Does Blake Lively Bow To Fashion Fascism? Ask Rhonda Garelick

Images used for this essay: Hana Soukupova | Mario Sierra | Elle España March 2011

Blake Lively has a lively interview in today’s WWD, one that was rather captivating until we got to the part about bowing down before Karl Lagerfeld.

Crystal Renn said essentially the same thing in her recent video, making it seem like walking a Chanel show was her Miss America moment.

Like so many of us in Paris, Blake Lively heads for Ladurée for a box of its perfectly tinted macaroons. Lively says one of her favorite movies is ‘The Wizzard of Oz’ and she’s had her sunny, upbeat nature forever.

Bubbly, articulate and self-assured beyond her 23 years, Lively was in town for a dinner Saturday night, hosted by Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel to toast the “Gossip Girl” star’s latest project: fronting an advertising campaign for the French house’s new Mademoiselle handbag.

Commenting on Katharine Hepburn, Blake Lively says “I love when a woman can be empowered and glamorous but also add the strength of masculinity”.

Saluting the Kaiser

Can you imagine the strong and fiery Katherine Hepburn speaking these new words uttered by Blake Lively?

“I have such a respect for fashion and such an appreciation for it that if there are people like Karl Lagerfeld out there designing, who am I?” she asks. “I want to bow down to them and be a representative for them if they’ll have me.”

Rhonda Garelick Talks Fashion Fascism

Bowing down to the Kaiser is the topic of a NYT Op Ed piece High Fascism, penned by Rhonda Garelick, a professor of English and performing arts at the University of Nebrasks-Lincoln. Garelick is working on a cultural biography of Coco Chanel

Teeing off John Galliano’s recent bad boy tirade and the culmination of Paris fashion week, Garelick writes about the history of Vichy France and its modern-day fashion generals now past and present.

While fashion has moved far beyond the worst of the Vichy years, the role of the stylized, quasi-mythical celebrity-designer remains in the form of figures like Mr. Galliano and Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld; Mr. Galliano has been known to costume himself as a pirate or a Proustian dandy, while Mr. Lagerfeld sticks to a somewhat Goth interpretation of an 18th-century Prussian officer.

At the root of the whole system is the most elusive myth of all: the impossible promise that fashion can vanquish physical inadequacy and aging, conferring the beauty and youth we see on the runways and on every page of Vogue — a cult of physical perfection very much at home in the history of fascism.

Indeed Lagerfeld is respectfully called the Kaiser. Listening to John Galliano belittle women for not only being Jewish (when she wasn’t and not that it matters) but for having fat thighs and a host of other physicality offences caused me to put a name to a trend that is not new — but needs to be called out because it is tied to Conservative principles that seek to disempower women.

What Rhonda Garelick calls High Fascism, I call Fashion Monasticism. It should be feared as much as we should fear Conservative Republicans and Democratics who want to take control of women’s bodies all over again.

The message of Hana Soukupova | Mario Sierra | Elle España March 2011 is clear visually.

Spain has its own fascist history with Franco, although it has thrown off the yoke of Catholicism. Pope Benedict is determined to reclaim Spain for the Catholic Church but he’ll settle for America.

While I am the first to admit that many women in the world have a weight problem that will kills us early if we don’t get out arms around it, I do not respect any person who suggests that the majority of us are just jealous, fat, potato-chip eating mommies, as Karl Lagerfeld has suggested.

Viva La France But Not Fashion Fascism

It’s the third wave of feminism women — the Sex & the City Girls — who bow down to men like John Galliano and Karl Lagerfeld. No self-respecting second-wave woman believes in fashion fascism, even when we honor France as I do.

France as a country has been divine to me and my self-esteem.

While focus, self-discipline and sensual restraint are character traits that usually bring long-term benefits in terms of self-development, bowing down to anyone — whether he is the pope of the Catholic Church or the pope of fashion is suspect in my play book.

Let fashionistas everywhere take a dose of inspiration from the women of Egypt, who are saying ‘enough’. Will they win their battle? It’s not clear. But a call to action for a million women to march in Egypt tomorrow is an exercise in self-respect for fashion princesses who believe in bowing down to John Galliano, Karl Lagerfeld or even Ralph Lauren.

In mutually respectful relationships among people, bowing is not required. As a wave of rebellion flows through the Arab world, perhaps it’s time for a fashion rebellion, while we’re at it. I call it the Old Ladies Rebellion, and it’s an attempt to save American women from the morality police, whatever costume they are wearing today. Anne

Links to more articles about Fashion Monastism or Fashion Fascism as Rhnda Garelick calls it.

Images via NoirFacade