there I was, in the "shorts and skirts" section of the store. The sign on the rack said so. On the hanger behind the shorts was a tiered pink skirt that flared at the bottom, and in front draped a sensible plaid wraparound. Always the helpful customer, I tapped the saleslady politely on the shoulder and informed her of this misplacement, suggesting that the shorts should be categorized elsewhere, perhaps in the "Costumes from Showgirls" section, or with other donations from the Pamela Anderson/Tommy Lee household (which if it doesn't have its own sequestered area for immediate sterilization is like six health code violations I'm sure). The lady told me, not-so-politely, that they did not currently have such a section, and that those shorts had recently been brought in by none other than Kate Moss, and that she had been photographed wearing them while carrying her four-year-old daughter Lila Grace during a shopping expedition in SoHo.
I was quite taken aback. Not just by the fact that the store would not require clothes left by Pamela and Tommy to undergo immediate fumigation and a thorough disinfection. Someone had worn these? In public? Over their underwear? I conjured up an image of me strolling along my neighborhood promenade, walking my dog and carrying a latte in the leather-meets-metal shorts. Then I imagined every single person on the street bursting out in simultaneous laughter and whipping out their cell phones to take pictures so that they could instantly send messages to their friends' phones with the caption "Michael Jackson's sex change finally complete!"
Because seriously, in which alternate universe can such a uniform be worn? Who gets up in the morning and asks to themselves "I wonder what shoes go with my black skin tight leather booty shorts attached at the sides with chrome rings?" (the answer is, of course, platforms, as Kate Moss apparently demonstrated in the aforementioned photos). But here the shorts were, available for resale, at quite a reasonable price for what must have originally been an expensive purchase. This store expected to sell these shorts to someone; ostensibly, someone expected to wear them.
That evening, I opened up the most recent edition of US Weekly, which had been delivered to my house earlier that week, as usual. I flipped to the "Stars, They're Just Like Us!" section. There they were, the stars, doing the same things we regular people do every day. There was Mischa Barton, walking her dog in LA, carrying a $4,000 Balenciaga bag. There was Ashley Olsen, purchasing a Venti Decaf Chai Soy Cappuccino, draped in a white sheet last seen on the body of Casper the Friendly Ghost. There was Katie Holmes, buying $7,000 worth of baby clothes for little Suri. I stopped. Wait a second, I thought to myself, that's not just like me! When was the last time I owned anything designed by Nicholas Gesquiere? When was the last time I had summoned the spirit of my grandmother of blessed memory in my fashion choices? Dressed my child/dog/houseplant in Versace?
On the next page, I saw Paris Hilton wearing what appeared to be a very tailored and very teeny adaptation of a jumpsuit worn by Smee the pirate. Sienna Miller in her "boho chic"- which that day apparently meant braless and nipples to the wind. And Fergie. Well, let's just hope that I can NEVER say about myself that Fergie is-looks or otherwise- "just like me." And there I had it. The stars were not just like me. In fact, their lifestyle, their fashion style, and their entire being was decidedly outside the realm of my reality and incompatible with it.
Why do we think that celebrity culture as anything other than catwalk couture? Why do we suppose that what we see on the runway in any way resembles what we should see in the mirror? Why, I asked myself as I stared in the fitting room mirror reflection of me bulging out of the leather hot pants that revealed both my ass crack and my butt crease, would I want to? Kate Moss's hot pants would never fly in my hood, and my comfy pajama pants featuring a pattern of floating bears with umbrellas would probably not go over well in hers. Of course, the difference is that my pajama pants have never seen the light of day, but now we're just nitpicking.
I thought of all the things that I was missing, my bear-with-umbrella pants and I. P Diddy's "white" party. The VMAs. Being able to make pure fun of Paula Abdul without envying her position in the public eye in the slightest. In my youth, I had spent so much time torturing myself into a figure that could fit inside those pants, trying to shape myself to be the kind of person who could wear them. It was wrong, wrong, horribly wrong. In a day to day reality, it was the pants, not me, that was out of place.
I inched my way out of them and returned them to the saleslady, with a subtle hint that at this point, they should surely be sterilized, possibly with the rigor usually reserved for surgical instruments. Kate Moss shall have her hot pants, and I shall have my dignity.
As I walked out, I saw a swarm of paparazzi, and braced myself for the endless barrage of camera flashes and questions. Then I saw that they were circling around what appeared to be either an overgrown locust or Nicole Richie in oversized sunglasses, and hadn't the slightest interest in me. It was ok. I felt fairly certain that there was a pair of leather/chrome hot pants in her future. I smiled to myself, knowing that she was about to face a real pain in the ass, and I was going home unburdened and commando.