European Fashion vs American Fashion
By Amanda Deltuvia —
Europe has always been the powerhouse of fashion on the runways and on the streets of culture. Haute couture in 1860 Paris was represented by the fashionable wardrobe of queens, and eventually fashion houses like Balenciaga, Chanel, Dior, Givenchy, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Hermes, Lanvin, Celine, Chloe, Yves Saint Laurent and countless other fashion icons got their start in the same city.
These designers have the ability to make your mouth water if you have carnal instincts when it comes to the best of couture. Chanel’s designs in the 1930s carried over to America, creating fashion that encompassed the general look and lines from 1920s to 1930s, both in Europe and in France. Yves made his mark by taking over Dior and then in the ’60s by creating the “beat look” and the infamous “smoking suit.” He then ended up handing his label over to an American: Tom Ford. With French fashion, I can go on and on about the history, textures, colors and successors, but clearly once Americans got their hands on a sewing machine, like music, fashion became more globally accessible—crossing over, meshing and molding into something that channels the historicism of fashion evolution along with new and transformative ideas that pulls from all walks of life and culture.
American fashion was a bit more slow-moving (blame the pilgrims for not getting here fast enough). But like California wine, American fashion eventually became a frontrunner against powerhouses like France. Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang, Calvin Klein, Carolina Herrera, Diane Von Furstenberg and Tom Ford are undeniably power players in the field of fashion, each setting a distinct mark on fashion trends in the states as well as Europe. Everything from clean-cut polos to crazy party frocks to wedding gowns to anything in between, Americans started to establish their couture creations right in their own backyard.
Street fashion in Europe stayed relatively consistent in France, keeping blacks at the forefront with boots and scarves. There’s an odd, effortless beauty about the Frenchwoman: always donned in head-to-toe black, with possibly a pop of color in a scarf and practical, yet perfectly fitting boots. Her skin is flawless, and where hair free flowing with a tinge of frizz that reminds you of Kate Moss. She looked like she rolled out of bed with that fabulous outfit, sporting no makeup and a mysterious pout.
When I was in France, I had to sacrifice my mesh t-shirts, holed jeans, band shirts, my hooker heels and Jersey Shore casual club wear. I traded it in for black dress pants, blazers and brown, black or blue t-shirts. There, I always looked grand and well put together, even fooling Frenchmen of my origins until I opened my mouth and a rumbling Jersey accent that sounded like a scratched record to foreign ears came out. So I sported my bruised shades, noirs and scarves (I used to despise scarves at home—I always felt like there was a noose around me).
I was envious and confused as an American, subconsciously pulling at my clothes as I strutted the streets of Paris, blending in with my bruised blues that mimicked the cloud-coated sky. Seeing a pop of color on the metro or on the street was like spotting a tiger in the suburbs. It was one in a million, and gave me flashbacks to the eclectic New York fashion that was free and highly frightening at times. The United States is a regurgitation of European fashion on acid. Our country was a late-bloomer in population; hence, fashion had a bit of catching up to do and trends to claim. From Fashion Week all the way over to Burning Man, Americans have never been afraid to break molds while still admiring the lovelies of Europe. We certainly are a melting pot when it comes to fashion.
A combination of the dark skies and the darkly clothed beautiful women was chic, but sometimes a bit depressing. Maybe it was because I couldn’t get to know any of them. Maybe it was because I couldn’t be my loud-mouthed USA self, in my wardrobe and in my language. I was unwillingly silenced, well, because even though I lived there, I was still a tourist.
French fashion is very fashionable and very practical. Form-fitting, yet comfortable. Stylish, yet without blisters and an ability to navigate cobblestone and dog droppings. Fashion is always evolving, yet cyclical. We can see the garbs of people from 14th century France transformed into a modern gown. We see trousers from the 16th century. We see purses from the 17th century. It’s endless. Along with that we see fads travel in and out as fast as an espresso in the morning. And at some point, we might ask ourselves: Who am I? Why do I dress the way I do? Am I merely a product of my fashion environment or do I strive to deeply express myself through fashion?