Circle skirts and dirndl underpants

Maybe fashion journalism is best for those who can't read.

Published March 12, 2001 8:04PM (EST)

"In the Mood for Love," Wong Kar-Wai's melancholy film about forbidden love in 1962 Hong Kong, has three stars: Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung and Maggie Cheung's wardrobe. As a suppressed housewife, Cheung sashays through the film in a visually staggering collection of nearly identical cheung-sam dresses. The wardrobe of stunning sheaths are at once restrained and liberated. They all share the same forbiddingly high, stiff mandarin collar, plus cap sleeves and an impossibly tight fit. But the fantastical fabrics reveal the liberated soul underneath -- mod 1960's op-art prints, hideously bright florals, neon shantungs and sheer jewel-tone chiffons and wallpaper prints edged with endearingly hand-crocheted lace.

Topped off with a pair of perilously high stilettos, it's enough to make a girl want to run to Chinatown and buy one for herself; unfortunately, only a willowy vision like Cheung can actually carry it off. But if you still insist on chinoiserie there's always the loose, flowing embroidered pantsuits worn by the kung-fu mistresses of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." They are more forgiving of unsightly bulges and can be worn on outings that involve kickboxing.

Pity the poor editors of Vogue magazine: It must be difficult to come up with original stories that will fill the hefty 585 pages (not to mention a 40-page supplement) of the spring fashion issue. How else to explain the barrage of schizophrenic stories about skirts in this issue? First, we get a first-person discussion about the difficulties of wearing the loose, Grecian-style draped dress. Turn the page, and it's a Marina Rust navel-gazing essay pondering the new miniskirt vs. the classic long length. (She winds up in a toga-esque number, thereby putting the author of the first piece to shame.) Then, on the very next page, a piece that agonizes over the choice between Prada's full circle skirt and pencil skirt -- both of which are in this season! All the more confusing, then, is the announcement, in the same magazine, that the new trend is underwear-as-outerwear. The best thing to do, it seems, is to find dirndl underpants.

Also in Vogue this month, this headline: "Black is the new black," leading us to conclude that fashion magazines are best enjoyed by those who cannot read.

From now on, when we jet off to Paris Fashion Week (as we so often do at Salon), we're flying Virgin Atlantic. Seriously: Judging by the advertisements for Virgin Atlantic's new business-class bar (yes, it's a full-service bar, on a plane), impossibly attractive young things fly on this airline. In full evening makeup. Wearing tight black minidresses and stilettos. Sipping champagne with hunky men in monochromatic Helmut Lang suits. Forget your notions of "comfort clothing" for long airplane flights. Our only question is, where are the seatbelts on those bar stools?

We've had two One's, and rumor is that we may not have many more: One magazine, America's answer to Wallpaper, is reportedly in meltdown mode and not paying its bills. And it's a shame: In its second issue, the magazine was beginning to hit its stride, with fun quirky features on chair designers and uniform fashions. Perhaps it's a lesson that you shouldn't base your business model on the notion that you'll sell high-design items on the Internet. Surprise, surprise.

By Janelle Brown

Janelle Brown is a contributing writer for Salon.

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