But who are we really?
This strain of thought—thinking about what it means to BE an American— is a close relative of what it means to DRESS as an American. For, we cannot deny that dressing is a form of communication. Even if you’re the type who proclaims not to care what you don in the morning, you are willfully ignoring a critical truth your dress will influence another’s judgement—at least partially, if not entirely.
At the time when mass mall-type retailers are struggling to survive and Americans are changing the way they shop (online from brick and mortar), I think it can be said that we’re facing a collective identity crisis.
As mentioned in my previous post, I long for the relative peace and security of the Obama years. I wish it were him eloquently reinforcing our national identity, embodying our hopes, instead of an inarticulate, capricious gangster. I think it goes without saying that even Hillary’s polished facade would be welcome.
But one thing that has come out of this is a serious public debate on who we are as Americans, begging the question, is there a unifying vision for us as a nation?
The problem specific to every retailer in America is defining what “she” wants. “She” is the euphemism for every-woman, and in this case, every-American-woman. As it turns out, she is finicky and may not herself know what she wants.
One can identify quintessential French elements of dressing—think Agnes B. and Comptoir des Cottoniers: little cap-sleeved tees, silk foulards and strategically placed ruffles atop mini dresses. Or British forms of dress: wellies and gorgeously itchy wool overcoats come to mind. Certainly, particular aesthetics are proprietary to the brand, but these elements all work together to form a general thrust.
Alas, what does it mean to dress as an American, today? There exists so many subsets of Americans, this question, too is difficult to get into without saying, yes but which Americans?
At some point, we have to confront ourselves: we have to choose a side; we have to define who we are. We are left with no choice but to construct an identity, just as we are left with no choice but to pull something out of the closet in the morning. And importantly, we have to take it on, incorporate it in word and deed (or dress) right here in our real lives.