Guy Trebay in the New York Times:
“There is this suggestion that fashion is not an art form or a cultural form, but a form of vanity and consumerism,” said Elaine Showalter, the feminist literary critic and a professor emeritus at Princeton. And those, Ms. Showalter added, are dimensions of culture that “intelligent and serious” people are expected to scorn.
Particularly in academia, where bodies are just carts for hauling around brains, the thrill and social play and complex masquerade of fashion is “very much denigrated,” Ms. Showalter said. “The academic uniform has some variations,” she said, “but basically is intended to make you look like you’re not paying attention to fashion, and not vain, and not interested in it, God forbid.”
When Valerie Steele, the director of the museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, declared an interest at Yale graduate school in pursuing the history of fashion, colleagues were horror-struck. “I was amazed at how much hostility was directed at me,” Ms. Steele said. “The intellectuals thought it was unspeakable, despicable, everything but vain and sinful,” she added. She might as well have joined a satanic cult.
And that, substantially, is how a person still is looked at who happens to mention in serious company an interest in reading, say, Vogue.
“I hate it,” Miuccia Prada once remarked to me about fashion, in a conversation during which we mutually confessed to unease at being compelled by a subject so patently superficial.