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How Elitism Is Slowly Going Out Of Fashion

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High fashion has never felt like it’s been for me. Whether in "Sex and the City" or on "The Simple Life," labels and brand names were linked exclusively to a particular income level, especially as the noughties championed logos, designer name drops, and the Louis Vuitton bags everybody seemed to have. (Just nobody I knew.)

But in the wake of street style, vintage re-appreciation, and the financial crisis of 2008, the aesthetic landscape began to shift.


Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie in "The Simple Life."

Back in 2009, I remember an "us" versus "them" type of approach to fashion: my friends and I were embarrassed by in-your-face brands, but (ironically/not-at-all) favoured American Apparel, Urban Outfitters, or vintage pieces that told us we were creating looks that were inherently unique to ourselves and the culture we were trying to align with. (But we were still dressed like everybody else — just within a certain subculture.)

So, with no outward dedication to labels — despite scrimping and saving for a pair of Cheap Mondays— we considered everybody else to be the problem. Or everybody else to be embarrassing. (Not us, though, because our choices elevated us above high fashion elitism.)

"Specific pieces don’t allude to status, they allude to what you, as a consumer, choose to buy and wear. And because self expression has become a currency in and of itself, nobody wants to own the same things anyway."

Which was elitist in itself. While we may not have been draped in Chanel, LV, or Calvin Klein, we maintained the mindset that we were above anybody else who made different sartorial choices. Just, in our case, it was in response to being on the outside in a financial sense of the word. Style became a reaction to class.

But over the last few years, the chasm between the fashion world and fashion-in-real life has gotten a little less dramatic. As street style has eased up to simply be "style" (see: wear what you want and bless us everyone), there’s been more space for wearers to dress in a way that suits them, their tastes, and their backgrounds. Especially as more and more high fashion brands have opened outlets, bringing price points down and more customers in.

"Self-expression finally trumps social status. Which makes sense because that’s the point of fashion to begin with."

Plus, "it" bags and "it" pieces have become arguably passé. Which means that specific pieces don’t allude to status, they allude to what you, as a consumer, choose to buy and wear. And because self expression has become a currency in and of itself, nobody wants to own the same things anyway.

Self-expression finally trumps social status. Which makes sense because that’s the point of fashion to begin with.

As we’ve begun to see with spring/summer 2016 collections, the style landscape has expanded to include nearly everything. And seriously, everything: this season alone, we’ve seen collections based in and on the '70s and '90s, on androgyny, athleticism, and uber-femininity.

Denim varies from wide-legged to high-rise to tapered and cigarette-like, and collections spearheaded by the likes of Gigi Hadid (Tommy Hilfiger) or Florence Welch (Gucci), offer room for interpretation when eyeing a particular piece or collection. (See: "I never thought of wearing something that way!" Or: the Anne T. Donahue story.)


Which is a mindset also propelled by Kendall and Kylie Jenner’s collection for Topshop, Beyonce’s Ivy Park, and Lady Gaga and Elton John’s recent collaboration for Macy’s.

Now, we don’t see Jessica Simpson holding a Louis Vuitton bag on Newlyweds, Samantha Jones gunning for Birkin on "Sex and the City," or Paris Hilton draped in Guess. Instead, we see the celebrities we’re most familiar with allude to the notion that they’ve made fashion for us — for actual regular people. And if you want to buy it, you probably can. And if you don’t want to, that’s fine too.

And it’s about time we’ve made the idea of fashion less intimidating and unrealistic. While much of high fashion is still marked at a price the majority of us can only dream of affording, to see runway looks available across the board at all types of stores and available to all people re-affirms the notion that fashion isn’t limited to the elite. Particularly since style doesn’t make anybody better or worse than anybody else, regardless of how many fancy purses or American Apparel hoodies someone used to own. And especially since we know fashion works from the ground up: finally, we’re understanding that it’s the rest of us who dictate the trends we’ll see pop up on runways next season — whether via street style or the looks we spark by what we begin buying in mass amounts.

Which means that fashion isn’t better than us. It needs us. (All of us — not just "us" versus "them.") And after what feels like forever, the industry is finally cluing in.

Thank goodness too because I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford a Birkin bag.

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