Fashionable or Foolish?

Summer must be over. Autumn fashions are being shown.

As a guy who avidly watched the “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” cable TV series several years back, I’ve always needed help distinguishing between looking fashionable and looking foolish.

So I turned to my friend, John Girouard, a style guru based in Toronto and an annual visitor to Vieques. With his partner, Bruce, John publishes the exceptional Bobo Feed website – architecture and design, fashion and styling, food and drink, travel and urban living -- at

“You could dress in Dior, Lanvin or Armani and look foolish,” John says. “Yet you could put on a simple white shirt and a great pair of jeans and be stunning.”

Sharon Stone's white Oscars shirt.
Sharon Stone's white Oscars shirt.

 “You need to keep in mind that what may appear foolish on the runways of the fashion capitals in any given season is often directional. You might see something totally outrageous that you’d swear no one would wear. What happens is that by the time the garment arrives on the street you will still see some of the ‘direction’ -- but toned down by the buyers to fit their customers,” he continues.

“What shocks us now becomes standard fare in a few years. This has happened with exaggerated shoulders, platform shoes, skinny jeans -- and will continue.”

Nor is being fashionable an economic issue. “One could dress in couture and look foolish, yet the man or woman on the street who is proud and confident can look fabulous in thrift shop finds.”

And let’s kiss off the idea that fashion is the realm of the young. Proof point? Some of these getups at this year’s Teen Choice Awards.

The Misses Steinfeld, Moretz, Sparks and Stevens.
The Misses Steinfeld, Moretz, Sparks and Stevens.

Here’s what E Magazine had to say: “Chloe Moretz and Jordin Sparks' printed outfits were a little too busy for our tastes. And then there was the mismatched gold-on-gold look from Katie Stevens. Hailee Steinfeld's slightly frumpy dress made us wish she'd went [sic] with something a bit more youthful.”

Says John: “Fashion isn't so much about youth and clothes as it is about style and attitude and self-assurance.”

He’s right. Is there anybody more elegant than an African-American lady of a certain age off to Sunday morning services in a queenly hat?

Here’s one such church lady quoted in The Washington Post:

“You have a certain air when you put on a hat. If you put on the whole shebang and you’re satisfied, you walk different. You act different. And people treat you different.” 

Dressed to visit with the Lord.
Dressed to visit with the Lord.

And this assurance from John: “One can never look foolish if one has the stature and confidence of wearing any garment … and most of all, the self assurance and confidence that come with, dare we say it, age!”

No one embodies this thought more than Illona Royce Smithkin. At 94, she is a renowned Impressionist painter and teacher, a fashion model and a cabaret singer.

Illona Royce Smithkin.
Illona Royce Smithkin.

I give the last words to Ilona:

When you feel comfortable in your clothes, you look good. When your shoes fit right and your dress isn’t too tight, you can forget about your looks and show off yourself. There’s so much concentration on exterior beauty, you can wind up saying, ‘I can’t go to this party, I have nothing to wear.’ Who the hell cares? If you’re bringing yourself and you’re a nice person, you’re the life of the party.” 

For more of John's design and fashion passions:

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  • Peter Yaremko
    published this page in Blog 2014-10-27 11:57:22 -0400