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Style (not) in the city

February 21, 2009
By CARRA HIGGINS, Staff Writer

The season's hottest fashions begin somewhere and with someone. This week the place was New York and the people were the best-known names in design.

With the guidance of fashion houses, celebrities and models put on clothes that inspire us and catapult them to the status of fashion icons. Some icons wear the latest styles or epitomize class and taste with their fashion choices.

For years I've idolized the fashion sense of models, actresses, musicians, even fictional television characters. There's a problem with turning to Carrie Bradshaw and Kate Moss for fashion ideas. They're often clad in Zac Posen, Roberto Cavalli and Chanel. What rural West Virginian can afford a designer label wardrobe without racking up $100,000 in credit card debt they'll never be able to pay?

Magazines try to help by telling us where we can get the "look for less." But trendy women who've found the look we see in fashion magazines often get questioning looks while walking through our small towns dressed like they've stepped off the catwalk.

This year there's a new fashion icon whose style would be accepted in West Virginia - First Lady Michelle Obama.

Her style has even caught the eye of Vogue - she's the March cover girl, and only the second First Lady to appear on the cover. Hillary Clinton was the first.

It's not the fact Obama's appearing on the pages of the fashion Bible that makes her iconic and admired for her style. What makes Obama so special is her wardrobe choice is actually affordable and meshes with our more conservative rural style.

With a bleak national economy hanging over our heads, it's refreshing to see the First Lady making public appearances in off-the-rack clothes from brands such as J. Crew that are worn by so many average Americans.

Obama is also a fan of American designers and has opted to wear lesser-known names. Who in our area heard of Jason Wu before the Inaugural Ball?

Could her choice to support these virtually unknowns inspire more to put less faith in Oscar De La Renta and more in our local fashion designers?

Hopefully, with Obama as a new icon we'll make fewer fashion mistakes, like the puffy headbands worn by Hillary Clinton circa 1993. Admit it, you too rocked the headband and now wonder "what was I thinking?"

With help from Obama's sleek and more realistic style and looks from the runway of Fashion Week, those of us in Appalachia will be able to keep a few more dollars in our wallets.

The runway collections were dominated with basics in black paired with jewel tones. Perhaps designers are thinking we're mourning the death of the national economy, but there are few other colors that require less effort and thought than black.

For the uber trendy who don't care about the twisted faces on the street, get ready to check out thrift stores and dig deep in the closet because some 1980s looks are back again. Think football pads meshed with Madonna's "material girl" days.

No matter whom you turn to for fashion ideas, wear your clothes with pride. Maybe you can set a new trend and become your city's new style icon.



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