"You make me feel, you make me feel like un-natural woman ... "
Thank you, Vogue magazine. I didn't know just what was wrong with me until you helped me name it.
This winter, natural is out, unnatural, in. To be truly chic I need a wig -- the more obviously fake the better. And to enhance that "high drama" look, false eyelashes, fake beauty spots and thick black eyeliner -- a full Cleopatra (as worn by Liz Taylor, in the film version).
What one fashion maven hailed as "a small furry revolution" is taking place, and incredibly, much of the fashion press agrees. Wigs -- the kind you can spot at 50 paces in a fog are back for women. Especially desirable are long "falls," Barbie doll manes, held in place by wide headbands.
Someone should have rounded up all the fashion editors and administered a group reality check, with, say, a screening of "Postcards From the Edge." The sight of the Shirley MacLaine character in the hospital, caught in flagrante delicto sans wig and false eyelashes, dramatically illustrates the cardinal rule of fashion: Never wear anything you'd be embarrassed to have a medical emergency in.
But the wig boosters are ruthless, their pitches many and varied. They peddle nostalgia for the '60s; the annual wig trade show in New York is called the "Wigstock Festival." They call wigs the "natural accessory for the '60s look that's back in style." Wigs, natural?
When they are not championing wigs, the fashion press is pushing "big hair," the more trouble -- teased, poufed, sprayed and combat-ready -- the better. In high school back in Cambridge, Mass., in the heyday of "Hullabaloo" and "Shindig," we had a name for people who sported the more extreme versions of this look, in beehives and coneheads. We called them "rats" (as in small and furry).
But for complicated hair, you couldn't beat the 18th century. High style then dictated elaborate hair constructions, composed of the wearer's real hair and hair supplements, plus other decorations -- pearls, ropes, ribbons, plumes and flowers -- sometimes composing fanciful tableaux like baskets of fruit, windmills, pastoral scenes or towering replicas of ships in full sail. Some New York performance artists recently resurrected the 'dos as artistic and political statements; one such artist reportedly sported a "postindustrial coiffure," in the form of a "nest of trees and underbrush" -- a walking environmental-impact statement.
Why must fashion always jump-start the past to get to the future? Designers have been trying to sell us the '60s for some time now, beginning several years ago with short skirts. The first time out was a miserable flop. So they gave it a rest, then tried again. And again. Until they began (recently) to wear down our resistance. And more importantly, figured out a way to market minis so we of the less-than-perfect gams would buy them -- to wear over leggings or with heavy, dark, concealing tights.
The born-again '60s clothes and girl group chic -- baby-doll dresses, pirate boots, psychedelic and Pucci prints and even hot pants -- are not of themselves bothersome; what is is the return to the fussy, phony and wasted time that they represent.
Even my hairdresser -- a former French Legionnaire and world traveler who can converse intelligently and cut hair at the same time -- has suddenly abandoned common sense. On my last visit he suggested I begin setting my unruly mane on large rollers for a smoother look. (I already did time in the '60s sleeping on orange juice cans, thanks.)
You say wigs will never really come back? And certainly not on your head? Well, you can bet the marketing people are on the case right now: "How can we sell them wigs? 'Paid for over time, wigs are cheaper than a regular hair-cutting and care regime'?" And how will they justify false eyelashes -- as UV protection? Or, like the return of mondo eyebrows, as just more macho (or is it more Groucho)?
And what's next? High-heel sneakers and an alligator hat? Good golly, Miz Molly ...