The Emmy nominations for HBO's Girls are almost as gratifying to fans of the show as they are to the producers. Besides shaking up the TV world, the success of Girls feels like the manifestation of a deep shift in female style. It is a parting of the ways rather than the hair.
Mean Girl Style, overstuffed with face-fillers, expensive handbags, hair extensions and bank-busting shoes is officially over. It is so synonymous with nastiness, bad manners and duh-ness that TV news anchors and Jennifer Aniston have cut their hair and changed looks to escape the negatives of MGS. Despite the depressing nature of all this for feminists (Reality TV sisters, please!!!) there is an upside. Non-pleasing girls dressed in vintage chic with home-cut hair, any-shaped lips and all-sized bodies are in the spotlight now.
It has never been more cool to stick out in a crowd. Fashion reveals new faces every season. Most currently-hot models would look more at home on the set of Girls than lounging on the bikini deck of Roberto Cavalli's yacht. Kelly Mittendorf and Corinna Ingenleuf pop into my head but essentially, people who can sport an off-kilter hairstyle or go out in their dad's overcoat will always be the most interesting folk in a room. Cue the vintage shopper. Unwittingly sexy, slightly eclectic-looking and probably outside at the party doing something slightly bad. She works hard, wants love but would guffaw out loud if confronted by an amorous Alex Rodriguez. I love this girl so much I wrote a book for her, with a how-to guide on vintage shopping and inspirational style icons.
Vintage stores used to be called thrift or second-hand shops, frequented by canny shoppers and quirky style fans. Now they furnish the finishing touches or even the foundations for shoppers of every description. This causes confusion and fury to fashion brand gurus who spend long hours trying to analyze and capitalize on the vintage market. Impossible by the way. The vintage market will always remain a giant bazaar, forever beyond the control of LVMH. True 'vintage' means anything from the start of the 20th Century up until 1997. I am still finding out what happened then but I think it was the final year that clothing manufactured in the 20th century was also guaranteed to have been conventionally sold in that century. Clothes made at the end of1998 might conceivably still have turned up in Filene's in the year 2000, bang on for Pulp fans but not for 20th-century vintage identification.
Most vintage fans mix up their purchases with modern pieces. The aim is an individual look that can be added to and worked up or down. Keeping in mind a style icon before entering a chaotic vintage emporium cements a shopping outline. With an idea first, it's easier to choose colors, fabrics and even heel heights. Sure, there's fun to be had in hours of endless second-hand riffling but who has the time?
Vintage clothing should be cheap, stylish and easy to wear. Buyers should expect to wash or dry clean a garment after buying and maybe accept a few flaws on it, too. None-perfection is the new black. I am sure the costume department of Girls mix it up. I spied a McQueen on Marnie in a party scene but the overall effect is eccentric and loose, rather than rigidly sexy. This individualism speaks volumes, both on TV via Girls and on real people. Choosing clothes that reflect the self rather than an ideal is not revolutionary but it is filtering into the mainstream. In the past few years, the rise of the perfect Barbie look seriously worried me. Toddler beauty pageants, warring TV wenches and ugly cosmetic surgery enhancements everywhere made me fear for the fashion and beauty future of this country's young women. I am less worried now.