Dunnes or Dior? A question we ask ourselves daily

IT’S been a treacherous few days. We’ve had London Fashion Week, then hot on its (must-have platform) heels, Milan Fashion Week, and before you can say “midi skirt with matching bra top”, we’ll be assailed by perfection, French-style, at Paris Fashion Week.

Gigi Hadid wears a creation as part of the Moschino women's Fall/Winter 2018/19 fashion collection, presented in Milan, Italy. Picture: AP/Luca Bruno

Is there anything like Fashion Month to make a woman feel dowdy? Actually, let’s just keep going: dumpy, drab, dated and downcast. And that’s just the D’s. Feel free to add the adjective that best describes how you feel after watching a procession of those show-stopping catwalk ensembles that look nothing like anything in your wardrobe. Well, mine anyway, but I doubt I’m alone in that.

They’re not really meant to, of course, although this year those in the know have proclaimed that fashion has finally come back down to Earth. There is, apparently, a return to practicality and a move away from the “peacocking Insta-bait” with its “thousand-pound tracksuits and limited-edition bumbags”, as one eloquent fashion editor put it.

Wonderful news, but I’m not celebrating just yet.

“Street style may have gone back to ground-level”, whatever that means, but from where I’m sitting the closest thing on the London catwalk to anything I own was a pair of green fluffy slippers by faux-fur label Shrimps. But they’re not even practical.

Bra tops are also de rigueur this season, but I can’t see how they might be considered practical either. Bra tops? In an Irish spring? Doesn’t anybody feel the cold any more?

Of course it’s not exactly breaking news to suggest most of us are more Dunnes than Dior. We have been looking down the yawning gap between the fashion pages and what the average woman wears for decades now.

The rise of social media, however, has made it much worse — it’s hard to stop yourself being drawn into the fashion abyss when the season’s must-haves are just a click away. And it’s big business. Oh, to be a micro-influencer. Those with upwards of 10,000 followers can command fees running into thousands of euro for a single post.

We might succeed in seeing it for what it is (a little aspirational whimsy), or let it pass over our big hair (fyi, it’s back, Eighties-style) if it wasn’t for the unending discussion in the media.

Just when you thought Fashion Month couldn’t get any more depressing, along come the Emmy Awards. Given the focus on glamour, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was a red-carpet competition for best dress rather than a celebration of US prime-time television programming.

The spotlight seems to be on the splendid designer creations that cost more than most of us will ever spend on clothes in a lifetime.

For days afterwards, it’s impossible to avoid those best dress/worst dress photo spreads that have become a staple of most publications. And what better way to bring out the snarky, gloaty worst in all of us.

Shameful admission #1: I sneak a peek at the ‘worst dress’ pictures and am secretly pleased to think that perfection can’t be bought even at those prices.

Shameful admission #2: I very often confuse the ‘worst’ and the ‘best’ and think the fashion crime is, in fact, the essence of shtyle.

Shameful admission #3: I have, quite unconsciously, bought into fashion-shaming, As if body-shaming and fat-shaming weren’t enough, we now think it’s perfectly acceptable to tear strips off a person just because of what they are wearing.

I’m with Lena Dunham, star of the HBO series Girls, on this one.

Earlier this year, internet gossip columnist Perez Hilton wrote “At least she’s trying” under a picture of her on the Human Rights Campaign Gala red carpet. She was wearing a black dress with red accessories. Let’s leave the description at that because what you wear to a human rights campaign gala shouldn’t be a priority.

That’s exactly what Lena said and it’s worth repeating her response in full because her words will be blessed balm for anyone suffering fashion angst.

“I try at a lot of things,” she commented. “Mostly I try at being a writer, director, actor, activist, friend, sibling, partner, godmother... Fashion is fun but sometimes I’d rather not spend 3 hours and lots of cash I could give to charity or spend on books and food to get ready to go out.

“There’s a lotta different ways to be a public figure and I think there’s room for us to occasionally show up in public like normal people do. When I look at that picture you subjected to ‘caption this’ criticism, I see a day well-spent writing, reading, having tea with a friend. It’s unfortunate that the days you approve of most are the ones where I’m spending the least time on what really matters. With love, Lena.”

If I could, I’d put that exchange on the school curriculum. (Oh, and long live the school uniform — they may be hated but how much heartache they save.) I’d also include the wisdom of a dear friend who, when asked about her winter wardrobe, said this: “My autumn/winter wardrobe is the same as my spring/summer wardrobe, except with jumpers over it.” That’s not to say that women — men too — can’t take an interest in fashion, but let’s wear the clothes, not the other way around.

There was one small ray of hope in the middle of Fashion Month. Supermodel Heidi Klum launched a fashion collection this month, which is now available in Lidl.

The 20-piece collection, called Heidi and the City, is also available in real sizes (8 to 18) and at reasonable prices, from €5.99 to €59.99.

“Who can afford Chanel?” she said at the launch. Actually, Heidi herself probably can but it’s still heartening to read that she wants to make clothes for real people.

If only those real people would allow themselves to separate fashion fact from fashion fantasy.

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