Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Women's Wear Daily's 100 Years

The magazine, which sells at newsstands for $12.99, is an amazing must-have for fashion insiders as well as anyone casually interested in women's fashion trends.Part of the book features WWD editors' comprehensive picks for the top 100 fashion moments of the last century, resulting in a chronicle of the industry's pivotal history. It starts with the first day the trade paper was printed (the same time the apparel industry was beset by labor disputes), and it ends with today's emerging designers, including Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, Phillip Lim, and Jason Wu. The magazine is WWD's most profitable issue to date."It's really an attempt to cover important moments in fashion history through the WWD filter," said editor in chief Ed Nardoza.That is why the bulk of the events center on high-society fetes and the trends close to the hearts of the Ladies Who Lunch - who, by the way, have their own entry. Luckily, most of WWD's picks hit close to regular people's closets: Bikinis, designer jeans, and Chanel suits are wardrobe staples.But it also might explain why four pages of the book are dedicated to Truman Capote's 1966 Black and White Ball - one of the most exclusive events in New York society - and why hip-hop's fashion influence garnered just a quarter of a page - and even that favored only Isaac Mizrahi's work bringing street style to the runways, rather than the successful clothing lines of Russell Simmons and Sean "Diddy" Combs.Nonetheless, it's easy to get lost thumbing through the pictures and seeing how historic events like the Titanic's sinking or the 1929 stock market crash altered the course of fashion or how fashion, for that matter, altered the course of our lives. Here are some of the most interesting WWD moments:

A sinking feeling. What does the Titanic's demise have to do with fashion? Several department-store titans were on board, including Macy's co-owner Isidor Straus and his wife, who both died during its sinking, and the daughter of Andrew Saks. Plus, the amount of merchandise lost was newsworthy to WWD. And who knew that outfits were being documented during the fateful night? "A reporter lived to tell about it and she described what the people were wearing as they got on lifeboats," Nardoza said.

Blondes have more fun. (true!) According to WWD, celebrities' love affair with hair color goes back to the 1930s when actress Jean Harlow appeared in the movie Platinum Blonde; she became the first spokeswoman for hair color.

Hindsight is 20/20. WWD's reporting on Peter Pan Dress Co.'s partnership with Paramount Pictures Corp. acknowledged the beginning of films' impact on fashion. The pairing resulted in a series of cross-promotional Peter Pan Weeks between retailers and theaters across the country, and director D.W. Griffith announced he would incorporate high-end fashion into his movies, starting with That Royle Girl in 1925.

Which came first? The mall or the cul-de-sac? A 1950 article reported that America would change the way it shopped as Seattle became home to the first car-friendly suburban mall. We see how that worked out.

The rise of the fashion shoot. By the late 1950s, magazines began to phase out sketches (imagine sketching an entire runway presentation!) for photography. Seems like a no-brainer, but it led to what we now accept as photographer fame. Eventually photographers Steven Meisel, Mario Sorrenti, and Craig McDean would become as well-known as the models and designers.

Black is beautiful. When the African American aesthetic took hold, WWD took note. Thanks to pop-culture movies like Lady Sings the Blues and Shaft, urban looks of the 1970s - which included Afros, turtlenecks, and bell-bottoms - crossed into the mainstream.

Michael Jackson attraction. This entry is more about MTV's effects on fashion than Jackson's inherent style. Nardoza said that's because Michael was more about menswear than women's wear. True, but women loved Michael. Isn't that enough?

The name game. Celebrity is the new designer. While the early 2000s were a gauche period, it was a big part of fashion history. There was a time when, day after day, WWD headlines announced new lines by Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, and Jennifer Lopez.

Thank you, Carrie. How would we know what Manolos, Christian Louboutins, or Jimmy Choos were if it weren't for Miss Bradshaw? These shoes achieved cult status.

9/11 situation. In the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, designers canceled their shows. But in the long term, it made the industry rethink its priorities. It was the cataclysmic event behind today's recessionista.