Column: A social revival of fashion as politics

Sometimes there is nothing more fashionable than indifference. Whatever your feelings about the now-official “four more years,” it is fair to say that your best fashion bet for the future is the disaffected stare. Perfected by heiresses and heroin-chic supermodels alike, an apathetic air executed correctly will withstand the test of time that shoulder pads and platforms didn’t.

However, we live in a painfully partisan city, and while poses of elitist disenchantment may work for Paris Hilton, apathy, however fashionable, is not for D.C. Having said that, the same right to passion we reserve in ignoring couture indifference has devolved into what can only be described lately as a lazy attempt at fashion – functional conformity. In a city defined by its differences, why should we all look the same?

The inauguration, a veritable fashion week for the District, comes as a reminder every four years that, in fact, D.C. fashion is completely borrowed, inconsistent and, for the true natives, nonexistent. With a band that plays all the generically appealing hits and a giant ice sculpture in the shape of the new administration’s mammalian symbol, the little-recognized D.C. elite, eager to celebrate their society, appear in a flash sporting sensible black. It is the newest administration’s visiting team, however, that brings the style.

This year’s inaugural balls gave rise to what can only be described as “big” fashion. The Texan we know so well drew in many southern partygoers, and to say the least, they proudly validated that everything, in fact, must be bigger in Texas. Be it belt buckles, furs, cowboy hats or hair, they provided an interesting contrast to the monochromatic Washingtonians.

It may seem at first that D.C.’s “unstylish style” is charming in itself. Perhaps you just adore Washington’s reputation for sensible pinstripe, round-toed flats and taupe panty hose; however, there is a stark difference between recognizing a stereotype and embracing one.

As college students at a time when a quick scroll through the Facebook supplemented with a flip through “The Hipster Handbook” is as socially fruitful as a night of relatively “old school” mingling, we should know better than any that D.C. is just playing to the stereotype it has accumulated over years of un-fabulousness, perpetuating clich?s that have, unfortunately, become a communal identity.

With D.C.’s own brand of ‘celebrity’ comes a huge anxiety to meet our style potential. We know how difficult it is to compare a sighting of Joe Lieberman at a hip restaurant on Wisconsin to one of the Olsen Twins on Fifth Avenue. Politicians are the people that grace our society pages – shouldn’t they then be stylish by default? However, with Deeda Blair, the D.C. socialite and sole surviving District fashion icon, moving to New York City, I think our hopes for a fashionable reputation have been vetoed.

I suggest we spice up the inherent monotony of a double term not with a renaissance but a style revival. What ever happened to Kennedy’s ‘Camelot’? Ask not what your city can prescribe fashionable for you, but what you can wear for your city.

Go vintage by sporting a Kerry-Edwards ’04 T-shirt, or sipping your coffee out of a GW “Crossfire” mug. Do away with the diplomatic approach to attire and blow everyone away with an oversized American flag pin as a hyperbolic allusion to stereotypical D.C. garb. Put an end to the filibuster that has D.C. in a style slump and wear a CIA shirt as a nod to ironic fashion. There is no reason Washington, D.C., needs to wait every four years to flaunt its society because, as much as we may forget, politics is all about style.

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