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Dress Like a Human Being

2015 March 27



You may have seen the Fran Lebowitz interview that was in Elle earlier this week because, even if you have no idea who Fran Lebowitz is, the interview is undeniably hilarious. It is also, for those of us who live in the real world, ridiculous.

In the interview, Lebowitz, an outspoken writer and “style icon,” blasts off on her distaste for everything from yoga pants to bike helmets. And don’t even get her started on men wearing shorts. I get it–she’s got a certain persona, that feisty New Yorker who believes we’d all be better off if we’d only wear tailored clothing and brush our hair. She’s brash and honest and funny. But, at a certain point, her comments stopped being funny and just rang as…well, as sort of offensive to people like me, who do care, deeply, about my appearance and the way I dress, but who cannot afford bespoke tailoring and the most expensive dry cleaner and customized glasses frames. And it’s not just me–I think I speak for the majority of the population here.

Here are some choice quotes from the interview:

“What people don’t know is: Clothes don’t really fit you unless they’re made for you. Especially when you wear men’s clothes, like I do. American women think that clothes fit them if they can fit into them. But that’s not at all what fit means.” 

Fran is known for her “style”–she wears, without variation, custom-made jackets, men’s white shirts, Levi’s 501 jeans, and custom-made cowboy boots. Here, she expands on her wardrobe a little bit:

I feel very strongly that almost the entire city has copied my glasses. I went to a fashion show during fashion week, and everyone there had on my eyeglasses. Warby Parker has also copied my eyeglasses.The ones I’m wearing right now, I had them made. Now, for someone who didn’t grow up in the depression, but who basically behaves as if I did (because I was raised by people who did) it’s crazy to me that I didn’t ask up front how much it would cost. They cost so much that I never did it again. I was traumatized by it.

Would you say how much they cost?

I wouldn’t. I’m mortified.

But like, maybe in comparison to something? Like, “My eyeglass frames were about as much as…”

A car.

So I had my cowboy boots made. It’s very hard to find this man who makes them. (And I’m not going to give out his name because I don’t want you to know what they cost.) 

So, there seems to be a pattern here. And, look, if you have the means to have your entire wardrobe made for you, go for it. I’m happy for you. But don’t then say you behave as though you were brought up in the depression. No. That’s completely bonkers. You don’t get to cry poverty when you’re talking about how ashamed you are to pay as much as a CAR for your GLASSES. Also, I’m not copying your glasses, Fran. Get over yourself.

I wish that real estate were cheaper and clothes were more expensive. But that’s what young people want: $2 T shirts that fall apart in the wash.

 No, that’s not what “young people want.” We WANT quality clothing, but most of us can’t afford to pay $100 for a t-shirt, so yeah, I’ll take the $2 shirt in the meantime, thanks.When we were young, we knew things. We knew basic history, even as it related to fashion. Now, when something reappears, an 18 year old has no clue that it’s a revival. Despite the fact that they’re almost always online they don’t get references.

Right, I’m sure everyone in the 1960s knew everything there was to know about fashion always. Kids these days, amiright? It’s just such a lazy argument and viewpoint. She then goes on to say that young designers are completely derivative and boring, and also it’s because people have better relationships with their parents now. What?

More people should be dressing like we dress in New York anyway. Not everyone in New York looks great, but you have a higher chance.

Do you? Is there magic fairy dust they sprinkle around New York City that automatically bestows style on the citizens? It’s true that New Yorkers tend to be more trendy and dress more formally than other places, but to be fair, I live in Boston…not exactly a bastion of style. But I don’t buy the argument that New Yorkers look good because they’re in New York. That’s just…no.

Now people need special costumes to ride bicycles. I mean, a helmet, what, are you an astronaut??

Has Fran Lebowitz looked at bike accident statistics in New York? Nearly everyone I knew who rode a bike regularly in that city was involved in an accident where they were seriously hurt. So, yeah, helmets are necessary, even if they make you look slightly silly.

Of course, more people should wear overcoats than those damned down jackets. Please. Are you skiing, or are you walking across the street? If you’re not an arctic explorer, dress like a human being.

Oh THIS. This just takes the cake. You know Fran Lebowitz isn’t walking around the city because she can’t afford a taxi and she’s certainly not waiting for the bus or the subway in frigid temperatures. This winter was BRUTAL–freezing and snowy and awful all the way through. I’m not going to freeze just so I can look more chic and take the advice of some rich lady who is probably shuttled around wherever she needs to go.


Because look, we have an appearance. Not all of us are beautiful. But we can appear fine looking. So we should. Feeling good about an outfit is the point at which that outfit finally becomes good.

But here’s one point that Fran and I agree on: style and what we wear can help us feel better about ourselves. I really and truly do believe that. But I don’t believe that we have to suffer freezing temperatures, brain injuries, or bankruptcy in order to look good.

In closing, please enjoy this amazing video as a tribute to Fran:

*image via Christopher Macsurak

4 Responses Post a comment
  1. Meghan permalink
    March 27, 2015

    awesome takedown!! she is from another planet. the median household income in nyc is $52,000. so to define what “new york” style is by using tailored clothes and frames that cost as much as a car as the exemplars is absurdly out of touch. i doubt she cares, but for the rest of us peons style on a budget is something for which we all strive. and comfort is important, too! when i feel like it i wear yoga pants. i don’t want them to become my de facto uniform or anything but sometimes you just wanna be comfy. dressing like a human being? well somebody mass produces yoga pants and puffy jackets so i am pretty sure lots of human beings wear those. ugh… ridiculous. i mean, like you, i agree with the underlying point. sometimes spending money on clothes that actually fit you makes a huge difference in your appearance and self-confidence. for me, spending extra money on petites (because many cheap stores don’t really carry petite sizes) really makes a difference. and i have no choice but to shell out money to get pants taken up, for example (unless i were to learn to sew). but a middle-class person does this for a small amount of pieces, not an entire wardrobe (to say nothing of those in poverty). anyway, i enjoyed reading this and share in your disbelief that this woman is such a caricature.

  2. Raquel permalink
    March 27, 2015

    A: That video is amazing.

    B: Wearing the same outfit every day, day in and day out, is not fashion, Fran. It’s boring. Ergo, you are boring.

    C: Few things are more glorious to a straight woman’s eyes in the summer than a man with a fine set of gams in shorts. [fans self]

  3. March 31, 2015

    Your comments about this interview are hilarious. Thank you for making me laugh today!

  4. Vivian permalink
    April 23, 2015

    This line is amazing and I am going to steal and use it whenever possible:

    Is there magic fairy dust they sprinkle around New York City that automatically bestows style on the citizens?


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