Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Time To Change The Chanel

Don't get me wrong, fashion is important. It inspires people to pursue a lifelong love of design. It generates millions of jobs around the world. And it has the unrivalled power to transform someone's self-esteem in the time it takes to fasten a couple of buttons. At its best, it's pure art. The rest of the time, it's simply content to make us look good, feel good, and swing our shopping bags as we walk down the high street.

However, it's still just fashion. It's transient, fleeting and sometimes utterly ridiculous. Even the world's most respected fashion designers can take a beautiful woman and make her look like she was dressed in the dark by a mean-spirited pack of primates.

Despite this, fashion magazines willingly overlook the frivolous nature of their industry, speaking about it in such lofty tones as to make the Large Hadron Collider seem like an inconsequential indulgence by comparison. Case in point - a new article on Vogue's website, reporting Karl Lagerfeld's assertion that Jacqueline Kennedy's iconic bright pink, bouclé skirt suit and pillbox hat wasn't a genuine Chanel.

Forget about the fact that the image of her scrabbling across the back of the President's car, attempting to gather up her husband's brains, is indelibly burned into the collective consciousness of a nation. Now we have to deal with the upsetting fact that her outfit was a knock-off.

OK, so maybe 'knock-off' is a bit of a stretch. According to Chanel biographer Justine Picardie, "The garments were not fake or pirated, but made to order [by American dressmaker Oleg Cassini] using materials supplied by Chanel in Paris." Even so, we're now in a situation where the most traumatic murder of the twentieth century is being re-evaluated because of the supposed inauthenticity of the widow's two-piece.

It might have been variously described as "the most legendary garment in American history" and a suit "which will forever be embedded in America's historical conscience." But ultimately, it doesn't matter whether it came from Chanel or George at ASDA. Fashion doesn't make historical figures, it just makes sure that they look nice in the photos that record it. Let's just try and keep a little perspective shall we?

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