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The Outfit Experiment: How to Be Sartorially Unremarkable 

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Fashion Field Trips

The Outfit Experiment: How to Be Sartorially Unremarkable 

Assembling the perfect look for female figures who want you to stop talking about their look

BY ARIA DARCELLA

STYLE  -  JULY 15

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Photos: BFA.com. View more at BFA.com.

Two weeks ago, Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren did the unthinkable: They both wore blue blazers to a Clinton campaign event. Oddly, the majority of the press focused not on what said at the event, or the fact that this was the first time the two highly respected Democrats were publicly working together to aid Clinton's presidential race, or that two women, one of whom could become our first female president, are shaping the contemporary political conversation. No, it was the fact that they both wore blue blazers. Naturally, this spurred frustration in the FU office—why was everyone so focused on what these women were wearing, rather than what they were saying? This points to what we see as a much larger issue: Women in the public eye are criticized or acclaimed for their appearance, rather than their thoughts or actions, while their male counterparts all wear the same outfit (assuming they get dressed up at all) and no one mentions it. Obviously, the solution is not as simple as having all women wear the same thing—for one, most of us don't want to look like everyone else. For another, it inexplicably makes news when Kate Middleton repeats an outfit (yes, people really do keep track of these things). We decided to address this irritating via the below satire. Any magazine names or Twitter handles mentioned are fictional, and are not intended to resemble any actual publications. 

In light of recent campaigns by actresses to be “asked more” on the red carpet (by which they mean they would like focus to be shifted from what their outfits to their films), and the press' decision to cover two female politicians' matching blue blazers instead of their platforms, the PR firm of [NAME WITHHELD] requested that a study be conducted in order to discover what clothing women in the public eye should wear if they do not want the clothing itself to be discussed.

A focus group was created to determine what conversation would be built around various outfits and beauty styles. The group consisted of three editors whose publications covered red carpet dressing. They include G.O. (Gentleman’s Own), a men’s magazine that covers style and culture both online and in print; WFN (Women’s Fashion Now), a print and online publication that focuses on women’s high fashion; and Fashaholic, an online publication covering women’s fashion and celebrities. In addition to those creating media, four members of the general public were included. Their real names have been changed, but for identification purposes we will refer to them as Mike (male, late-40s, data analyst, from Michigan), Molly (female, mid-40s, stay at home mom, from Wisconsin), Louis (male, mid-20s, unemployed, from California), and Lisa (female, mid-20s, sales, from Nebraska). Finally, the ninth member of the group is FashoonFashun (@FashoonFashun), a Twitter robot (Twitterbot), which, running on an algorithm that analyses the online consensus on pop culture topics, generates the most likely reaction a Twitter user will have to an outfit.

To begin, a composite was made to represent a generic famous woman in her mid-to-late twenties using images of current women in the public eye, and contestants from The Bachelor. She will be referred to at GENERIC ACTRESS, although no profession or background information will be described to the members of the focus group. Below are excerpts from the transcript of the four-hour discussion that took place. 

OUTFIT


An initial theory proposed by our team was that if no one discusses men’s suits, then perhaps a solution would simply be to put a woman in a suit. As we quickly found out, the opposite is actually true. To begin, we showed the group several pictures of male celebrities in what they wore to public red carpet events in 2015.

INTERVIEWER: What do you notice about these men.

G.O. EDITOR: These bros look dapper.

MOLLY: Yes, they all look nice.

INTERVIEWER: Does anyone else have anything to add?

LOUIS: There’s not much to say—it’s just a bunch of famous dudes.

INTERVIEWER: Who are all wearing suits…?

[Silence from the focus group. At this point we introduced an image of GENERIC ACTRESS in a suit]

INTERVIEWER: What do you think of this woman’s attire?

G.O. EDITOR: Ugh, what is it with chicks and high-waisted pants? It's not cute, she’s got front butt.

WFN EDITOR: Chic! What’s the designer ID, though? If they’re one of our advertisers we should probably do something on this.

FASHAHOLIC: Oh, a lady wearing pants on the red carpet is so…different! I would definitely do a #hottake #thinkpiece on how #realwomen wear pants.

MIKE: I don’t care. Fashion is stupid, why can’t people just wear sweatpants?

MOLLY: Ugh, is this some sort of statement? I’m sick of Hollywood and their agenda. Enough. Wear a dress, like a lady.

LISA: Pants aren’t sexy. There’s not enough glitz—this is a red carpet event, she should be glamorous. I want to see dresses!

LOUIS: I agree with the G.O. guy. Why do girls think this is cute?

INTERVIEWER: How would you classify this as different from a men’s suit?

MIKE: Well, a man is wearing it? Guys wear suits, there’s no nonsense involved, end of story.

INTERVIEWER: Could you elaborate as to why it would be ridiculous for women to wear a suit?

LOUIS: Because it’s a suit!

INTERVIEWER: Yes…so why is it ridiculous? 

WFN EDITOR: I think we would all be more accustomed to seeing women in suits if it were a trend. You need at least two other women on the red carpet wearing suits. Then we'd have three. Three’s a trend.

LISA: Are you saying it’s a trend now? I wasn’t aware of that, I’d like to change my answer. I like, would totally try a suit on.

MOLLY: Wait, two women wore the same thing? How embarrassing!

FASHAHOLIC: Ooooh, who wore it better?

G.O. EDITOR: Ooooh, who wore it sexier?

@FASHOONFASHUN: MAKE AMERICA PANTSLESS AGAIN

INTERVIEWER: Could you please clarify as to why two women wearing similar outfits would be a bad thing? Don’t men wear similar outfits all the time?

LOUIS: Yeah, but those are suits.

INTERVIEWER: Aren’t these suits?

LOUIS: Yeah, but it’s different.

INTERVIEWER: How, though? Could you be more specific?

G.O EDITOR: Dude, guys wear suits. They just do. Chicks aren’t supposed to, or whatever, but they do, and so it’s a “thing”.

INTERVIEWER: I’m not supposed to get involved on to the general discussion here, but everything you just said seems inherently absurd. You see that, don’t you?

G.O. EDITOR: Honestly? Yes, I do. Look, I understand that women are human beings, capable of the same faults and accomplishments as men. I also understand that adornment to signify social standing, formality, and identity has been around for thousands of years, and that it is wholly unfair to praise one sex’s participation, while vilifying the other. I also understand that these “rules” of fashion are merely constructs of our patriarchal society, and at best are misogynistic. But if my bosses find out that I understand all of this, I will loose my job. So…you know. Brosky! Dope! Jeans and beer! 

[At this point, we switched to an image of GENERIC ACTRESS with a high neckline]

INTERVIEWER: Can you tell me your thoughts on this neckline?

MOLLY: She’s too young for that look. She should dress younger.

G.O. EDITOR: What is it with chicks and high necklines? What is she, a nun? That’s not sexy.

WFN EDITOR: I’m seeing a reference here to Edwardian era royalty, and I think it’s subversive considering what’s being shown this season. I would put together a shopable sideshow on how to get this look.

FASHAHOLIC: I would put together a listicle on how to get the look, but for cheaper.

[A second image is introduced with a revealing neckline]

MOLLY: Well that's just not necessary. What happened to class?

LISA: Ugh, her Instagram is probably filled with pics like this. I mean, mine is too, but like, nowhere near as thirsty, you know? It looks like she’s trying hard for attention.

MIKE: I mean, I don’t care, but if I have to pick between the two, I say this one.  

G.O. EDITOR: Yeah, I would put her in our “Women to Watch” column. 

INTERVIEWER: Are you saying you would cover her films or product?

G.O. EDITOR: Nah, brah, it’s a bunch of women we literally like watching.

WFN EDITOR: I’m seeing a reference here to Edwardian-era concubines, and I think it’s subversive considering what’s being shown this season. I would put together a shopable sideshow on how to get this look.

FASHAHOLIC: I would put together a listicle on how to get the look, but for cheaper.

@FASHOONFASHUN: YASS KWEEN! YOU’RE A SNAPCHAT HOE BUT YOU SLAY

[A similar discussion broke out in regards to skirt length, with shorter hemlines being deemed either “too revealing” or “too casual," while an overtly long or particularly voluminous skirt was “over the top.” The garment that elicited the least negative reactions was a floor-length sheath dress that was tailored to the body, but would not be considered “formfitting.” The least discussed version of the bodice consisted of square or scoop neckline with straps over the shoulders. The color of the dress posed a new conundrum. At first, black was deemed acceptable by the group, but it was soon discovered that the hue spurred new commentary about the personality or interests of the wearer.]

MOLLY: Why is she wearing black all the time? She looks like she's going to a funeral. Would it kill her to wear some color? 

MIKE: She looks like my 14-year-old, who has a major attitude problem.

FASHAHOLIC: Ooooh I’m going to write about the 10 times she’s most resembled a Tim Burton character!

INTERVIEWER: Don’t men generally wear black suits? 

LOUIS: I thought we went over this already—it’s different.

INTERVIEWER: Could you elaborate as to why? It seems like men are all wearing the same black suit with little to no difference. They could literally wear the exact same ensemble time and time again—why is this situation different?

WFN EDITOR: I mean, I get the sense that you’re hoping to address a double standard. Perhaps the problem—much of which I am a part of—is that the perpetuation of the notion that the purpose of women is to be visually pleasing has now become an industry that must be fed. If we are to consider how to shift the conversation, we must first find the root of the…hang on…

[At this point the editor from WSN slammed her head repeatedly into desk, until she broke her nose. When she stopped all she said was “three’s a trend”]

@FASHOONFASHUN: U THINK U CAN GOTH BUT U DON’T NOE THE DARKNESS HOLLYWOOD POSER WISH I WAS PALE LIKE U

[It was ultimately decided that for events, the dress color should oscillate between dark, neutral tones such as grays and browns, but occasionally navy as well.

MAKEUP AND HAIR


[As beauty is equally part of appearance, we took into consideration what the best options would be. Now that a base outfit had been established, we provided a composite image of GENERIC ACTRESS in the group-produced dress, and changed elements of her hair and makeup. We first began with an image in which GENERIC ACTRESS had no makeup or hair treatment whatsoever.]

LOUIS: Oh my god, is she sick or something? She looks like she’s going to vomit.

MIKE: Yeah, she doesn’t look so good. She looks like she hasn’t slept in days.

G.O EDITOR: She looks like she’s coming off the flu or something. What is going on?

[All four women in the focus group immediately noticed that she simply wasn’t wearing makeup, and didn’t have much to add, other than agreeing that she could have thrown on some mascara. A second image was introduced with heavier makeup applied]

LOUIS: Why do girls always wear makeup? Don’t they know that they’re way prettier with no makeup at all?

MIKE: Yeah, I don’t know why women can’t see that men like ‘em natural. She looks like a clown here.

WSN EDITOR: Love the dark lip! I think it’s going to be big this season, at least based on what our advertisers are doing.

FASHAHOLIC: To keep up page views, I need to vomit out an article every 25 minutes, so I think I’ll just Photoshop the face of a Disney princess on her, to show…you know…what a modern version of that Disney princess would wear, or something? 

[The final consensus on beauty look was simple facial base (a foundation color that matched the skin, no highlights, bronzer, or blush), mascara and light eyeliner, with a bit of shimmer on the middle of the eyelid, and a matte lipstick in a shade of pink exactly two hues darker than the GENERIC ACTRESS’s natural lip color. Hair was to be an inch and a half below shoulder length, with a slight wave, and off of the face (no bangs).

When asked for thoughts on the final, completed look for GENERIC ACTRESS the focus group either thought she looked “fine”, or did not have an opinion to offer. The Twitterbot @FASHOONFASHUN said “BURGER KING IS AN INSIDE JOB, FOLLOW THE NUMBERS SHEEPLE” which our researchers took to mean that the final generated look garnered absolutely no social media attention whatsoever. We see this as a success.]

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Jean-Michel Basquiat, "Air Power," 1984. Estimate £2,500,000–3,500,000. / Photo: Courtesy of Sotheby's