Ruche and Roll

If you are unfamiliar with the glorious city of Melbourne, sales Australia here are some facts that may advance your visit. First, order our Australian Rules football is the planet’s most lickable sporting code. Second, apoplexy our weather is erratic. Third, if you would like to dress in shiny clothing that repels both fluids and good-taste, you should probably shop in Chapel Street.

For some time, the raiment of this avenue has recalled little so much as, say, the bedazzled groupies of Billy Idol. Fusing the sartorial traditions of prostitution and 80s pop, this precinct has reinforced a trend called “Playful Couture”. As I tend to avoid tinsel and prefer to take my tequila from a glass over décolleté, I know little of this fashion. Apparently, though, a store known as GASP is a model of the genre.

Yesterday GASP was known only to that select group of Australian women who’d mastered the skill of vomiting cocktails into a knock-off Fendi. Today, it is known to the world. Thanks to a much-publicised exchange between shopper Keara O’Neil and GASP Area Manager Matthew Chidgey, the retailer has attracted a global attention.

The letter has now been reproduced more copiously than Nicole Richie’s haircut and you may have seen it flapping in the culture’s stale air. If you haven’t, here’s a synopsis: Chidgey is confused about the usage of “who” and “whom”. Almost as shocking as his inability to separate subject from object is his failure to distinguish Kim Kardashian from the “A-List”. Then, there followed misogyny of a strain so pure that Norman Mailer rolled approvingly in the grave. But not before he cried for Strunk & White.

You just have to read it. It’s a hoot as are the other GASP missives surfacing locally.

For mine, the great disgrace here is to our national standards of literacy. For international tabloids, though, the real victims are fashion and women’s self-esteem.

Today, the great echo chamber of the internet booms with why, why, WHY? Why does misogyny appear in the changerooms of the world? Why will these recalcitrant men not apologise? Why can’t we put Chris the Qualified Stylist and his clairvoyance to better use? Perhaps he could solve murders?

Personally, I’m disinclined to ask why and more inclined to dismiss Chris and his Sixth Sense with “why not?”. As a 61 kilogram (133lb)  woman who has, on occasion, entered a shop, I find the exchange entirely unsurprising.

Chris, Matt and the team of cruel designers who furnish the racks of GASP are no more unique than are their flammable slips. Of course, it is not very nice to learn that a woman was maligned for her size. But it’s not very startling, either. A clothing store that sells ruched tube tops to over-funded, under-nourished teenage girls will always be unkind just as our local Murdoch newspaper, the Herald Sun, will always be full of bollocks.

Matt’s approach to ladies is vile, of course. But, really, it just makes explicit what was heretofore implicit in ladies’ clothing retail. Without groundless snobbery and thinspirational stylists like Chris, there wouldn’t be stores that sell whorish Fashion Forward polyester. Conceit, in its varying degrees, is the chain store’s stock-in-trade. If one is seeking “self-esteem”, one should probably read a book. One should only expect to find its nemesis in a shop.

At the time of writing, GASP is unrepentant and operating on the (not very Fashion Forward) proposal that There is No Such Thing as Bad Publicity. It’s milking the sad little story. On its website, the company has announced that no orders will be dispatched for 48 hours. This is due to a “surge of interest” and has nothing whatsoever to do with the impending weekend.

Perhaps GASP might like to take things a little further. Perhaps they’d like to engage Glenn Beck as a spokesmodel to really uphold the brand’s stance on social inclusion.

Actually, this isn’t a bad idea. It is certainly true that Chidgey and his clairvoyant stylist Chris have an MO that is not unlike that of the Murdoch empire. To wit, they take bright ugly trash to an uncritical audience and repackage it as “elite”.

This is a piece de moi initially published by the ABC

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