St. Joseph News-Press, Mo., Ken Newton column
Jan 13, 2013 (St. Joseph News-Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
My wardrobe in high school was so faux-hip it would have embarrassed members of Foghat.
Of course, a person never recognizes the Hindenburg crash of style as it occurs. A mirror only reinforces lies the mind has already told.
Years provide a better reflection, and then only to prompt a grimace. Maybe that shirt with a collar like space shuttle wings, maybe those pants with bells wider than a golf umbrella, maybe they lacked the stuff of classical couture.
Thankfully, the disco era came along and scared everyone straight.
These memories, repressed but for those rare moments when someone discovers a long-hidden yearbook, arose in me upon discovering an ad for closet consultation.
At first, I thought this might be a home improvement come-on, a tease for the big-box hardware retailers to peddle modular units that keep shoes and coats in a neat order.
I've seen magazine layouts showing these closets, and they seem to home decor what Clinique models are to actual human complexion.
That is, it doesn't hurt to have an ideal, but life makes for a messier picture.
Instead, the closet consultation amounts to a "style professional" making a house call to judge what you've been wearing.
Please note that I have no problem with this as an enterprise.
People should do what they know, and if they know style, or have made it a discipline of higher learning, it cheats the concept of this great nation not to turn a buck with the knowledge.
In fact, the rise of closet consultation should serve as an economic indicator. If folks feel financially confident enough to hire others to examine their clothing, the recession must be a memory.
Thus, an industry arises of keen-eyed stylists who look for the passe and the passable. They scout a closet for things with the right attitude and things on the wrong side of the fashion curve.
That color is so two years ago. That belt/scarf/handbag no longer has much worth. And so on.
A consultant will even look at "foundation garments" (whose euphemism used to be "unmentionables") to undertake a ground-up assembly of a wardrobe.
One imagines such advisers in times gone by, looking in a closet from St. Joseph's Gilded Age, retreating from the petticoats and bustles and insisting that leg-of-mutton sleeves have become all the rage.
Once the offending apparel has been cast off from the modern closet, one consultant indicated that she could be retained for a trip to a "clothing gallery."
Here's a problem, in my mind. Some manner of instruction might be necessary in making outdated attire more voguish and properly executing accessories.
But I just want to get out the door most days wearing a shirt vaguely complementing my slacks and having on two socks of the same color.
It would be hard for me to function knowing that my outerwear came from a gallery.
Flattery is a word mentioned often as closet consultants pitch their services. Their goal is the raised self-flattery of clients, those newly assured in their place on the style spectrum. Nothing wrong with feeling good about yourself or paying someone for their critical eye in making that happen.
While I know males do not make up the target audience, I doubt a closet consultant could sort through my collection of denim and hoodies and ball caps and muster anything approaching flattery ... or hope.
If I could only pay them to burn those old yearbooks.
Ken Newton's column runs on Sunday and Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPNewton.
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