Watanabe to Wear: Mrs. Obama Goes for the Avant-Garde

c doonan Watanabe to Wear: Mrs. Obama Goes for the Avant GardeDear Mrs. Windsor and Ms. Obama:

Girls! I beg you—please stop cuddling! I mean, where is your sense of formality? Get a room already! If I were craving intergenerational girl-on-girl intimacy, then I would have tuned in to an L-Word rerun.

Hyperbole aside, I really don’t want to see any heads of state, male or female, getting warm and fuzzy with each other. When it comes to international relations, I want stuffy protocol and curtseys and uptight officialdom!!!

Sorry about that outburst. I’m under a lot of pressure at the moment.

My world is disintegrating. All the goal posts and guard rails that gave my life meaning have gone missing. Nobody is acting or dressing the way they are supposed to. Especially not the establishment folks.

My entire sense of self relies on the existence of two very distinct systems: on the one hand, the farty/conservative/sensible establishment referred to above, and on the other, the swinging/unconventional/fabulous people. Right? Both groups need the counterpoint of the other group in order to exist.

Last week, unfortunately, saw a disorienting melding and mélange-ing of the two.

Michelle Obama, instead of wearing grown-up sensible clothing by Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan—and thereby supporting the seasoned juggernauts and biggest employers of the American clothing business—has gone all niche and fashion insider. Last week in London she even went Japanese avant-garde with a Junya Watanabe cardi. What’s next? Lady Gaga zippers on the eyes?

And then there’s that cuddling. Oy vay! Don’t get me wrong. I love a bit of physical contact as much as the next person. I once hugged it out with Tiki Barber so enthusiastically that his people began reaching for their Tazers. But the fact is, I’m not a head of state. I’m a nouveau riche fun-loving commoner who expects the folks at the top of the pyramid to act with tight-assed, gravitas-riddled arcane decorum. Is that too much to ask? They are not supposed to be relaxed and groovy. They are supposed to have the weight of the world on their dandruff-dusted shoulders.

And then there’s the banking crisis, by which I mean the bankers’ sartorial crisis. You simply will not believe the crazy looks these pillars of the financial industry are sporting these days.

All over the world, bankers are flinging open their closets and screeching, “What shall I wear?” like a bunch of highly strung reality-show bitches. I suppose it’s not their fault (nothing is): In addition to a tsunami populist rage, they are also being subjected to some pretty kooky and conflicting fashion advice. In London, they are being told to ditch the gray suits and power ties in favor of hoodies and ripped jeans in order to elude the G-20 lynch mobs. In France, they are trying to figure out what the well-dressed hostage is wearing these days. In the U.S., they are having a “furnishings” crisis: “Dressing in a traditional fancy banking shirt might not seem an appropriate dress code these days,” spake the cover of WWD last Friday. Subtext: If you wear stripes and a power tie, people are going to throw half-eaten Big Macs at you.

What’s a wanky banker to do?

I have a couple of suggestions.

First off, you could try dressing like a nancy boy. In fact, feel free to copy my look: If you wear velvet jackets and flowery shirts, I can guarantee that nobody is going to kidnap you or pelt you with street food. Your nonthreatening foppishness will, at least in the Wall Street milieu, render you all but invisible as you pass through the tear gas and mayhem to your place of employ.

But what if you have had your bonus retracted and you cannot afford to buy the kind of luscious distracting raiment with which I am fortunate enough to attire myself? Maybe your net worth has plunged, disallowing even a trip to Topman?

If this is the case, then you have only one option left: Wear your regular banker drag, but adopt a silly walk. Those of you d’un certain age will remember the famous Monty Python skit about the Ministry of Silly Walks. YouTube it to jog your memory, and do a total John Cleese, by which I mean wear your über-conservative duds but develop a strange and off-putting bodily tick. There is nothing more alarming than somebody with a violently eccentric gait. Nobody will try to kidnap you. No underlings will ever take you hostage.

Re silly walks: Maybe Mrs. Obama should develop one. It might distract us all from our increasingly deranged obsession with her clothing choices.

sdoonan@observer.com