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As Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion editor and journalist Robin Givhan prepares to leave the Washington Post after 15 years at the newspaper, she's penned a goodbye love-letter to her readers and the city. Published this past Sunday, it's a touching missive not only to the Post—"I thank this newspaper for its institutional belief that fashion could provide a window on who we are, for seeing that amid the frippery and parties, fashion is also business, politics, religion, sociology and ultimately, life."—but also to a city that's rarely construed as a fashion metropolis on the cutting edge of chic.
In a city that overflows with intellectual curiosity, residents are fascinated by this billion-dollar industry that thrives by tapping into our deepest fantasies, insecurities and prejudices. Fashion seeps into our subconscious and influences the way in which we see ourselves and those around us. Even when we pretend not to care about the clothes in the glossy advertisements, we are still bothered by the models. They are too thin, too pale, too young, too something. Why don't they smile? Why are they so awkward? Why do we even care?· Some people think Washington is anti-fashion. So wrong. It's part of our power statement. [Washington Post]
Washingtonians instinctively know that no matter the depths of their ambivalence about an industry that traffics in superficiality, surface appearances matter. How we look serves as introduction and parting shot. It can underscore an important point or distract from it.
Washington's currency is power, and fashion helps to bring order to the power structure. Clothes provide the first hint of how we relate to one another and how seriously we should be taken. (Remember that, dear interns in your flip-flops and miniskirts.) Gentlemen may pull on a bespoke suit or rebel against that brand of traditionalism with rumpled jeans and T-shirts. Power is now a woman in a sleek sheath, not one in a frumpy suit and a pair of commuter sneakers.