Cathy Horyn Tired of Calling Ugly Vests ‘Pieces’

Celine. Photo: PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images

Cathy Horyn’s delightful story in today’s Times details her experience shopping for spring clothes or, as she puts it, “searching for a ball in the weeds.” She could have also called it “burning the contents of one’s bank account,” because that’s essentially what it’s like to walk into Céline. But it’s also a chance for her to air a few grievances that have clearly been brewing for some time now.

Horyn pads her gripes with some concessions, noting:

As a critic, I get irked by many things about fashion, and this necessarily influences what I end up buying (or not) for myself. I’m also completely inconsistent about my personal likes, so don’t take anything I say here seriously.

And with that, fire away! Mainly, she’s tired of people referring to clothes like they’re rarified objets to be stared at instead of worn.

Here’s what really gets my goat: When did people start getting precious-sounding about clothes, as though they were handling the Dead Sea Scrolls and not an ugly vest?

“This is the runway collection,” a salesman at Céline said, with cut-glass delicacy, having followed me to a rail in the middle of the store, where a dozen or so garments hung. I suppose he was merely adopting the language of art-infused retail, and couldn’t be faulted for saying of a nice-looking black dress, “This piece is $3,000.” This piece. Still, it’s kind of shame that one of my favorite spring collections, its vibe free and relaxed and elegant, should be turned into an art object with armholes.

She also made a thinly veiled dig at Hedi Slimane’s latest Saint Laurent collection: “Maybe because grunge doesn’t qualify as high fashion or even a new idea, it’s easy to improvise.” Hoho. But this article’s main point is a good one, and easily forgotten when you’re constantly bombarded by pictures of celebrities and models: When normal people buy clothes, they are meant to be put on your body, not gawked at as isolated entities. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy fun, non-practical things from time to time just because you like looking at them. But as you commence the hunt for that magical item to add je ne sais quoi to your summer wardrobe, don’t be seduced by the “piece” factor. Buy what looks good on you, not the hanger.

Cathy Horyn Tired of Calling Ugly Vests ‘Pieces’