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Best and Worst Style Moments of 2011

When someone grabs an All That Jazz dress and squeals, "This is my favorite line," I die a little inside.
December 30, 2011, 12:00am

2011 was a hell of a year for fashion, or was it just a hellish one? We saw a dude tattooed like a skeleton break into high fashion, we went to London Fashion Week on acid, and went to the Blonds presentation, which made us feel like we were on acid. We watched everyone shit their pants over Nikki Minaj and didn’t really care that much, we rolled our eyes at the 18 million big-brand designer collaborations, we tried not to talk about Gaga, and saw Nike go Back to the Future. One magazine, Dazed, turned 20 and we cheered, another, Vogue Japan got weird and we laughed. Here are a few of the best and worst things that happened fashion-wise in 2011.

Worst Style Icon: Daphne Guiness
2011 marked the year I completely lost my ability to even slightly appreciate this woman. She’s essentially the high fashion equivalent of Paris Hilton, an heiress who is famous for little more than who she knows and what she wears. The skunk hair, the McQueen, the Pugh, the big shoulders, the angular silhouettes…it had some appeal for a while. She has money, she has access to amazing clothing, and considers herself an artist, but she also says asinine shit like, “I’ll eat when I’m dead,” and reportedly lives off Red Bull and Ensure. For someone who bitches about the blandness of modern fashion, she is far from subversive. She’s got a Mac campaign and dressed in the windows of Barneys.  Yeah, go ahead and paint your lips with nail polish, it’s not as if the fumes can do any more harm to your delusional “artist” brain.

Best Dressed Pagan: Christiana Key
Unless you live in Brooklyn or are a fan of the Sacred Bones roster of artists you probably don't know who Christiana Key is, but I really don't care. She's the violin player for Cult of Youth and also Zola Jesus. She'll sport the garb of a pagan Victorian child by day and a Native American breast plate with leather hot pants by night. Hedonistic dressing is an art for Christiana and blush I did when we showed up wearing matching black full-bodied bustier catsuits to the Crass show (who the fuck wears that to a Crass show?) because it was the first and probably last time anyone has ever shown up in an outfit matching hers. She shows you don't have to have the resources that being an heiress provides to dress far better than one (although a day job at Beacons Closet doesn't hurt.)

Worst Vintage Revival: 90s Mall Fashion
OK, I get it. I’m getting old. I now know how my old boss at my old vintage store gig felt when her staff got all hyped on the 80s Reeboks and popular girl sweaters that traumatized her on the bods of childhood bullies. The whole phenomenon flipped on me recently. I own a vintage store so I can’t deny that I participate in perpetuating some pretty heinous vintage revival trends, but when someone grabs an All That Jazz dress and squeals, “This is my favorite line,” I die a little inside. I mean, there is nothing wrong with wearing some mesh-paneled spandex now and then but when a high-schooler came into my store and held up a plaid schoolgirl skirt and said, “I love this, it’s so Cher!” and I realized she was talking about Cher Horowitz from Clueless I wanted to crawl into a hole.Vintage revivals are cyclical, it happens every 20-30 years. The 90s did the 70s, which in turn did the 20s and the 40s, and sometimes the 50s. There is always a period piece or a cultural event that makes fashion and popular culture turn to the past, but instead of historical revisionism, rewriting the benign and mainstream edgy, what about a celebration of the avant-garde of yesteryear?

Best Vintage Revival: 90s High Fashion
Instead of the basic reiterations of 90s grunge or Contempo Casuals, a few dared to dig a little deeper. 90s fashion was more than flannels and crushed velvet Betsey Johnson Bat Mitzvah dresses. The Antwerp Six had their breakthrough in 1988 and gained steam through the early part of the 90s. Minimalism was legitimately interesting. Jil Sander was actually designed by Jil Sander, Helmut Lang was helmed by Helmut Lang and Versace meant Gianni, not Donatella. Clothes were displayed on the bodies of ripe Amazons, not malnourished teens. Sex and sweat and heavy brows had their place in editorial spreads. The 90s were a good time for so many reasons other than Reality Bites. That said, I can’t hate on the return of Beavis and Butthead.

Best Design Rebirth: Futurism Gets Good Again
Much like vintage revivals, there is a futurism revival about once every 10 to 20 years in fashion. We had it in the 60s with space-age obsessions, we had it in the late 90s with millennium anxiety and high-tech fabrics mixing, which gave way to what I think was a pretty bummer period for Prada. Once 2000 hit, the future looked pretty boring. Aside from some exciting moments in streetwear we’ve been in sort of a slump ever since. But slowly with a new undercurrent of world’s-end global market freaking out there’s another wave of futurism on the rise (or maybe some futurist designers are finally getting noticed by the establishment) and it’s not so literally sci-fi. From a transhumanist Mugler fragrance ad to the world beat tribalist fashion jihad that ThreeasFour pulled off this season, the future is in the eye of the beholder. But it’s nice to know that forward thinking doesn’t only consist of Gareth Pugh’s hard angles, metal insets, and shoulder pads. There’s room for femininity and grace within the folds, and that torch is currently being carried by Haider Ackermann.

Best Accessories Moment: Pamela Love’s CFDA Award
Fine, so she was a runner-up and I think she got robbed, but a $100,000 prize going to a tiny company that produces nearly its entire line in-house is pretty fucking awesome. Plus, we like to cheer on our locals; we followed her during the competition and were there for all the preparations for her Fall Presentation. However, Love is the only designer in what may be the history of New York Fashion Week who made Anna Wintour laugh, so that probably tells us something.

Worst Accessories Moment: Guy Fieri Takes on Jewelry
What else can be said that he hasn’t said already?

Best Denim: Court Jeans
$100 a pair for the best high-waist ass-complimenting black skinny jeans you will ever wear. Their jeans are the best thing I bought this year.

Worst Dudes: Actors
While every media outlet in the universe up to GQ magazine finally realized that Jared Leto dresses like an asshole, we already knew it. I mean he’s in a shit band and in mostly shit movies and you know what, he wasn’t that dreamy in My So-Called Life. I don’t get why girls are so into actors. Sure, they have nice faces, but they are generally mega short and I think they are held to way lower standards of coolness than normal people. So Ryan Gosling is “cool for an actor”--that’s like your dad being “pretty hip for an accountant” or thinking that Obama would really cool to hang with because he likes The Wire. Yeah, he’s cool…for a president. Let’s face it, most actors are douche bags. They are men who have stylists who can’t help themselves from throwing seasonally inappropriate scarves on over their t-shirts. I mean, Ryan Gosling is cool because his dog has a mohawk? Come on, I know you would make fun of any regular dude walking down the streets of Soho with that fucking dog, but since it’s Ryan Gosling it’s dreamy? EEW!

One of the worst offenders had avoided being called out for years due to his somewhat legitimately awesome early film record. But even I had to agree with the spot-on Jamie Lee Curtis Taete. Johnny Depp was one of my earliest childhood crushes (along with Kris Kristofferson, Orson Welles, and Steve Martin…yep, I was a pretty awesome). I picked Crybaby as the movie to watch at my eighth birthday slumber party and we all crowded the TV screen, sighing as that lone tear rolled down his cheek. But a glorious John Waters-blessed past can only save someone for so long. I won’t even bother to add my own style critique because it’s already been summed up so perfectly.

Best and Worst Shoes: Jeffrey Campbell
If I see one Brooklyn girl tottering around in Litas in 2012 I might cry. Never have I seen such an atrocious shoe become so over-exposed. After being produced in every color and fabric and print combo possible, I think they are finally ready to retire. Of course there already is another Campbell ready to replace it and become the new ubiquitous shoe of the year, the Tardy. However, these I don’t mind; frankly, I’m wondering what took Jeffrey Campbell and everyone else (Rachel Comey, you too) so long to knock off the Chloe Docs from a few years ago. I hate Jeffrey Campbells because they are everywhere. But! They are everywhere because they are affordable, often pretty cute, and as far as knock-offs go, less embarrassing and made better than Steve Maddens. I feel dirty when I wear them, but that doesn’t mean I’ll stop.