Fashion of the Times: The height of emotion
Fall 1997
Holly Brubach
Photograph by Mary Ellen Mark


Styled by Franciscus Ankone. Wool and angora sweater with flame and black stripes, $450, black wool wide-leg pants, $580, and flame marabou boa, $640. All at Sonia Rykiel Boutique, 849 Madison Avenue. Hat by Dolce & Gabbana. Market Editor: Mimi Lombardo. Hair: Michiel Sanders for Walter Schupfer. Makeup: Brigitte Reiss-Andersen for Timothy Priano. Model: Janine Rose.

For some time now, fashion magazines have been appealing to women's better judgment and preaching the logic of "investment dressing": a jacket's versatility, the virtues of seasonless fabrics, the high price of a coat amortized over the course of the next 10 years. Which is all well and good, except that, when it comes to most of the women we know and their thoughts about clothes, the decision-making process is rarely, if ever, a rational one. If anything, it seems to have more in common with falling in love than it does with solving a problem.

If fashion at some point felt obliged to distance itself from the emotions it inspires, that instinct is probably a sound one. In an era when women were just beginning to make their way in the world, any references to feelings ran the risk of confirming everybody's worst suspicions‑that women were volatile and unreliable, that they followed their hearts and not their heads. Men "listened to reason"; women "got emotional." Just the facts, ma'am. When the balance began to shift, men were urged to get in touch with their feelings, paving the way for a lot of tacky greeting cards, insipid songs by Barry Manilow and other industrial byproducts of our quest for emotional awareness.

As we set out to plan this issue, we wanted to remind ourselves what it is we love most about clothes: namely their direct access to the realm of our emotions, their power to take as where our minds don't go ‑ a place where our inner lives and our outer lives converge. This is not a notion that we settled on arbitrarily; it was prompted by the clothes designers showed this season, many of which evoked the sort of excitement we've come to expect of fashion at its best. There are strong entries in every category: day and evening, skirts and pants, dresses and suits.

We asked a number of photographers we admire to choose a few emotions and illustrate them. Thierry Mugler, the designer who also works as a photographer, called us back to say that he had come up with the emotion he wanted to do. Great, we replied. What is it? "Chic," he said. But chic is not an emotion, we told him. "Yes, yes," he insisted, "one can feel chic."

On the pages that follow, we have catalogued 34 emotions that run the gamut of our inner experience, from passion to grief, from distress to glee. Most of us, men and women alike, were encouraged early on to keep these and other feelings in check, to refrain from any public display. What a waste of time that turned out to be. In fact, it now strikes us as self‑evident that the greater our capacity to register emotion, the more fully alive we are, and that by far the most attractive people we know are those with the broadest range of expression.

In the end, we talked Thierry Mugler out of chic and into something else. But lately we have been thinking that he may have been right after all. A woman can feel chic. We hereby nominate chic as an addition to every woman's emotional repertory.



Charcoal gray cashmere cows dress, $1,200, with matching natural silver fox‑trimmed shrug, $1200, and heather gray stretch cashmere tube dress, $1,050, with matching natural silver fox‑trimmed hood, $1000. All from Halston by Randolph Duke. At Bergdorf Goodman, to order. Models: from left: Janine Rose, Erin O'Connor.



Styled by Franciscus Ankoné. Black wool‑blend coat, $1345, and white cotton shirt, $265 by Dolce & Gabbana. At Dolce & Gabbana Boutique, 825 Madison Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman (coat to order). Velvet hat, tie and embroidered stockings by Dolce & Gabbana. Market Editor: Mimi Lombardo. Hair: Michiel Sanders for Walter Schupfer. Makeup: Brigitte Reiss‑Andersen for Timothy Priano. Model: Erin O'Connor.