Years and years ago, when my mailbox was flooded with an incredible assortment of catalogs, I devised a rule of thumb. Literally. You see, some of the companies that mailed me catalogs were not my kind of stores. But I'd be unsure about some of their choices. So if I liked something even a little bit, I'd look at an outfit while blocking out the model's face with my thumb.
All of a sudden, an outfit would go from acceptable to grannywear.
The principle still holds true. Take, for example, this outfit from The Tog Shop.
Cover up the smiling face and masses of tastefully highlighted hair, and you have an outfit that my 93 year old mother would wear.
Or this outfit, from Appleseed's.
Subtract the chunky bracelet, the "edgy" black color, the glowing skin and wild curls of the model, and you have a polyester pant set straight out of a retirement community.
"But of course," you reply. "These are old lady catalogs, but they're not going to show the outfits on great-grandmothers."
Very true. But young and supposedly hip companies try the same trick, focusing instead on the other end of the anatomy. They disguise their impossibly ugly creations by styling them with the most fetching shoes in their arsenal.
Take this outfit from Banana Republic.
She can change positions as much as she wants. Aside from the shoes, that outfit is unbelievably basic. But roll the pant legs up, add an amazing pair of heels, and all of a sudden, people will be reaching for their credit cards.
Or this one, again from BR. Take away the silver sandals, and you have an outfit I'd wear to paint a picket fence, albeit like Tom Sawyer, where I supervise, and you do the painting. (I do like the bag, though.)
And J. Crew shan't escape my lash. How about these cropped, flared sailor pants?
Can you imagine the poor stylist in charge of the shoot? What could the thought process have been? I'm imagining something like this: If they make a model look like the broad side of a barn, what will they do to normal women? How can I sell them? I know! I'll show them with a pair of high-heeled sandals!
Luckily, some stores are frank about the ugliness of their clothing. As well as their shoes. They make no excuses; they take no prisoners. They rub your nose in their impossibly hideous and criminally expensive clothing choices.
Barney's, I bow to thee.