Here’s an as/is repost of a book review I wrote for Epinions.com in 2010. I’m just preserving it for posterity purposes.
For many Americans, luxury is a word that conjures up a lot of pleasant images of high quality, exclusivity, and status. People buy luxury items not just for what they are, but for what they stand for. When you can afford to purchase an $800 pair of shorts or a $500 silk tie, you’re telling the world that you’ve made it. Trouble is, the vast majority of people worldwide can’t afford to buy luxury items, at least not without sacrifice or going into debt. Author Dana Thomas explores the world of luxury in her 2007 book, Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster.
I picked up this book on Amazon.com, partly because I really enjoy non-fiction books about current events and partly because I can confess to wanting a part of the “luxury dream” Dana Thomas writes about. Apparently, I’m no different than a lot of middle class Americans who want to feel a little luxurious, but can’t afford to buy a products that cost hundreds of dollars. So instead of purchasing a $1000 Chanel handbag, I might instead purchase a bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume. Instead of buying a $2000 Christian Dior garment, I might spring for a $25 tube of Dior lipstick. Unlike a lot of consumers, I wouldn’t consider purchasing a “knock-off” luxury product, though Thomas writes that plenty of people would happily buy a bag that just looks a lot like a Prada.
According to Thomas, it’s because of the globalization of products that used to be exclusively for the very rich, luxury is not as lustrous as it used to be. In Deluxe, she explores the history of famous brands like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Hermes, and Chanel. She takes a close look at the darker side of high fashion, exploring how products that used to be tailor made in Europe are now mass produced in China. She offers a glimpse at the crafty street hustlers who sell fake luxury goods in Santee Alley, part of the Los Angeles fashion district.
Thomas did extensive research for this book, traveling far and wide, and talking to a diverse group of people in the fashion industry. Of course she quotes a number of fashion designers and the business people who run the companies that produce luxury products. She interviewed the craftsmen who make exquisite crocodile bags for Hermes, explaining how Hermes bags are made and why they are still so special. She spoke to the curator of Hermes’ museum, Menehould de Bazelaire, a former teacher who once taught Greek and Latin at New York’s Lycee Francaise and returned to Paris to become an archivist. De Bazelaire now runs Hermes’ museum, an operation that is open by appointment and documents the brand’s long and illustrious history.
Thomas discusses how luxury stores and outlets have sprung up worldwide and explains why Hong Kong has nine Prada stores while New York only has one. There’s a discussion as to how the Internet has changed the luxury business and made luxury goods even more accessible to the average person. Thomas mentions how 9/11 took a huge toll on the luxury business and offers insight as to why it suffered so much after the attacks. She explains how the rap and hip hop culture unexpectedly and, in some people’s opinions, unfortunately, influenced the fashion world. Thomas even spoke to a man who began his career as a police officer and later got into the business of busting people who sell luxury knock-offs. The end result of all Thomas’s hard work is a very comprehensive look at the world of luxury and high fashion.
I enjoyed reading Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster more than I thought I would. Thomas obviously has a lot of knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject and her investment in this project comes through loud and clear. That being said, even though I might buy a bottle of Bulgari perfume and, back in my horsebackriding days, I once dreamt of owning a genuine Hermes saddle, I can tell that I’m not as invested in the dream as some people are.
According to Thomas, there are secretaries in Hong Kong who save up their paychecks to buy just one special handbag. There are women in Brazil who eagerly await catalogs from luxury designers and take pictures in to local merchants, telling them which product they want to buy when it’s available locally. There are women in the United States who hold “purse parties”, making a killing selling counterfeit versions of luxury goods to housewives. The practice is illegal, but apparently it’s become so common that even church organizations have been known to sponsor them as a way to raise money.
Aside from exploring today’s luxury market, Thomas offers a fascinating history of how brands like Hermes, Chanel, Prada, and Gucci came to be. I really enjoyed reading about how, through twists of fate and circumstance, ordinary people became the names behind extraordinary products. I also found it interesting to read how world events like the two World Wars and 9/11 have affected the fashion world. The only drawback I can come up with is that this book was published three years ago, so some of the information is dated. For instance, Thomas quotes the late Alexander McQueen as if he were still alive. He died in February of this year. This is not a big deal, but I think it’s worth mentioning.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the history of fashion, economics, history, or even just likes to read about current events. It’s very unlikely that I would ever spend $1000 on a handbag… unless I could be sure it would be the last handbag I’d ever buy! But it’s fun to read about those who would spend that kind of money and how luxury designers are making sure that their once exclusive products are becoming more accessible to the masses. I guess, for that reason alone, it makes little sense to buy into luxury products. When it’s no longer exclusive, it’s no longer all that special.
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Here’s a repost of an article I wrote March 28, 2017. I’m sharing it again, because I think it’s an interesting topic, particularly if you have any experience with the United States military or fake friends.
I’m writing again today because I finally remembered a topic I wanted to write about last night. All of this uproar about leggings, yoga pants, and camel toes made me remember a simpler time back in the day… I’m talking about dress codes on military installations.
Actually, dress codes in the commissary are supposedly still a “thing”. When you shop on a military installation, you’re supposed to look presentable. That means no spandex, no hats indoors, and no curlers in your hair, although I can’t remember the last time I saw anyone wearing curlers in private, let alone at a military grocery store. I used to wear them sometimes when I was a kid. I’d sleep in them so I’d have curly hair the next day. But my days of wearing curlers are long over now.
I never got in trouble for not dressing appropriately at the commissary. In fact, I don’t think a lot of today’s servicemembers even know that the policy used to be strictly enforced. I do remember maybe fifteen years ago having brunch at a Coast Guard station with my parents. Next to the entrance of the dining room, there was a big sign outlining what was and wasn’t acceptable dress. I distinctly remember seeing the word “curlers” as among the specifically forbidden attire.
Some time later, when I lived at Fort Belvoir, I remember discussing the dress code with a fellow Army wife. She scoffed at what she saw as the command’s overreach. I remember the commander had outlawed spandex with the explanation that some people “didn’t need to be wearing it” in public. While I agree that wearing spandex is ill advised for some people, what is and what isn’t appropriate can sort of be in the eye of the beholder. There was a time, however, when women who shopped at the commissary were supposed to wear dresses. They weren’t allowed to wear house coats, ratty pajama pants, or tank tops. Men, likewise, were expected to look presentable and respectable.
Nowadays, a lot of people don’t like the idea of being expected to dress to impress. They will say they dress for comfort and screw anyone who doesn’t like what they put on in the morning… or afternoon, as it were. Hell, while I usually try to wear makeup if I’m going somewhere, if I’m sitting at home, I usually stay in my nightgown. I like to be comfortable and rarely see anyone except the random people who ring my doorbell. And I don’t care if they’re offended by my saggy, braless, boobs and bare face because #1., they were almost never invited to ring my bell and #2., my interaction with them is usually less than a minute. You want me to look presentable when I answer the door? Make an appointment.
In the article I linked above, there is a letter quoted by a man from Rhode Island who wanted yoga pants, leggings, and mini-skirts banned for people over age 20. He wrote:
“Like the mini-skirt, yoga pants can be adorable on children and young women who have the benefit of nature’s blessing of youth. However, on mature, adult women there is something bizarre and disturbing about the appearance they make in public,” wrote Alan Sorrentino.
Well… I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say that leggings, yoga pants, or mini-skirts are bizarre and disturbing on older women. Some older women can pull them off just fine, just as some younger people look ridiculous in those styles. Unfortunately, it comes down to self-awareness and honesty with oneself… or, barring that, being able to take truthful, constructive advice from friends and loved ones. Really. I think a true friend will tell you kindly, but honestly, if your outfit is in poor taste or doesn’t do a thing for you, as my mom would say.
My ex best friend was famously rude about some things, but I distinctly remember her telling me she liked a hideous pair of pants I tried on when we were shopping. I’m 99% certain she was lying to me and secretly relishing the idea that I’d look ridiculous wearing them in public. She was brutally candid with her opinions when she didn’t need to be, but also a little too complimentary when she shouldn’t have been.
At the time, I believed this ex bestie when she said the ugly knit pants “pulled my waist in” (bullshit!). I wanted to believe her, of course. At the time, I was obsessively worried about my weight and endlessly dieting to the point of stupidity. I desperately wanted to believe that the smaller size I tried on actually fit and looked good, even if deep down, I probably knew the truth. Yet she smiled at me and said I looked fine even as I continually pulled the pants out of my ass crack and squirmed as the inseams pulled irregularly at my thighs.
I know she was loving the thought of me sporting a camel toe or a wedgie while engaged in the business of the day. A true friend would have said something to prevent that from happening. Yes, it would have stung if she had said I should get something else, but it would have been the right thing to do. That would have been the action of a real friend.
Years later, when my ex friend insulted my husband (saying he looked too old for me) while we were engaged, and then flirted outrageously with him at my wedding rehearsal (yes, the day before our wedding), I came to the very painful and obvious conclusion that she was never a true friend. A true friend is not full of shit and won’t want to see you publicly humiliated or embarrassed. A true friend isn’t abusive, cruel, or overly endowed with Schadenfreude. A true friend has the other person’s best interests at heart, even if it means a few minutes of awkwardness or embarrassment. I would rather be humiliated for a couple of minutes in front of my friend who loves and appreciates me than embarrassed forever in front of other people who don’t.
Anyway… I probably still look ridiculous most of the time. I care less now than I did twenty years ago. But at least I have given up spandex and curlers.
As Patrick Starfish would say, “Good morning, Krusty Krew.” This morning, in contrast to yesterday morning, I am actually itching to write something of substance. Before I get cranked up with today’s post, I want to thank those of you who took the time to listen to my musical offerings yesterday. I truly appreciate it when anyone listens and comments on my recordings. I don’t put them out there very often because I hate making videos and I never know how they’re going to be received. But it does bring me great joy to sing songs and share them with others. So if you took the time to click on my channel, thank you very much. It means a lot to me, even though I did lose one subscriber on YouTube (bwahahahaha!). It’s okay. I’ll stay humble and stick to my day job.
Now, on with today’s controversial topic, which I hope readers will read and consider with an open mind.
Yesterday evening, I came across two news articles that caused me to react in different ways. After thinking about both of these issues, I realize that they’re two pieces of the same “puzzle” that faces everyone on the planet today. The first article that upset me was in the Washington Post. It was a piece by Robin Givhan about how face masks are “here to stay” and have now become a fashion accessory which may, very soon, become as essential as undergarments. Givhan writes:
Fashion always finds a way. Human beings are undaunted in their search for ways to stand out, to communicate, to thrive in a treacherous environment. And so the face mask — once purely functional, once perceived as an exotic accessory — has evolved at breakneck speed into something more.
It’s more essential because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that Americans wear a mask when interacting with others. It’s more aesthetically pleasing. It’s also a more complicated cultural proposition. And, of course, the face mask is political because both the president and the vice president have refused to wear one on highly public occasions and because some protesters have insinuated that masks are un-American.
As the country moves toward reopening, masks are assuredly part of our future. And in some ways, their evolution is the perfect encapsulation of how much life has changed in a blink of an eye — and how challenging, both intellectually and emotionally, it will be for us to go forward.
I have written in previous pieces about how, personally, I don’t like seeing face masks being normalized and turning into fashion statements. I realize that I can’t stop them from evolving in such a way. Some people like wearing them and feel safer with them with them on. However, count me among those who have no desire to be mandated to wear a face mask for the rest of my life. In fact, I don’t even like that the masks are being pushed on everyone via peer pressure. I would hate to see them become like seatbelts, which most everyone is compelled to wear nowadays.
When I was a child, seatbelts were entirely optional. I have many memories of riding without them in those days, lying in cargo areas in my dad’s many vans or riding in the back of pick up trucks. At one time, my dad had a Volkswagen pop top camper, which had a bar across the ceiling that we had to push to get the camper top to go up. I used to swing on that bar like a monkey when I was a kid. It was very unsafe and unthinkable today, but great fun back then. I don’t regret the experience of swinging on that bar as we cruised down the interstates.
Now… as a sensible adult, I understand why all U.S. states and many developed countries require people to wear seatbelts. New Hampshire, the one seatbelt law hold out, currently doesn’t require seatbelt use for adults, but does require people under age 17 to wear them. It also looks like New Hampshire will soon require seatbelt use for everyone. However, generally speaking, I am opposed to “nanny” laws in principal. I think people should wear seatbelts because it’s the smart thing to do, not because they might get a ticket. I also wear one because if I don’t, my husband turns into Pat Boone.
I have seen face masks being compared to seatbelts. I don’t think they’re the quite same thing. Riding in a car without a seatbelt has always been inherently dangerous. Being in public without a face mask has not. Moreover, facial expression is a big component in effective communication and identification. A lot of things can’t be feasibly done in public if a person is wearing a mask… things that bring joy, like eating, drinking, lip reading, and smoking (although smoking is not something that brings me joy) or playing woodwind instruments or horns. Although speaking and singing are possible while wearing a mask, they aren’t as easy to do. Breathing isn’t as easy to do while wearing a mask, either.
I imagine that when summer is fully upon us, people who don’t routinely wear masks will realize what being forced to wear one at all times could mean. The thought of it really depresses me, especially since there is still some debate as to how helpful the masks really are. Face masks in 90 degree weather sound like a recipe for a lot of sweat, smelling of one’s own bad breath, and possible tan lines, not to mention kind of a creepy dystopian feel to society in which we won’t be allowed to see each other’s smiles in every day society.
I was a bit perturbed after reading Givhan’s article about how masks are becoming a fashion statement, especially since so many people commenting seem to be all for it being a permanent fixture. I don’t think a lot of people have thought about it very deeply. I intend to resist that trend as much as possible and only wear masks when I absolutely have to in order to avoid harassment or legal trouble. I posted about it on Facebook and my friend Sara, who is a nurse at the Mayo Clinic and has to wear a mask all day, fully agreed with me that wearing masks full time should be a no go. Especially since the coronavirus epidemic hasn’t been an issue for that long. Some people are now pushing for laws… and I know that I’m not the only one upset about the prospect of face masks being as necessary as underwear. In fact, another article drove home the idea that requiring face coverings at all times could be a very slippery slope.
Just before I was about to go to bed, I noticed a news item posted by a friend in California. A man in Santee, California went into a grocery store wearing a white, cone shaped hood. The San Diego Union-Tribune referred to the hood as a “KKK hood”, which it probably was. However, the man was not identified by name by the newspaper. In fact, other than a picture of the guy demonstrating his choice to wear the hood, along with shorts, t-shirt, and shoes, not much information about the man was provided at all.
I shared the article on Facebook, and a few friends automatically labeled the guy a racist. And, to be honest, he probably IS a racist. However, there is no way to know for sure. I suspect the guy wore the mask to make a point about the requirement to wear face masks. The rules are pretty broad right now. Your nose and mouth are supposed to be covered. The white hood accomplishes that. Because a hateful group of racists have co-opted the white, cone shaped hood into a symbol that immediately identifies one as a white supremacist, it’s taboo to wear a hood that looks like that in public. This guy chose to wear one anyway. He technically followed the rules by covering his face and mouth, but he did so in a way that was sure to offend other people.
I brought up the fact that since I’ve lived in Europe, I’ve noticed the Confederate battle flag being flown or otherwise displayed in various places here. When I’ve shared my observations with American friends, they almost always react with shock and dismay. To many Americans, the Confederate battle flag (which was actually only one of many used by Confederates during the Civil War) is ALWAYS a racist display. I grew up in the South and saw that flag all the time while growing up. Hell, when I was in South Carolina going to graduate school, there was a Confederate battle flag on top of the Statehouse. It was later relocated to the grounds of the Statehouse, where it stayed for years before it was finally put away for good. Yes, many people see that flag as a racist symbol, but others still insist that it’s about southern pride and a spirit of rebellion.
I once had an Italian Facebook friend. I guess we’re technically still friends, but he left Facebook last year, claiming that people didn’t want to engage in healthy debates with him. I’m sorry he left, especially since we have lost touch. Although he could be very obnoxious and even kind of mean at times, I liked the perspective he presented. He is an intelligent and articulate guy, and I miss getting his input on some topics. One time, he explained why it’s not really uncommon to see the Confederate battle flag displayed in Italy. That flag doesn’t have the same connotations to many Europeans as it does to Americans. A lot of people in Europe see that flag as only a symbol of southern rebellion. In fact, there’s a Harley Davidson garage located not two kilometers near where we live, and they proudly fly the Confederate battle flag. I’ve also seen it on a cab driver’s bumper in Ireland. To many Europeans, it doesn’t stand for racism like it does in the United States.
While the white hood and, especially, the swastika are definitely taboo in Europe, as they are in the United States, I would imagine that those symbols, when taken to a place where they have no meaning at all, would not inspire outrage. When it comes down to it, they’re just symbols, and they only have the meaning that people give them. Personally, I think we should pay more attention to the racist attitudes that actual people have rather than the symbols used to promote those attitudes. It’s also not lost on me that when those symbols are presented, they identify those who have those sentiments. That makes it much easier to choose not to associate with them… although a lot of them are simply ignorant, and their ignorance doesn’t necessarily make them horrible people. At least not in my opinion.
Back when football player Colin Kaepernick was regularly in the news for “taking a knee”during the “Star Spangled Banner” to protest racism, a lot of conservatives were upset because they saw his actions as disrespecting the American flag. Curiously enough, “God”, the popular Facebook page, even referred to the American flag as a “piece of cloth” and the national anthem as just a song. I remember blogging about this subject, and to make my point, I included the photo below.
So anyway… all of this led me to conclude that the guy who walked into the grocery store in his white hood is possibly more of a pissed off Trump supporter, rather than a flat out racist. He’s pissed off because he resents government overreach, and he sees having to wear a face mask at the grocery store as a violation of his personal liberties. He may also be pissed because Trump may very well (hopefully) get his ass kicked during the elections this November, and that may mean more left swinging laws. Remember, Trump and Pence don’t willingly wear masks, either, and Trump has gone as far as to encourage citizens to rise up against their state governments and demand that restrictions be lifted so life can get back to “normal”.
So instead of grudgingly wearing a regular face mask like a good citizen would, he decided to cover his face in a different way. He wore a white, cone-shaped hood, which to many people is an extremely horrifying symbol of racism and hatred. He made a lot of people very uncomfortable. However, he wasn’t violent and didn’t physically hurt anyone, and after being asked repeatedly to remove the hood (and probably what was his nose and mouth covering), he did comply. He paid for his items and left the store without incident, although local law enforcement is “looking into the matter”. Santee, California reportedly has a “checkered past” when it comes to racism, and its mayor has gone on record to denounce the hooded shopper’s actions.
It occurred to me that ultimately, the white cone hat guy was expressing himself. Granted, he was expressing hatred, disrespect, and disdain, which are ugly, antisocial expressions. But when it came down to it, he was expressing himself, which in the United States, he still has the right to do. Then I thought about it some more. Judging by the photo in the news article, I’m about 99.9% certain this dude probably is a racist on some level. But– is it possible he wasn’t? What if he was just a smart assed troll trying to rile people up? What if he was from another country and wasn’t aware that the hood would offend (highly unlikely, but technically possible)? Maybe someone paid him to wear the cone shaped hood on a dare? Not knowing anything about the guy, I can’t know for sure what his story is, although I think it’s perfectly reasonable to assume he’s a racist. Or maybe he’s just a frustrated, pissed off American making his feelings known in the most offensive way he can think of, not unlike when Melania Trump wore her “I really don’t care, do U?” jacket. I am certainly not condoning that the man chose that way to express himself… but I can see how that explanation could be a possibility.
The fact that the man wore the offensive KKK-esque hood into the store, technically complying with the order that he cover his mouth and nose, may seem like a bad thing. But, as I sat at the breakfast table talking about this with Bill, I concluded that his actions were not necessarily such a bad thing overall. Because it’s getting people thinking and talking about this issue. If face masks do become the law for the foreseeable future, people are probably going to have to come up with some guidelines. The guidelines aren’t going to suit everyone, and it may take some time to come to a consensus. By then, maybe a vaccine will be created and we can move beyond this pandemic without forcing another nanny law on the populace.
The first article I referenced in this post is about how the face masks are becoming “fashion”. Well, fashion is frequently distasteful. That’s part of the reason fashion is a thing, just like any art is. Art isn’t always beautiful or simple. Sometimes, it’s ugly and offensive. And if we want to mandate face masks for people, we should probably be prepared for those who will use their masks to make their feelings known through offensive fashion statements. I know a lot of people got a kick out of Mindy Vincent, the lady in Utah who made a face mask out of cloth that had penises on it. Plenty of people found that funny, especially when she told people that if they could tell her face mask has penises on it, they were too close. But other people, no doubt, were offended by it. Mindy Vincent has been selling the masks and has reportedly donated a lot of money to charity. That’s probably a good thing, depending on the charity. Some people would probably criticize her for that, too… or for the charity she’s chosen to donate to. The nice thing about America is that we can still have these thoughts and discussions… at least for now.
It’ll be interesting to see what becomes of the hood wearing guy and whether or not his stunt will have any legal repercussions, especially if we do have to wear the fucking face masks from now on.
Yesterday, while hanging out in the Life is Not All Pickles and Hairspray group, I read an interesting thread about Jeremy Vuolo, husband of the former Jinger Duggar and father of Felicity, who is almost one year old. The family just moved to California after having spent a couple of years in Laredo, Texas.
While I’m not a huge fan of religion, especially of the fundamentalist type, I do kind of like Jeremy and Jinger… at least for now. I used to like Jill and Derick Dillard, until Derick turned into an obvious dick. So far, Jeremy seems more normal and less dumb when it comes to his image. Except for those shoes…
Seriously, they were the first thing I noticed when I saw the picture. They just leapt out at me like little brown beacons. I was reminded of an infamous scene in National Lampoon’s Vacation.
Well… in fairness to Jeremy, those shoes aren’t quite as egregiously tacky as Clark’s white loafers. They’d probably be okay with different pants and different socks. I guess I was just surprised to see them jump off the page like that. I figured the emphasis was intended to be on a sweet picture of a young dad with his baby. Instead, we got… shoes.
If Jeremy isn’t careful about his shoe choices, he may become akin to another whitebread Christian who became a California transplant. I give you our old friend, Pat Boone, and his trademark white bucks.
I mentioned it on the thread and so many people chimed in. They’d had the same reaction I did. It was the first thing they noticed. Maybe the manufacturer of those shoes should hire Jeremy to sell them, since they definitely got noticed. On the other hand, I don’t think they were noticed for the right reasons. Some people who are familiar with Los Angeles said that it looked like Jeremy was trying too hard to fit in. He should put on some chucks or flip flops. Given the Duggar women’s love for flip flops, I’m surprised that wouldn’t be a given. As for chucks, I have no idea what those are. I’m not from L.A., and if I were, I doubt I’d have my finger on the fashion pulse, especially since there is no way in hell I could wear what is considered “high fashion” out there on the West Coast. Let’s see what Google has to say about chucks.
All snarking aside, I’m glad to see that Jinger has moved away from the Duggar compound and is living life more on her own terms. I remember when she was a teenager on 19 Kids and Counting and she said she wanted to live in a big city. Michelle Duggar was quick to pipe up that Jinger didn’t “really” want to live in a big city. She just wanted to be closer to Walmart. Apparently, that was an untruth. I kind of wonder if maybe Jeremy had to promise Boob he wouldn’t move Jinger away from Arkansas before they had permission to “court”. Boob does apparently present a huge questionnaire to potential suitors. Looks like most of the guys his daughters have married have been appropriately malleable… especially Ben Seewald, who gets a double dose in that he’s married to Jessa, who is quite assertive for a Duggar female. Jeremy may have been the one who fooled Boob and stole away one of his precious arrows.
While Jeremy is now becoming a pastor, I do hope that he will be one who is more tolerant and that their daughter will not be raised in a hotbed of misogyny. It’s nice to see that he lets Jinger make her own clothing and hairstyle choices. Before you know it, she’ll be taking college classes and becoming educated. Horrors!
Well, I did have a good laugh about those shoes. I hope he keeps them clean and doesn’t step in anything unsavory out there in California.
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