This is a time of reckoning, a moment when we look back at the events of the past year and question how we were affected. As in, “Did wearing that burgundy corduroy skirt to a big presentation really lose the account for my company?” Or, “She stopped going out with me because she said I looked like a bum. Hey, Don Johnson got away with stubble on ‘Miami Vice.”’
Of course, everyone’s been guilty of a fashion faux pas.
During 1993, we recorded in the weekly FauxPasReport numerous violations by men and women who didn’t pay attention to the vogue code.
Or should we say, vague code?
One of the only truths of fashion is that the rules are fluid. A woman with a hopelessly dated hairstyle--like Farrah Fawcett’s 1970s feathered cut--may look like she’s stepped right out of a “Charlie’s Angels” re-run, but she could be on the cutting edge of a revival.
The following is a roundup of some of the year’s most interesting fashion mistakes. If you find a pas you didn’t realize could be fauxed, don’t worry about it. The bottom line is, if you’re happy with that cowboy hat on backward, so be it.
“I See London . . . “
Something about underwear tends to get people all steamed up. One of the biggest undergarment faux pas is the bra strap that peeks out from the shoulder of a tank or sleeveless blouse. We suggested in March that women make sure they’re buying the correct bra and blouse size, unless of course the objective is to look like a Gianni Versace model.
Colored brassieres, romantic Valentine’s Day presents, were a topic in February, as hordes of women wore their black, red or lavender bras under flimsy white shirts and blouses, giving the world a look at their taste in lingerie.
And the old visible-pantyhose-band-above-skirt mistake reared up in April.
If you’ve been guilty of these fashion infractions, remember that showing off your underwear is chic in some circles. Ask Paulina.
But women weren’t alone in underwear miscues: In the spring, we reported on men who shed their heavy wool slacks for the comfort of lighter colors and fabrics, which allowed us to see if they tucked their shirts in correctly. It was recommended that they stay away from cheap, thin spring slacks, unless of course they have a job where they’re sitting down all day.
The Sporting Life
We Southern Californians love our sports, which has to be why so many of us tramp around in public wearing “Shaq Attaq” T-shirts and the “Swoosh” caps that Andre Agassi wears. But even with this kind of sloppy wear, we can make a dressing error that can send us to the showers.
During King-mania last June, when the improbable L.A. Kings, led by stickman extraordinaire Wayne Gretzky, beat the odds and wound up in the Stanley Cup finals, there was a lot of smirking and chuckling going on. It seems the die-hard Kings fans were annoyed by the bandwagoners, who only knew what a puck was after the team reached the playoffs.
Many of the fair-weather fans picked up copies of Gretzky’s jersey to wear during the championship run. No one had a problem with that. It was when they attempted to copy Gretzky’s style and tuck in one side of the jersey that brought the controversy.
True Gretzky disciples tuck in the right side. Many of the bandwagoners mistakenly tucked in the left side, opening themselves to ridicule. However, after the King’s heartbreaking loss in the finals, many of those fake Gretzkys probably exchanged their King jerseys for Mighty Duck ones.
The Angels debuted an almost all-new squad of players along with new, retro-'60s uniforms. In May, we reported on how the coolest cap in town had the new CA, and to wear the old Halo A cap showed a stubborn disinterest in this fresh young team that was going places.
Interestingly, as the season wore on, those sharp new caps began to disappear from heads all over Southern California. Did it have anything to do with the team’s customary summer demise? Nah, it was probably just the fickleness of fashion: in one day, out the next.
Yeah, that’s what it was.
In sultry July there were several reported sightings of athletic women running on tracks and streets wearing only shorts and a running bra. Was a running bra OK without a top? Our advice was that it was fine to do your 5K in just a running bra, as long as it really was a running bra.
The warning signs of a guy’s mid-life crisis? Sports car, bungee-jumping and a ponytail. The first can be expensive, the second can be dangerous, which is probably why so many guys have ponytails.
We advised that a good, mature tail should be no longer than three or four inches. Of course, some men get away with tails down to their belts. And guys in creative professions such as advertising tend to have their tails accepted by colleagues, more so than men who are mortgage brokers. However, if you’re the firm’s top broker, is anyone going to tell you not to feel a little wild if you want?
Hats picked up in popularity, and many women new to hat-wearing faced a problem their mothers and grandmothers had to deal with: hat hair. When taking off their headpiece, they found that their hair had twisted and pulled into a formation they usually see only in the morning mirror. It was suggested that they use hats with some type of lining; otherwise, they should prepare for a nesting swallow to call their head home.
You may have all the latest duds before sauntering over to that country-Western club, but people will be staring at your Texas two-step if your jeans and boots aren’t correctly mated.
While men wear their jeans over their boots, we reported lots of guys have been making the frontier faux pas of tucking their pants into their boots. Perhaps this is because they see their wives and girlfriends do it. It’s OK to tuck pants in if you ride sidesaddle.
However, in another break of the vogue code, if a guy wants to show off a great pair of boots, no one’s going to think twice, they’ll just wish they had them.
For another example of the flimsiness of fashion law, consider that in November we discussed how women who wore a tapestry vest to a Western event were mixing tones instead of wearing a Western vest that complements their cowgirl outfit. However, Rene E. Riley, fashion editor of Western Styles magazine, wrote to say that the tapestry vest is not only acceptable, it’s become a chic Western-wear trend.
The answer: Do what you like, just make sure your Stetson’s on straight.
The Birkenstock has been transformed. What used to be the mainstay of beatnik wear now is on the feet of everyone from Stanford medical students to ad agency creative directors. But controversy rages: Are socks appropriate for Birks? And if so, what kinds?
We found out that, ideally, you do want a sock, but not the thick wool or cotton type. Thin socks work best with Birkenstocks, and any color except black is acceptable. Walk around with Birks and black hose and someone’s liable to ask if you’re from Brussels--as anyone who’s been near Disneyland knows, dark socks and sandals usually equal a European tourist.
We tried resting the minds of thousands women who bought metallic-finished pewter shoes and handbags over the past year when we discovered that although they thought they were faux pas-ing all over the place by wearing pewter with browns, blues and reds, all are acceptable.
Pewter is officially a neutral. That is, of course, unless another authority says otherwise.
We hope this year’s FauxPasReports provided a little guidance with what to wear, when, where and how, and were a bit entertaining.
In the new year, remember to keep those resolutions, and don’t get embarrassed when you find your personal fashion mistake highlighted.
Flaunt it. It could become a trend.