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 inaugural newsletter appears here. To receive it in your inbox, register here.
Good afternoon to everyone. It’s been a pretty full week: There’s a new regime in France (Brigitte Macron is a first lady to watch, as far as the art of fashion diplomacy goes); Cannes kicked off in all its red-carpet brouhaha; and Ralph Lauren named a new C.E.O. from the world of consumer products, with deep experience at …. Gillette!
And yet the style news that sparked the greatest public debate this week has been the RompHim.
Yup, the romper-for-men debuted on Kickstarter — and overfunded almost immediately. It has set off a veritable firestorm among those who love it (including Andy Cohen, who told Us Weekly a few years ago that he wished “men’s jumpsuits would come back in style,” and Cam Newton, who sported his own version at Coachella) and those who cringe at the very idea (most of Twitter).
I was about to dismiss it all with an eyeroll and a groan until I began reading the comments, and realized that in fact the RompHim had become a catalyst for a renewed conversation on gender identity and the issue of whether we all should have an inalienable right to wear what we want. I mean, if Jaden Smith can wear a skirt, why not a romper? Especially given the fact that it is just a truncated pair of overalls, which are already an accepted part of the male wardrobe.
The obvious answer, to me, is this: Just because you can wear something does not mean you should, and I tend to think that after the age of 14, rompers should really be retired, no matter the sex of the wearer. But I also think that the sheer fact this became (if even for a moment) a cause célèbre is a sign of the times.
All of which means: I doubt the RompHim will be coming soon to a mall near you. The debate it represents, however, may be coming soon to your dinner table.
So check out the product in question and see what you think, and also check out this story on how Columbus, Ohio is competing with Nashville to be the third fashion capitol of the U.S. (Who knew, right?) Or this one on hockey goalies and the great lengths they go to in decorating their face-masks. I don’t know if your household is like my household, but I can tell you: We’re deep in Stanley Cup-land (when we’re not discussing RompHims, that is). Have a good weekend and happy reading.
Q: Black-tie-wedding invite coming up and I’m not ready. I have a beautiful Oscar DLR black knee-length dress that I usually dress up with a sparkly red bolero but my sister says no good for late May, too wintry. What do you say? Beth H., Brooklyn.
A: I’ve actually been thinking a lot about weddings these days, thanks in part to the upcoming not-quite-royal nuptials of Pippa Middleton. (Check back on Monday for an assessment of those looks.) As someone who also has a closet heavy on the black, I don’t think the issue is seasonal — unless the dress in question is in long-sleeved wool or leather, though with the weather so weird these days, who knows what will feel temporally appropriate when? But I do tend toward the traditional with weddings, and the idea that guests should avoid black. The red bolero might obviate the issue, or another option I’ve seen that looked awfully chic is a white button-down (the kind you probably already have) with a long sequined skirt (the kind that TopShop and Zara do very well), and some great jewelry. It’s very black-tie Georgia O’Keeffe.
Since it’s been a while since my own wedding, however, I asked Isabel Wilkinson, the senior online editor at T who is getting married later this month, for her thoughts. “I think it’s all about the venue,” she said. “If the wedding is being held in a garden or on a beach, I think ‘black tie’ can be translated more creatively — but in my opinion, the color black can feel out of place outdoors. On the other hand, if the wedding is taking place in a church or a hotel, black colors can be perfectly appropriate. If you’re unsure, never be afraid to send an email to your hosts. I’ve been fielding outfit questions from my guests for weeks!”
And since gender equality is on the table, we have another, related question, from a male reader:
Q: Subject line: “Black Tie Optional”What exactly is appropriate to wear if I do not choose a tuxedo? Male.
A: According to our men’s fashion critic, Guy Trebay (and presuming “black tie optional” is a dress code), “Black tie optional is something of an etiquette fake-out. While it’s completely acceptable for men who don’t possess a set of evening clothes to show up in a dark suit, white shirt and solid dark tie, most guys who have a tuxedo will wear one.” Take a look at the last Academy Awards red carpet, and you’ll see what he means in action. — VANESSA FRIEDMAN