As the Olympic torch winds its way around the world toward its final destination, the opening ceremony of the Beijing summer Olympics, I find myself feeling as though I’ve been running in a marathon myself – in the Fashion Olympics, if you will. The fashion world’s 2008 summer games included the Resort 2009 shows in New York, the Fall 2008 haute couture shows in Paris, the Spring 2009 menswear shows in Paris and Milan, the Resort and Spring/Summer 2009 swimwear shows in Miami, assorted foreign fashion weeks like Berlin and Medellin, and the newly instituted Men’s Fashion Week in New York for Spring/Summer 2009. At the last of these, I sat front row next to a fellow competitor in the endless fashion relay race and we compared notes on our planned wardrobes and fashion strategies for looking our best at Spring/Summer Fashion Week in New York in September.
While many of us who work in the business side of fashion are fierce though friendly competitors, the true Olympians are the consumers of fashion who sit side by side with us at fashion shows and compete for access to and ownership of the best the fashion world has to offer. For these competitors, the medal ceremony is the annual announcement of the International Best Dressed List. Founded in 1940 by Eleanor Lambert to promote American fashion, the list has undergone several changes in recent years. The current list is divided into categories: men, women, couples, and fashion professionals. To be honest, I think it quite fair that fashion professionals be separated because our access to designers, showrooms, and sample sales do give us what might be construed as an unfair, though for my part thoroughly exploited, advantage.
This year’s list of Best Dressed women identifies the 56 women who keep fashion moving forward all over the world. Included this year is a healthy dose of royals – young and old – as well as one possible future royal, Prince William’s girlfriend, Kate Middleton. The royal houses of Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Greece and Monaco are all represented on the list. American actresses are also well represented by my personal favorites Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johansson, Uma Thurman, and others. From the other side of the pond, we see two of international fashion’s biggest risk takers: Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton. Personally, I applauded Ms. Swinton’s bold choice of the black one-shouldered Lanvin gown for the 2008 Oscars – regardless of what other fashion pundits thought. Another of my all time favorite risk takers who appears on the list this year is none other than Victoria â€œPoshâ€ Beckham! More on her at a later date.
The political arena is well represented by the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi; the First Lady of France, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy; and contender to be the next First Lady of the United States, Michele Obama (whose fashion sense I recently profiled in this column). In my opinion, more stylish than all of these women combined is the First Girlfriend of New York City, Diana Taylor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s companion. She embodies the fashionable modern working woman and always looks impeccable.
Fashion wouldn’t be any fun at all if we all agreed with each other all the time. So, without further ado, here is my short list of people on the list who – in my humble opinion – have no business being there: the eternal twin train wrecks, Ashley and Mary Kate Olsen and the deeply troubled Amy Winehouse, who missed the Grammys this past year because the US Embassy refused to issue her a travel visa.
Whether you are a fierce fashion competitor yourself or you simply enjoy fashion as a spectator sport, the worldwide games never stop and I’ll be here to help you decide for yourself who are the winners – and the losers!
(Top to bottom, left to right)
Ports 1961 Resort 2009 in NY
Christian Dior Fall 2008 Couture in Paris
Pistol Panties Resort 2009 in Miami
Tilda Swinton at 2008 Oscars in Lanvin
Cate Blanchett in Dries Van Noten at 2008 Oscars
Image Layout: Jessica Piraro