Teen Chic is Tired; Women Are Back!

l doonan Teen Chic is Tired; Women Are Back!Women’s bodies are revolting! I don’t mean that the way it sounds. The girls of the world have simply had enough. They are mad as hell and they are not going to take it anymore. Anarchy and change are in the air.

But what exactly is going on? Is the super-skinny trend coming to an end? Are real women—remember back when being naturally curvaceous was good thing?—about to make a giant comeback? Are Michelle Obama’s arms too thick or too thin? Will Angelina Jolie’s womb continue to burst with babies? Is the anorexic-but-busty trend—that ho look against which I inveighed in my most recent book, Eccentric Glamour (Simon and Schuster, $24), finally beating a retreat? So many questions!

Let’s start with the ho trend. All over Manhattan, fashion folk are fizzing in their cubicles over the June issue of Italian Vogue. Yes, I did say cubicles! Calm down! Not everyone in the world of fashion has a giant, sleek chrome and white Ugly Betty office. I myself am the proud occupant of a small, gray modular structure. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Au contraire! Situated prominently in the main hallway of the Barneys office, I enjoy loads of spontaneous encounters with colleagues and visiting dignitaries alike. If I need a little privacy then I simply squirt perfume at any unwanted looky-loos. I keep a selection of fragrances in a little gray drawer for this very purpose.

But I digress. …

As I said, all over Manhattan, style professionals are fighting over this issue of Italian Vogue. There sits ’80s supermodel Linda Evangelista—womanly, more beautiful and fascinating than ever, the very essence of snooty elegance: looking like a cross between socialites CZ Guest and Barbara Hutton. The dignified Steven Meisel photographs of Ms. Evangelista flip the bird at skank style and pay tribute to that long-lost era when women were pampered because they were mysterious and special, and not because they could pole-dance. “Thank God!” hissed a female colleague, who had stopped by my cubicle to try and steal my copy.

The new refinement makes a really refreshing change from the porno chic that has dominated our culture for so long. Apart from being extremely draughty for the wearer, ho style has the unforgivable effect of making all women look the same: see The Real Housewives of Orange County. The bitchy-heiress look offers infinitely more opportunity for eccentricity and personal expression: see Linda with that gorgeous Philip Treacy glove hat plopped on her lovely Canadian head.

Fashion insiders are clearly ready to classy it up a little, but what of the poor whiplashed consumer? One minute she’s being told to rouge her nipples and tattoo her butt crack, the next minute she’s thrust into a Louis chair, surrounded by a gaggle of gassy pug dogs and forced to do her best Duchess of Windsor impersonation. Will she be able to make the transition? The general consensus around my cubicle is that the ordinary woman in the street is more than ready to trade in her teen-hoochie thang for some haughty Evangelista-esque glam.

My cubicle feels strongly that Linda is the gal to lead the charge into a more sane, less youth-centric, more woman-friendly year. Born in 1965, she is living proof that life, and fabulousness in general, begin at 40. Watch for her in the upcoming Prada ads. And watch for her peers Naomi and Christy in various other fall fashion campaigns. The supermodels are back!

Cubicle theories abound regarding the return of this triumvirate. Some say it’s because “Celebs are OVER!” I believe that the reason is more profound: the supes, unlike the fragile, stunned-looking Eastern European teenage chicks who have dominated the runways since the late 1990s, actually have internal organs and are therefore capable of emotions like joy and rage and are therefore more real, i.e., interesting. The naïve dingbat anorexic moment has passed. Super-skinny has lost its resonance. It’s time for

Karl Lagerfeld to pack on a few pounds. Jiggly is about to become the new scrawny.

And what about Mrs. Obama, she of the athletic decidedly unscrawny arms? The fashion flurry around La Obama is deeply amusing to moi. My cubicle visitors keep banging on endlessly about how great it will be to have a Jackie O-ish fashionable presence in the White House, a woman with “great style.” It’s not hard to decode these utterances: “Great style” is clearly a p.c. euphemism for “does not have thick ankles like most politicians’ wives.” Michelle Obama, Jackie O and Carla Bruni Sarkozy are all lauded for their “fabulous sense of fashion.” The reality is that their personal style is non-intrepid. What these gals have in common is not fashion bravado, but rather a distinct lack of cankles. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. The simplicity and tidiness that unites this triumvirate is totally laudable and very much in keeping with the limitations of the office.

Talking of office limitations, my little gray cubicle could really use a bit more storage. Perhaps another shelf or two. And remember, gals! Women are back!

sdoonan@observer.com

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