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Arts in Review

Haute Stuff: We’re all mad here

Eccentricity is an art, and one that I wholeheartedly admire.

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By Leanna Pankratz (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: March 14, 2012

“I’m not interested in the normal,” says Bill Cunningham, the famed New York Times fashion photographer, in his recent documentary Bill Cunningham New York. “I’d rather see a man or woman in something fetching, unique, and quite possibly ‘wrong’ from an industry perspective, rather than just another young person trying too hard with the same old things.” I am inclined to agree with his statement. The ordinary has never interested me, nor the bland, nor the common. What interests me are things that are fresh, innovative, new – you get the picture. I’d much rather see a person walk down the street in something completely distinctive and “out there” than just another celebrity knockoff.

I’m the sort of fashion girl who got overly excited when she saw Kirsten Dunst’s lace-laden, ornate dresses in Marie Antoinette, and had a perhaps too-strong appreciation for the elaborate hairpieces and royal-meets-rocker style of Elizabeth von Thurn, German princess-turned-fashion columnist. Part of my love for couture stems from my love for the unexpected and the unknown; it comes from my intense appreciation for the unique, bold and unapologetic attitude of those who do as they please when it comes to style. Eccentricity is an art, and one that I wholeheartedly admire. It takes a lot of daring to step out in something completely different and perhaps a little crazy, especially in a fashion world that runs on three-inch heels and an LBD (little black dress).

Just like sex, spending and countless other pleasures get a bad reputation due to their implications of decadence or anti-puritanism; fashion, I believe, also suffers the consequences of being primarily outwardly based. It’s true that we are often our best work of art, and I fail to see the sin in dressing ourselves accordingly. Whether one wants to pin their hair full of feathers, or remain discreet in blacks and whites, fashion is ultimately the visual expression of the internal. We’re all beautiful, unique specimens. Once again, why not dress as such.

This brings me back to the beauty that is eccentricity. Other people call it crazy, I call it wearable art. I applauded Helena Bonham Carter’s decision to wear mismatched shoes at the 2011 Golden Globe Awards, and I love Tom Wolfe’s white suits and dandy-esque cane, Isabella Blow’s fabulous and sometimes fearsome hats, Karl Lagerfeld’s constant sunglasses-and-suit fixation, and the heavy, classic, unchanging yet completely unordinary style of Carmen Dell’Orefece and the late Mrs. Brooke Vincent Astor (as featured in the documentary Bill Cunningham New York), which is enough to make me want to flank myself in furs and light my vintage cigarette holder.

Eccentrics enjoy themselves more. Helena Bonham Carter, of the mismatched shoes and bird’s next hair, explained her mantra to People Magazine: “Sometimes I get it right, and sometimes I get it wrong,” she said. “The key is that I’m having fun, and I hope people have a little fun when they see me, too.”

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