American Cutie

g paltrow 2v American CutieIn the course of promoting her latest movie, Iron Man, Gwyneth Paltrow has been seen in at least three incredibly short dresses.

There was the black Preen bandage dress, which barely reached the top of her thighs; the Sonia Rykiel sequin number with the vague image of a face patterned into the glitter; and a blazer over what looked to be about one yard total of lacy shiny black, from LBD. Rounding off these outfits was an array of footwear that would feel at home in a fetish-dungeon or on a drag queen: shiny black patent leather Burberry shoe boots, five-inch Alexander McQueen stilettos, seven-inch platform boots by Pacchini.

The 35-year-old mother of two seemed to be channeling a hybrid of Carrie Bradshaw and David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth. And the legs, the heels, said one thing: Naïveté is over; innocence is done; Cutie has been replaced by duty.

“I sort of look at some peers of mine and I think, ‘No, you’ve got it all wrong!’” she told a reporter for InStyle back in November 2005, when she was working the shlumpy, froggy-princess yogini look. “I just want to tell them all to have babies and be happy and not get sucked into that Hollywood thing.”

But that was at the end of the Era of Gwyneth of the careless post-Spence shmattes, of the Wes Anderson and Royal Tenenbaums and her sweet candied-goth look. Gwyneth was to the ’90s what Mia Farrow was to the ’60s, impossibly adorable and … Twee, both in the old British sense—twee was adorable baby talk for “SWEET”—and in the Indie Sense as well, in which Twee was old-fashioned-looking Wellingtons, fresh vegetables, T-strap Mary Janes, fringes or bangs, marmalade, anoraks and tea in a pretty teacup.

What is Twee?

Here are some sample lyrics from the song “White Collar Boy,” from the last album by Belle and Sebastian, who take their name from a French novel and television series from the 1960s about a 6-year-old boy and his dog that live in the French Alps:

 

White collar, scared to be bored

Blue collar, she’s opening doors

White collar, boy on the run from

the law

The law, the law, the law

Get on your bike

Get on your horse

 

The music of ordinariness and naïveté has from time to time taken hold among young people. In 1986, the magazine New Music Express marketed a cassette tape titled C86, featuring a group of British bands with names like the Shop Assistants and the Mighty Lemon Drops. The tape, though it exhibited several different kinds of indie pop sensibility, was quickly influential with young people who had gotten kind of sick of songs about war and suicide and sex and drugs. Bands started forming.

The British music critic Simon Reynolds famously documented what he called the “revolt into childhood” these Cutie (or “Twee”) bands represented. And the lyrics, the jangly-happy guitars and the outfits that defined this movement were collectively referred to by the British fashion magazine i-D as the “Cutie” scene.

“Childlike innocence and assumed naivety permeate the Cutie scene,” the report read. “Their clothes are asexual, their haircuts are fringes, their colours are pastel. Cuties like Penguin modern classics, sweets, ginger beer, vegetables, and anoraks.”

And Millard Fillmore. And suburban drum corps. And Nico. And Frank Capra. And camping out at the museum. And naming their children Apple?