Fashion FeaturesFeb 22, 2012
ALIVE catches up with fashion powerhouse Valerie Steele, just in time for her St. Louis appearance.
Story: Jill Manoff
Photos: Valerie Steele photo by Aaron Cobbett
An afternoon chat with Valerie Steele, the director and chief curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, proved downright inspiring. One of "Fashion's 50 Most Powerful," according to the New York Daily News, her expertise on every trend and designer discussed called to mind the "The Devil Wears Prada" scene in which Meryl Streep explains the rise of cerulean blue.
The curator of more than 20 enticing fashion exhibitions, and author of an impressive number of as-alluring books (including "Fetish: Fashion, Sex and Power"), Steele will be in town April 13-14 to serve as the honored guest at Craft Alliance's ARTrageous Baubles Ball, and give a lecture at Washington University.
ALIVE: Fashion is your career; what do you say to people who pooh-pooh it?
VALERIE STEELE: I've always found it fascinating that there's so much hostility towards fashion. It's so often dismissed as being frivolous, or downright negative; it's "consumerist," "bourgeois," "conformist," "vanity," whatever—which means it's hitting a nerve. The fact that fashion is so controversial and often seen as negative just makes me feel more interested.
A: Why your interest in the corset?
VS: I did an exhibition and a book about corsetry, in which I explored some of the myths surrounding it. Women wore corsets for 400 years—often in defiance of male authorities. The corset functioned to make you look more attractive, younger and slimmer, more upper-class. In a way, the corset never really disappeared—it's just that fashion became more revealing in the 20th century. Corsetry has been replaced by diet and exercise, even liposuction.
A: Are high heels closely related?
VS: High heels, like corsets, are prime symbols of erotic femininity. It's all about the stories we tell ourselves about shoes—that only women wear high heels, high heels are sexier, etc. And, they do change the way your body looks. High heels tilt your pelvis back and your bosom and bottom out, so you're automatically taller, thinner and curvier-looking.
A: What was it about Daphne Guinness that inspired your latest book and exhibition?
VS: I think Daphne is the most exciting and inspiring fashion icon—the only real fashion icon in the world today. Fashion for her is an art form, and she's fearlessly independent about what she wears. I think she flies the flag for individuality. In a time when people are dressing more and more alike, that's really inspiring.
A: What's your next big project?
VS: I'm working on a big exhibition for 2013 called "Queer Style," about the relationship between gay people and fashion over the last 100 years.
03/01 |More to Kimora
Fabulous might be her middle name, but the STL-bred fashion celeb prov... read more
02/01 |The Buzz List
St. Louis' most influential people, organizations and ideas of 2013.... read more
02/01 |Good Times
The Legendary John goodman on movies, memories and actors who aren't a... read more
12/01 |Head Case
The insane Hollywood life of STL-bred actor Evan Peters... read more
11/01 |Straight Shooter
Blues team captain David Backes stands firm on and off the ice.... read more
10/01 |Good Girl
Country mega-star Carrie Underwood is as sweet as she is sassy, giving... read more
09/01 |Model Citizen
Smart, bighearted and grounded as all get-out, St. Louis-bred supermod... read more
06/01 |King of Talk
STL’s Andy Cohen gets chatty about his new book, his skyrocketing late... read more
07/01 |Fashion's Royal Queen
The art of chess and fashion unite in an unprecedented exhibition at t... read more
July 2013... read more
... read more
07/01 |Yoga on High
Lilly Steele Fitness takes traditional yoga to new heights.... read more