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.
Happy Monday — and welcome to the first issue of Open Thread, The New York Times’s weekly guide to the forces, from business to politics, that shape the dress codes we all obey and the ways we use clothes to communicate ideas, culture and identity.
In my almost two decades of covering fashion, from ateliers to executive suites and inaugurations, it’s become very clear to me that whether we like to admit it or not, we all use our wardrobes to manipulate other people — and get manipulated ourselves. And it’s about time we talk about it. Yes, there’s a whole semiology behind that cute skirt or power tie you are wearing. It’s time to own the message, not just the item. En garde!
O.K., enough of that.
Still, for anyone who doubts the ability of fashion to affect perception, I give you the Met Gala — perhaps the best people-watching event of the year, get the popcorn now — as Exhibit A. Officially the opening benefit for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s big Costume Institute show, the event, which takes place tonight, is the ultimate fashion-meets-Wall-Street-meets-Hollywood moment, where power brokers from near and far convene and attempt to outdo one another in the stakes of wearable art.
This year should be particularly jaw-dropping, since the exhibit the gala celebrates is a one-woman show dedicated to Rei Kawakubo, the founder of the Japanese brand Comme des Garçons, and only the second living designer ever to be granted a retrospective at the museum. (The first was Yves Saint Laurent, in 1983.) Ms. Kawakubo’s work challenges all conventional notions of beauty, femininity and the way garments are constructed; she dares to go where most designers — and, frankly, people — do not. Once, I talked to her backstage after a show and her explanation of her collection was: “I was trying not to make clothes.” Seriously.
Instead, she makes concepts. The red carpet will never be the same.
Check in with us throughout the night for live updates on the evening and for morning-after reviews — plus an exclusive walk-through of the exhibit with Ms. Kawakubo.
If you don’t want to wait, however, this photo essay in The New York Times Magazine offers a preview: The most recent Comme des Garçons collection transforms the model Saskia de Brauw into Fausto Melotti-like sculptures. Also bags of Jiffy Pop. But if you have had enough fashion-as-high-art-thank-you-very-much, check out our take on 100 days of Trump style (a.k.a. the transition from self-branding to state branding) or a guide to the essentials every man needs for summer. For this and more, read on.
Q: “Stockings or no for 60 yr young woman. Been getting by with opaque tights and boots in NYC but spring is here!” — MEIGHAN CORBETT, @MeighanCorbett
A: As far as I am concerned, this is an ageless issue, and one with which I also wrestle (at — full disclosure — 49). Once upon a time I would have said this was a question of “what is appropriate dress,” but these days such rules no longer really apply. While the Duchess of Cambridge still wears sheer hose pretty much every time she appears in public in a skirt, no matter the season, Michelle Obama, for example, rejected that rule when she was first lady — and left the door open for us all to follow her lead. Recently, at the W20 Summit in Berlin, Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the I.M.F., wore sheer hose during her panel discussion with Ivanka Trump and Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign minister, who did… not.
In the end, it comes down to what makes you comfortable. I am an opaque tights acolyte during the winter, favoring matte black Spanx pretty much every day, but come April, I can’t bring myself to put them on, despite the fact it isn’t always warm enough to go bare legged. I generally avoid the whole issue by wearing pants (I know: cop-out), but for those who want a little smoothness with their skirts, Anita Leclerc, our fashion editor, offers up the following tip: “On those days when fastidiously applying faux tan just isn’t worth the flaking and fretting, I wear Naked 8 tights from Wolford. They’re ultrafine, airy and a dead-on match for my pale skin. (They come in a variety of shades.) Take that, fashion police. But also take note: While colorful tights look cool with sandals — the look has been all over the runways — do not wear sheer hose with open-toe sandals. Doing so practically screams DOWDY.”