Each week, the Open Thread newsletter will offer a look from across The New York Times at the forces that shape the dress codes we share, with Vanessa Friedman as your personal shopper. The latest newsletter appears here. To receive it in your inbox, register here.
Greetings from rainy Belgium, where I have spent the last week, first at the New York Times International Luxury Conference in Brussels, and then at the Fashion Talks lecture series in Antwerp.
People don’t generally think of Belgium as a fashion center, but the country has produced some of the most influential designers in modern fashion: Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Raf Simons, Olivier Theyskens, Haider Ackermann. Given that Belgium is roughly the size of Maryland, that’s pretty striking.
Maybe there’s something in the waffles?
Certainly the physical aspects of the country — the art nouveau buildings, the sepia tones, the lush gardens — have their own aesthetic. We tend to undervalue the importance of geography for designers, but it matters.
I once asked Dries why he stayed in Antwerp, since he shows in Paris, and he said the distance from the fashion world, with all its neuroses, provided invaluable perspective.
And speaking of a different perspective, here’s a tidbit from the NYT conference that changed mine. Bill McDonough, an architect and the co-author of Cradle to Cradle, a book about the circular economy, was talking about the word “sustainability,” and pointed out that it was a weirdly unexciting term to use for a hugely positive initiative. What would you think, he observed, if you asked someone how their marriage was, and they answered, “sustainable”?
Bet you’d think what I thought: We need a new word.
(He also pointed out that we put a man on the moon before we figured out that wheels on suitcases were a good idea, but that’s a whole other discussion.)
If you want to check out more on the conference, where speakers included Stella McCartney and Antoine Arnault, you can watch all the discussions here. Otherwise, back at the home front, enjoy the story of Barbie’s new hijab; an analysis of the memorial T-shirt; and a look at Louise Linton, Treasury Secretary spouse, and all her leather. Have a great Thanksgiving, and talk to you when we all recover!
The Beauty of Subtly Mismatched Earrings: Four singular sets that aren’t exactly identical.
Q: I am a woman in my 60s, and have maintained my figure and my interest in fashion. I have to have a serious work wardrobe, casual attire, clothes for nights out and a few cocktail dresses. I want to stay current but at this age require a more elegant style. The elegance I have down, I think, but I don’t want bland and boring. Is there a list of what we should definitely stay away from at this age? — Jacqueline, New York
A: I definitely have a list of what to stay away from, but it’s not age-related. I would make the same recommendations to someone in their 30s and someone in their 60s. For me, the Don’ts (remember that page in Glamour?) have more to do with signaling adulthood and autonomy than any specific number.
So, in no particular order, my top five items to which one should Just Say No:
1. Bloomers. Amelia Bloomer was indubitably a great pioneer, but at this stage these blouson shorts generally call to mind children’s wear or Shakespearian costume, and neither is good for everyday adult dressing. Indeed, I generally stay away from all kinds of shorts unless used for athletic endeavors or hiking on the weekend in hot places.
2. Onesies. Similar reason. These are for babies. Let the babies have them.
3. Hobble skirts. You know: the straight cuts that angle inward at the knee or ankle and trap the legs so the only way to walk is with mincing, tiny steps. No woman should be hampered in her stride by these (see Amelia Bloomer).
4. Kitten heels. The name says it all.
5. Mules. Ditto. Also, if your shoes flap, it is very hard to be taken seriously. And the naked heel is maybe everyone’s worst body part.
Finally, an extra tip: stay away from anything with an obvious temporal association: Michael Jackson gloves, “Desperately Seeking Susan” lace, Elvis glitter. It’s the fashion equivalent of carbon dating. — VANESSA FRIEDMAN
South Korean doctors operating on an injured North Korean soldier found parasitic worms crawling in his dietary tract, a symptom of poor hygiene and nutrition.
Dispelling misconceptions about what’s driving income inequality in the U.S.
Our tax burden could increase by tens of thousands of dollars, based on money we don’t even make.
Tens of thousands of people fleeing damage from Hurricane Maria have arrived in central Florida. Many expect to stay — and they could reshape the state and its politics.