Monday, September 5, 2011

The AA of Fashion

American Apparel. It’s terrible.

And I love it.

I am a little ashamed what with all the bad press American Apparel gets because of its lecherous head honcho, Dov Charney, but I just can’t help it. This brand totally appeals to the gaudy retro in me. Not fifties retro, I leave that to labels like Stop Staring. This is sweet, gauche, self-absorbed eighties retro. You’re not going to find any other brand that proudly dedicates one of the front page ads of its website to a fabric like nylon tricot. These days you’re more likely to see the page emblazoned with ‘Organic cotton!’ Not American Apparel, oh no. Sure, they do have some organic cotton, but it’s not the main thing they’re hawking. Again, not too many other retailers use the adjective ‘shiny’ on such a wide expanse of products. When was the last time you bought shiny bike shorts? I ask you. Probably about, what, 1987? Sounds about right.

A lot of the items seemed familiar to me as I clicked through the on line catalog pages. Then I realized it. I had Barbies that wore most of these things when I was younger. It’s like the designers over at American Apparel saw the Barbie wardrobe and thought, “By Jove! What a fantastic idea! Zippers that go completely up the side of your nylon tricot neon green leggings in a contrasting purple color? We must market this to adults!” Seriously, I haven’t seen so many plastic, oddly placed zippers…well, since the eighties. I don’t think it’s necessarily a great fashion strategy, but it does make me a little nostalgic. It made me long for the days when Pepsi was Free and New Kids on the Block were still both New and Kids.

American Apparel is the only place that I have seen a quintessential eighties piece: the unitard. It’s pants, it’s a top, it’s spandex, what more do you really need? Maybe leg warmers? Well, they’ve got ‘em, baby. I remember the late eighties when my mother had a peacock blue unitard. I loved that thing. I took it upon myself to inherit it, though, the seams did eventually split and I miss it dearly. At least now I know where I can go to get a replacement.

I would also be remiss (and lying!) not to mention that I have their unisex Henley unitard on my wish list. I love it and I almost wish that it had the little trap door in the back. OK, I do wish that. And remember in eighties movies, those super short, skin-tight tank dresses that seemingly only hookers wore? Oh, they’ve got ‘em. In eight, count ‘em, EIGHT rock ‘em sock ‘em colors, including stripes and polka dots. They even have them in nylon tricot.

Another eighties treasure on the shelves is stirrup pants. Stirrup pants and harem pants. Harem pants, for those of you not of the eighties, were once referred to as Hammer pants. Aptly named for the uber trendy rapper M.C. Hammer who wore them. I can’t say that I quite understand the see-through factor that American Apparel has going on with some of their harem pants. Maybe it’s just so you’ll buy one of their leotards to wear under it.

They should name an entire department I Love Gold Lamé. They sure do. I have not seen this much gold lamé in the last twenty years combined, barring those two concerts by the Velcro Pygmies I attended. I cannot honestly say that I have a need or a use for a zip-up gold lame one-piece swimsuit, but I sure am trying to think of one.

American Apparel also seems to have quite the affinity for high waisted items, but not in the fifties Mad Men kind of way. These are the kind of high-waisted jeans that unless you weigh just a smidge under 100 pounds you will, in fact, be labeled pear-shaped.

They do have basic tees and they are basic tees, but the price suggests they are something more than just basic. So, yeah, the prices are not entirely reasonable on all items. And then there is all the bad press. So the CEO is, for lack of a better phrase, a pervy douche. OK, that said, don’t blame the clothes! And sure, the models have hip bones and cheek bones so sharp you could slice cheddar on them and that’s not quite so eighties. The sizing may also be a topic of dissension. Most things are sized a little small. That doesn’t seem like that big of a problem until you consider that a substantial percentage of Americans cannot shop at American Apparel at all because they do not have sizes that accommodate them. Why should the larger and half-size gals have to go without lace trimmed nylon tricot bike shorts and the matching stretch floral lace crop top? Although, to AA’s credit they have added some larger sizes of late.

There is a 2 and 3XL section, but it consists primarily of t-shirts and a couple of pair of lounge pants. Sadly, they could not even have been bothered to rustle up a plus size model or two to sport these items. It’s the same girls with jutting hips and clavicles. There is also a maternity section, but again there are no pregnant models. It’s not real maternity wear either. It is simply items that are really stretchy or really loose that would probably work for a preggo. Hmm, no plus models and no pregnant models…maybe Dov Charney IS a douche. Oh, well, that’s not concerning me today.

They also have men’s and kids’ clothes, but that’s all pretty straight forward, despite some strange male model choices and even stranger examples of pants.

There is something I want on just about every page of American Apparel’s website. Other things I just have to laugh and clap my hands at. American Apparel provides a piece of nostalgia for those of us who grew up in the eighties. We just have to accept the fact that we’re now old enough to be nostalgic and say ‘I remember when…”

Now if they only sold Hypercolor…

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