We can all relax, even before Labor Day. You don’t need bother with
any of those tedious debates promised for us — tedious we know they’ll
surely be. No, the zeitgeist hath spoken through the medium of high
fashion. No way around it, sure as shooting: George W. has a lock on
the presidency. Check out Vogue.

Haute couture has spoken and the message clarion clear is that
conservative is back. And in a major way. The economy of course keeps
on soaring. The “look,” good women of the land, is Eisenhower with a
tinge of Reagan glam from the ’80s, if you can believe it. Al’s days
are definitely numbered.

As Anna Wintour, the highest and mightiest of fashion mavens and
editor in chief of Vogue, puts it in the 688-page fall issue, “The
dominant mood of the collections was conservative: A feast of head to
toe dressing, old-fashioned tweeds and knits, prim and city-smart coats.
After a few years of bohemian frippery, designers are offering something
soigné and sophisticated, a refreshing return to elegance.”

The lead fashion spread is, heaven help us, “Conservative Party:
Traditional values, slightly skewed, rule the day.” Telling blurbs
follow on succeeding pages: “The cocktail dress, which came of age with
the First Ladies of the 1960s (Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson), is
back — this time in sheared mink.” And designer Oscar de la Renta
gurgles breathlessly how, “It’s wonderful to see volume again. This
dress has an Eisenhower-elegance to it, but is weightless as a feather.”

Little pearl necklaces here. Clunky Hermes Kelly bags there — a
mere $6,000 if you chose one in the skin of choice for this season —
crocodile. Forget endangered species. And any of those desperate cries
from the PETA people who managed to keep furs out of Vogue’s pages for a
couple of seasons. We’re talking high fashion here and now. If high
fashion decrees conservative, by gum, that’s what American women are
going to go for. Well, at least they can spring for the bright hot red
lipstick that is de rigeur this fall, if they can’t afford anything

Of course, Ms. Wintour and her editors, like most of the folk who
inhabit the heady realms of the media, entertainment and high fashion
businesses generally share liberal rather than conservative values,
despite how the winds of the zeitgeist may blow.

Which gives us a really dippy fashion spread inspired by “Mad Max,”
that post-apocalyptic vision of Australian director George Miller who
brought the world Mel Gibson a few decades back. No Mr. Gibson, alas,
but plenty of knockoffs of the wacky vehicles and fey, grungy kids as
backdrops for ill-groomed young women done-up in weird but very
expensive outfits from the likes of Louis Vuitton, Fendi, and Calvin
Klein — with nothing priced under $1,000. Where a woman could wear any
of this garb outside of a pretty peculiar Halloween party is anyone’s
guess. But I guess it makes Ms. Wintour feel comfy with herself that
she hasn’t sold out to the GOP quite completely.

And in another kind of balancing act, she features a profile on
Icelandic pop singer Bjork (yup, that’s the right spelling), who won the
Best Actress award in the Golden Palm, winning top prize film at this
year’s Cannes Film Festival. She plays a woman going blind, who murders
her beloved neighbor, loses her only child and is promptly executed.
The Cannes jury does make some strange selections on occasion. Ms.
Bjork is photographed with her forehead painted aquamarine and is
surrounded by a prodigious amount of ruffled organdy.

Immediately following the Bjork number we stumble on a most elegant
bit of nostalgia showing how Conde Nast — yes, Virginia, there really
was a Conde Nast — and distinguished photographer Edward Steichen
teamed up to record some of the more memorable moments of high fashion
of the 20s. A 1925 portrait by Steichen of one Marion Morehouse,
photographed in the Nast drawing room, blends in perfectly with the
conservative fashion pages shot decades later.

In case you are in any doubt as to the winds of trend, you can, if
you have the courage, check out the September issues of Harper’s Bazaar
and In Style, each of impressive tonnage, although not so hefty as
Vogue. Tweeds, little suits, simple pearl necklaces, pricey handbags,
high elegant heels are everywhere, above all in the ads. What ever are
we going to have to do about Casual Fridays?

At your own risk try

to get a flavor of the September world.

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