"FASHIONS fade, style is eternal."
Yves Saint Laurent's famous take on the industry he helped supercharge and sanctify is on my mind today because I've arrived at the very moment all sense of personal fashion and style has finally curled up and died.
I'm buying a pair of pants from ALDI.
They have a drawstring waistband.
ALDI is the kind of raw, elemental place delicate Yves, I suspect, would be unable to endure.
The French designer has been a persistent presence the past couple of weeks because I stayed up late watching his biopic on SBS while the family was sleeping.
Bertrand Bonello's 2014 film has been spun into one of those threads which sometimes connect our pop culture footprints: in isolation, unrelated, but taken as a whole, weirdly cohesive.
The other night, we watched Cruella, the origin story of the villain from The Hundred and One Dalmatians. Cleverly, the exposition takes place in the fashion world of 1970s punk London.
Before Cruella, my wife and I binged Halston, the Netflix series about the eponymous/mononymous American designer who came on the scene with a bang, also in the '70s, but, by the '80s, had left the industry with a whimper.
Then, early this week, came New York's Met Gala, a tumescent extravaganza of celebrity and fashion determined more than usual to prove some kind of relevance (or, perhaps, flagrant irrelevance) after being mothballed last year due to coronavirus.
Health and safety considerations aside, nothing quite so highlights the divide between the haves and have-nots of a pandemic than a parade of pompous one-percenters occupying various positions on the talent spectrum imitating the court of Louis XVI.
Let them eat cake?
Let them have Pfizer.
As essential to the gala as Gaga wearing something silly, is a dollop of controversy, supplied this time by congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who wore a dress with the words "tax the rich" down the back; red letters, too, as if in blood (not that anyone does blood anymore).
"The medium is the message," AOC, as she's known, wrote on Instagram, amid criticism the elected official had failed to read the room by mounting her protest in a room full of privileged airheads with whom she was only too happy to hobnob.
Stylistically and aspirationally, the room I'm in - a shed really, full of masked desperadoes hell-bent on scoring some cheap cereal to shovel into their children's bottomless gullets - may be as far from the Metropolitan Museum of Art as possible.
If people under this roof had their own message written down the back of their active wear and essential worker garb, it would be "so very tired" or maybe "where did the past 20 years go?" or maybe "I hope the third kid doesn't need braces, too".
As Yves leaves the building in tears and possibly developing some kind of rash, I take a moment to reconcile my actions, to ponder the person I have become.
Saint Joan (Didion) takes Saint Laurent's position on my shoulder. She's always welcome and reminds me it's OK to change, just don't forget where you came from.
"I think we are well-advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, hammering on the mind's door at 4am of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends."
In my younger days, I liked clothes. Not in any obscene way, but enough to spend my first teenage pay packet on a raincoat from Country Road (my first three pay packets, actually, it was obscenely expensive).
In order to claim it, I took a two-hour train ride from my hometown to the city; the only kind of online shopping at our disposal back then. Clickety-clack and collect.
Being rocked violently in one of the red rattler's bench seats, I sat praying the coat would still be on the rack after spying it during a penniless sortie into the big smoke several weeks earlier. Whether it was the diesel fumes infiltrating the compartment or my ciggies giving me head-spins, I was in a fugue state of consumerism, the acquisition of that item so very, very important to my self-worth.
Happily, I scored the coat and it proved a great garment; durable, versatile, lasting well into university. Sadly, all memory of that mackintosh (like a few other things) hits a dead end around that time.
Fashions, and brain cells, do indeed fade.
Growing up middle class in the '80s, fashion was all department stores, name brands and an unhealthy abundance of paisley.
A JAG T-shirt (the bigger the 'JAG' the better) pretty much summed our risible aesthetic.
That antidote to all that label pap was the arrival of grunge in the early '90s, a handy coincidence for impoverished students for whom ripped jeans and filthy flannelette shirts were the only things in our second-hand drawers.
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In my 20s, cannonballed into the workplace, I became a natty dresser once again. I liked ties particularly and secured my first ever line of credit, a David Jones store card, to secure a steady line of neckwear.
The black and white houndstooth card was sleek and shiny. It plumped out my wallet nicely and, sometimes, I'd take it out and marvel at it, ala American Psycho.
Then came my 30s and 40s - parenthood, mortgages, car repayments and, now, lockdowns and working from home.
Life has become one long, inexorable slide away from style and, here I am, at the terminus, checking the tag on a pair of stretchy supermarket strides.
The Friday before Father's Day this year, our locked-down primary school children were told to dress up as their dads for a far-flung fashion show in front of screens.
Without any parental input, our kids turned up that morning looking like ice-addicted hobos.
As I waited for the DOCS car to arrive at the front gate, I remembered the time my own father's luggage fell from the roof rack of the family car somewhere along the Golden Highway as we took a trip to Dubbo.
We never found his suitcase and for the entirety of our holiday, dad was stuck with the clothes on his back.
Each morning he'd have us in stitches, pretending to agonise over what to wear that day, before settling on his maroon tracksuit.
Somehow, I think Yves would have approved.
- B. R. Doherty is a regular columnist.