Ready to Wear: The term ‘fashionista’ has always been a pet peeve in this neck of the woods

By Susannah Frankel
Monday 24 November 2008 01:00

We all know that fashion terminology changes as regularly as, well, as fashion itself. How else would people be persuaded to invest in clothing that, basically, they already own?

And so winter's "camel" becomes summer's "honey", the humble "shirt-dress" may be a "shirt-waister" one minute and simply a "button-through shift" the next. More heinously, though, that most heinous of words, "fashionista", has recently morphed into the more heinous still "recessionista".

The term "fashionista" has always been a pet peeve in this neck of the woods. It implies something diminutive, sweet, female and resolutely frivolous, associations that any woman with an ounce of sense – or weighing more than a few ounces, for that matter – would never willingly embrace. An enduring love affair with one's wardrobe is no trivial matter, as anyone with a storage problem will be quick to testify. More importantly, people don't talk about "parliamentistas", do they, or indeed "presidentistas". I rest my case.

Coined earlier this year at about the same time that the expression "credit crunch" became the most over-used in the media, "recessionista" is now being bandied about to persuade consumers – and, again, female consumers – that it's fine for them to spend money on clothing. That clothing should, however, preferably be inconceivably cheap, which might make any recessionista out there feel like a responsible human being, but the fact that the garments are made by people whose working conditions and salaries make the western world's financial disarray pale into insignificance by comparison might prove a slight impediment.

Conversely, there are also words that, though equally ineffectual, simply refuse to budge. I give you: cool (not as in cold); hip (not as in rose); rocking (most definitely not as in horse); and urban (with no relevance to town planning implied). Any writer who feels the need to use any of these does so at their peril, resting safe in the knowledge that she/he is, of course, anything but. The truly cool, hip, rocking or, er, urban rarely feel the need to identify themselves or, indeed, their subject that way.

Finally, how about "conceptual", used to describe clothing that we should like because we know it's clever, but, to be honest, it's also a bit difficult and not all that nice. Or "edgy", which has similar connotations but is more mainstream, in fact so mainstream it's become meaningless. Witness last week's Grazia, in which a floral print is deemed just that. How can a floral print (right) be even remotely edgy? They feature flowers, and the last time I looked, gardening was hardly an avant-garde pursuit. Avant-garde, eh? Don't get me started.

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