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Breakfast With

Holly Brubach

Monday, August 14, 2000

By Marylynn Uricchio, SEEN Editor

Holly Brubach is the former Style editor of The New York Times and currently director of the Sport and Home Collections for Prada, the Milan-based fashion house.

Holly Brubach 

The Pittsburgh native began writing about fashion at Vogue in 1978. She went on to join the staff of The Atlantic and then The New Yorker as fashion columnist. Trained as a dancer, Brubach wrote for the PBS "Dance in America" series and collaborated on "Choura: The Memoirs of Alexandra Danilova." She is the author of "A Dedicated Follower of Fashion" and "Girlfriend: Men, Women and Drag." Brubach will speak on the Warhol look at The Andy Warhol Museum at 7 p.m. Friday. Call 412-237-8300.

Q Shakespeare said "the apparel oft proclaims the man." That was 400 years ago, and it's still true.

A I think consciously or unconsciously, the way we dress and present ourselves to the world reveals some deep inner information about us. That even happens in people who claim they have no interest in fashion. It says that they're not willing to learn that language or participate in it. But the irony of that is even those people who think they're not participating end up participating because much of it happens on some sort of conscious level anyway.

Q Are we really what we wear or simply revealing who we would like to be?

A I think it's a combination of the two, and that's one of the things that is so intriguing. You can actually help yourself become someone you would like to be by the way you dress. There are obviously instances where that doesn't work -- when you see a 68 year old woman in a miniskirt, for instance. Sorry ...

Q In an age when anyone can buy an image, say the Ralph Lauren country squire look, what sets the real thing apart?

A Sometimes at a glance it's tough. In my experience, English aristocrats are much shabbier than people who are dressing in Ralph Lauren, which all looks newly minted. Maybe there's a little less attention to the details. When you are the real thing you don't have to worry about putting the image across.

Q What's your definition of a well-dressed person?

A It's not my definition, it's Chanel's: When you notice the woman and not what she's wearing. The clothes that really resonate when you see them on someone are the clothes that correspond to who that person is and what their experience has been. There's this total oneness between the clothes someone is wearing and who they are. I think that the best dressed people are extremely articulate in a visual way.

Q Is there a reason women are more interested in fashion?

A It hasn't always been that way. In the 18th century and parts of the 19th century, men were incredibly interested in fashion. I think that with the industrial revolution, sex roles got very pigeonholed, and there was kind of this division of labor. Men went out into the world and worked in offices or factories and women stayed home. Men went out to conquer the world of ideas, and the visual world, the world of appearances, was confined to women. The definition of masculinity is so much narrower than the definition of femininity.

Q What's the future of fashion? In sci-fi movies everybody is always wearing the same jumpsuit.

A The 20th century was kind of this long, slow striptease in fashion with more and more of the body being revealed. Now there are no frontiers left. There's this kind of Puritan assumption that we'll get to the point where we're all so evolved spiritually that we will have risen above clothes and their meanings. I don't think that's true. If anything, I think that fashion will continue to recycle itself and refer to itself. As in almost any other field, a lot of innovations will come about because of new materials. Technology is going to bring some wild card to fashion that we can't even envision at this point.

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