But first—sequins: loftiness, vision and hope for a post-Trump America
Say what you will for her propensity to mix prints and stripes that should traditionally never be mixed, her penchant for pairing menswear with sky high stilettos, for her dark rimmed glasses and sleeked back hair that defied what we conventionally deem as “pretty”. Jenna should go down in the history books as having created an easily recognizably signature style that not only belonged to J.Crew but to any American follower of fashion.
This kind of cultural capital cannot be measured in terms of financial success—we know that since bad news is gracing the paper quarterly on the retailer’s profitability. But there was something intangible working in Jenna’s favor. She created a style, if not entirely democratic, it was an ethos which women everywhere could get behind and if not fully embrace, at minimum, respect.
Jenna fits into the same era as the Obama’s, not least because she dressed Michelle and her daughters but because her reign converged with Obama’s 8 years in office. She made sequins, splashes of neon, chambray, beaded embroidery, ruffles and costume jewelry HAPPEN. And she was shaping the brand’s story during its more preppy years when velvet accents, tortoise shell, argyle sweaters and school boy blazers were IT.
Now these eras occupy a place of nostalgia in what feels like a very distant past, thanks to the Trump presidency. The benefits and opportunities of liberalism were unscathed and protected by these leaders. It seemed like a sure thing. Who ever thought it would be threatened?
But now we know it’s not a sure thing. And I’m not over the Obamas and Jenna Lyons simply because there is nothing compelling enough to replace it. Obama’s campaign on “hope” no longer feels relevant as a rallying cry, the same way that pops of neon no longer feel fresh and novel.
How can we—liberals—win back our government and the fate of our country? Where are the leaders that are shaping this conversation? What is the overarching purpose that is going to unify and direct our country? While this question is being mulled over in high-minded publications, there it will remain if it doesn’t trickle down to us everyday mortals.
Jenna was successful because she made high fashion accessible. If we think of fashion as a sort of visual language, her vocabulary was sequins, high heels, trousers, and cashmere. She used this vocabulary creatively, weaving together a compelling picture of the way a woman could dress. Take sequins for example. She revived them from its dark history of laughable 80s prom dresses into something actually wearable by pairing them with everyday American staples like denim and collared shirts.
Our country comes from a rich history of idealistic values and principles which have similarly been forgotten and taken for granted. We need someone to breathe new life into these values. We need style, hope, vision that is relevant to the contemporary person in order to guide the direction of America post-Trump. We need to spend the next 3 years defining such a vision so that we can be prepared in 2020.
Of course, we need these sentiments to translate into actual, substance action.
But first—we need sequins.