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29 Aug

Trange Is the New Black

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Fall 2017 is a season of bizarre, gorgeously bonkers fashion. I dare you to toss convention out the window and join the new freakfest.

There are many advantages to going strange. First and foremost, strange clothing is empowering. Nobody messes with a strange person. I regularly test this theory on the New York subway. Whenever I board the A train in a strange outfit—stripy socks with sandals, flowery man-blouses, straw sombreros, massive shades—I precipitate a flurry of elbow nudges and anxious side-eyes. Too terrified to make eye contact, my fellow travelers immediately revert to playing Ballz on their smartphones. Sometimes people even cover their children’s eyes.

Michael Avedon
Michael Avedon

Moschino Couture gown and headpiece.

By dressing as if I am totally unhinged, I get total r-e-s-p-e-c-t. Another benefit: When you dress strangely, you keep the spotlight where it should be—on YOU.

Everyone else on the planet is so busy trying to look that you, with your eccentric fashion choices, are able to be an utter raving, screaming standout, unless, of course, Daphne Guinness, RiRi, Tilda Swinton, or Lady Gaga is in the vicinity.

“When you dress strangely, you keep the spotlight where it should be—on YOU.”

But perhaps the greatest benefit of dressing strangely is that it affords you, the wearer, endless opportunities for creative expression and experimentation, thereby providing you with a hobby. You become your own work of art. While others recoil in horror at the notion of prints, you can spend hours mashing them up with crazy artistic abandon. While others are oppressed by pedestrian notions of season-appropriate dressing, you, liberated you, can concoct endless alternative approaches, such as wearing furs in summer, and bikinis on the tundra. (Don’t blame me if you catch pneumonia.)

And dressing strangely doesn’t have to break the bank. Bust an arm off your spectacles and replace it with a pink toothbrush, and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Wearing your existing wardrobe in unexpected ways will also hit the spot: All Little Edie Bouvier Beale had to do was tie a blouse on her head and turn her skirt upside down—I’m referring to the strange heroine of the classic documentary—and she became a perennial fashion icon. All Céline Dion had to do was wear a jacket backward. #Dior. Revolving or inverting your garments is one low-cost way to get results; improbable layering is another.

Michael Avedon
Michael Avedon

Versace coat.

In our society, convention dictates that certain things are worn over certain other things. Cardigans are worn over blouses, as sure as day follows night. Deviating from these precepts is an affordable way of looking offbeat. Skeptical? Try wearing your black brassiere on top of your Burberry duffle coat, and get back to me.

Finally, let’s discuss your crowning glory: a jaunty chapeau. The donning of a batty hat—a tiara, a basket of fruit, a steering wheel!—is a fail-safe way to signal your strangeness. In the early 20th century, a lady named Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven delighted the denizens of Greenwich Village by wearing the lid of a filthy coal bucket on her head. Come summer, the taboo-busting Elsa would insert her head into a birdcage, complete with live canary. Her signature flourish? She might be the only person in history to have glued postage stamps to her face.

Michael Avedon
Michael Avedon

Céline tunic.

Dressing strangely is a great way to enter the history books. Back in the 1960s, a strange group of lads named the Doors had a big hit with a song titled “People Are Strange.” This haunting ditty became an anthem for all the counterculture freaks of my generation in our caftans and vintage finery (think Saint Laurent, circa late 2015).

Unfortunately, it contains a blatant bit of fake news. I refer to the chorus, in which lead singer Jim Morrison sang the following lugubrious lyrics:

“When you’re strange/No one remembers your name.” NOT TRUE!

Shove a birdcage on your head—or wear a dead swan to the Oscars— and you will be remembered forever.

Michael Avedon
Michael Avedon
Hannah Kim
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