What fashions are you hoping for next year?
Alexis, by email
So many fashions, Alexis! First, I would like an end to Smurfette fashion, by which I don’t mean fashion that makes you look like a Smurfette (as far as I know, that is not a fashion, but this column heartily endorses Smurfette’s signature style of matching her shoes to her dress to her hat). Rather, it’s fashion that adheres to the Smurfette principle. This – as I’m sure you all know – is the name coined by the excellent feminist writer Katha Pollitt for the common trope of having a group of male characters and only one female character – as Pollitt put it in 1991, “a group of male buddies will be accented by a lone female, stereotypically defined”. Like, obviously, Smurfette and the Smurfs. Or the kids in Stranger Things, the adults in Seinfeld, the cast of The Princess Bride and so on. Once you know about the Smurfette principle, you realise that it is everywhere.
Smurfette fashion is when the woman dresses in conspicuously sexy or feminine clothes while the men around her wear clothes that look comfortable and warm. The Jurassic Park franchise has showcased this trend in marvellously boiled-down style – think of it as the Topshop of Smurfette fashion, in that it takes the look and reduces it to its most obvious reference points. It started in a minor key, with Laura Dern fleeing dinosaurs in a small pair of shorts – which magically seemed to disappear when she put on her raincoat – alongside Sam Neill, who never even had to take off so much as his hat. But all credit to Steven Spielberg: Dern’s legs were more than balanced out by the famous scene in which Jeff Goldblum reclines with his shirt unbuttoned, chest freshly oiled, a shot that I genuinely think propelled me into puberty (thanks, Jeff).
By the time we got to Jurassic World, however, poor Bryce Dallas Howard could only look at Dern’s shorts and sensible shoes with envy as she had to run from the raptors in a cream skirt suit and high heels, while Chris Pratt battled on in some sort of army fatigues. Running from dinosaurs in high heels: is this having it all, ladies, or what?
The wildly unnecessary remake of Jumanji – retitled, Guns N’ Roses-ishly, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – features such an explicit example of Smurfette fashion that its poster should be the Vogue cover when this trend is finally given the industry coverage it deserves (it is a SCANDAL how the mainstream media has deliberately ignored it – #MSMsmurfettefashionconspiracy.) There, Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black and Kevin Hart all pose in the aforementioned jungle, into which they were presumably welcomed, wearing suitable safari outfits, while poor Karen Gillan is in a cropped top and hot pants. “Why am I wearing half a shirt and shorts in the jungle?” her character, Martha, protests, understandably. Ah, you say, so this is actually a super-clever satire on how female characters look in computer games, because Jumanji is now a computer game and not – as it was in the 1995 Robin Williams film – an inexplicable semi-ouija board. Oh wow, I love it when my feminism comes served up with a hot side order of meta!
But isn’t it, like, super convenient for the film-makers that mockery of this sexist stereotype meant the female lead had to be more than half-naked? Hot tip, Jumanji makers! Embodying the stereotype in order to satirise it is not satire – it is just embodying it. Remember that weird moment in the 90s when some women claimed that idolising porn stars was a feminist act because it was being done in a subversive way? Yeah, that didn’t make any sense then and this doesn’t make sense now. Put some clothes on your actress, Jumanji makers. Robin Williams would be ashamed of you.
Next! It would be totally super-awesome if fashion companies could get better at paying their taxes, especially Italian ones who are, it seems, remarkably lax about such things. Giorgio Armani and Prada and Bulgari havein the past five years, forked out hundreds of millions of pounds to settle various tax disputes. Meanwhile both Bulgari and Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbanna were investigated in tax cases – with the latter pair having 20-month convictions overturned in 2014. Now it’s the turn of Gucci, which is under investigation for possibly failing to pay $1.3bn in taxes. Oops! You know how it goes, you’re so busy making super-duper, absolutely fabulous, hippy-luxe maximalist fashion that you forget to pay that pesky $1bn. I have long believed that anyone who avoids paying taxes should, in compensation, go out and do what taxes pay for, up to their level of qualification. So – if they were found guilty – Gucci’s people could, for example, work as street sweepers, work in the local council listening to angry people call up to complain about various parking disputes with their neighbours, or work as waste disposal people in local hospitals. After several million years of that, their debt might just be paid off.
But really, the only fashion I’m interested in is what outfit the new US president, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris or Kirsten Gillibrand, wears to their inauguration, after President Trump and his entire administration are impeached. I haven’t worked out how any of this will happen, legally, constitutionally or practically, but I’m sure excited to see the outcome.
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