If you had told me three months ago that Kim Kardashian would be the reason some young women were dressing more demurely, I would have laughed and possibly thrown a pair of denim cut-offs in your face. However, three months is an awfully looong time in fashion and that’s exactly what's happened.
Kim has undergone a complete style transformation at the hand of new boyfriend rapper/fashion designer Kanye West. Gone are her signature style staples: bright and tight, big bling, spiked Louboutin’s and curled hair. Suddenly everything about Kim is sleeker and yes, I'm going to say it - chicer. It's all about black, white and red, knee-length pencil skirts, nipped waists, pointy toe pumps and a poker-straight blow-dry. Kim 2.0 is more New York than LA.
In a soon-to-be aired episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians we see just how radical the transformation has been as Kanye and his stylist, empty out Kim’s walk-in wardrobes. He replaces all the old stuff, which he calls “ghetto", with new “dope s*&t”, which is Kanye speak for a truckload of designer labels. Mostly French.
It’s out with the old husband ... I mean clothes … and in with the new.
As far as make-overs go it’s been a good one. I’m paying closer attention to what she’s wearing - Givenchy, Celine, Balenciaga, Chanel - she might even be influencing the way I’m dressing. Just a little.
There's a great scene in The Devil Wears Prada when Miranda Priestly (Streep) explains the cycle of fashion influence to assistant Andy Sachs (Hathaway):
'This ... stuff'? Oh. Okay. I see. You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select ... I don't know ... that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you're trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don't know is that that sweater is not just blue, it's not turquoise. It's not lapis. It's actually cerulean. And you're also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent ... wasn't it? Who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it's sort of comical how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you're wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.”
It’s the perfect illustration of how fashion works: in any given season there may be 15 new and/or significant trends to emerge from the design elite. Magazine editorial staff pick the trends they think are the most significant and then photograph those looks. The buying public turn to the magazine as a guide on what to buy next and buy it. The chain stores watch what the consumers buy and reproduce the most popular trends at a more affordable price. From here the trend dilutes and dilutes until it’s just a colour on a sweater in a bargain bin.
Over the last decade the influence has shifted toward the red carpet with many of us preferring to take style cues from celebrities rather than models. It’s much easier to visualise yourself in a dress that Christina Hendricks is wearing than a size zero slip on a 17-year-old Russian model. Celebrities make high-fashion more approachable and therefore achievable. They also have the ability to take a trend mass market and that’s exactly what’s happening with Kim Kardashian’s new look.
Which leads me to Westfield on the weekend. Two young girls were trying on clothes in the change room next to me. The first emerged in the ‘aren’t-we-over-it-yet’ uniform of booty shorts and cropped singlet. The fashion reference is Daisy Duke and the celebrity reference is video clip dancer. She looked predictable, vulnerable and not sexy. Did you hear me girls? Not. Sexy.
The second girl came out in a knee-length, black pencil skirt and white, long-sleeved peplum top. The fashion reference was Givenchy and the celebrity reference was Kardashian. The girl looked lovely, refreshingly different and sexy. Imagine that?! Without showing any skin?
This little local vignette is an example of the influence cycle hard at work. Kim Kardashian and all her 16 million Twitter followers are starting to march to a new fashion tune. Kanye’s. And just you wait … this look will be on every dance floor at every formal across the country come the end of November.
And in discount bins by January 31.