Thursday, September 01, 2011

Iowa fashionistas savage Cintra Wilson

Cintra Wilson

Now I’m not saying Iowans lack fashion sense, so don't get on my case. It's just that most of us don’t care most of the time. Our ventures into haute couture tend to involve custom-made t-shirts. We’re clean and comb our hair --- most of the time --- but put on whatever’s comfortable before heading out to face the day.

But woe be unto any highfalutin Neeeew Yorker who pokes a little gentle fun at us because of that. Poor Cintra Wilson, savaged this week by fashionistas among us.

KCCI-TV picked up on the story first --- Wilson, New York-based writer and social and political critic, attended the recent Iowa State Fair then went off and wrote an essay entitled “Fear and Clothing at the Iowa State Fair” published Aug. 17 on the Elle magazine Web site.

Wilson is researching and writing what will be her fourth book, “Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling America’s Fashion Destiny,” slated for publication during 2012.

You just knew this was not going to end well. Elle pulled the article from its Web site after an overwhelming number of complaints (apparently about 30) from outraged Iowans.

Someone even went to the trouble of going to Whackypedia (oops, Wikipedia) and editing her brief bio. She is now characterized there as “often misguided and holier-than-thou.” The freshly minted sentence noting the Fear and Clothing article ends, “her ‘research’ seems to be poorly executed.”

Now that's pissed off.

Obviously, one must never aggravate an Iowan whose t-shirt and socks are color-coordinated.

Actually, the now-absent article is a lovely little piece, poking a little fun sure, but overwhelmingly affectionate and complimentary. After this, however, I’m not sure Cintra is still our friend. And that’s too bad. Iowa needs all the friends it can get.

I found the article on an earlier ("cached" --- thanks Google) version of the Elle page where it once had appeared. That’s an intimidating thing about the World Wide Web --- nothing really ever goes away.

The paragraph that seemed to get folks really riled up commenced, “There’s a pervasive kindness and wholesomeness to Iowans that makes it difficult to take a picture of a couple or a family and have it not look like a corporate stock photo. Literally every senior couple I spoke to had been married more than 40 years.” So far, so good.

Cintra went on, however, “On the unphotogenic side, there are way too many people driving Rascals and surly women around 30 who had been savaged by love and taken to expressing their rage through softball and tattoos. But even these chicks seemed to get nice after singing a few pro-redneck karaoke anthems.”

I thought to myself, holy crap --- she’s got that right. I mean, really folks, look around Hy-Vee any afternoon about 5 o'clock.

Other than a passing reference to Sarah Palin’s hair (she turned up at the fair, too), “her usual high-maintenance, vertical brunette ziggurat hairstyle," that was as bad as it got.

On the other hand, look at some of the other things she had to say about our state:

“Clothingwise, Iowans seem to be a largely modest, fancy-averse people, not unlike Canadians. Clothing is often representative of a subservience to land and beasts of the field and punctuated by cowboy accouterments.” She nailed that one.

Also: “In trying to boil down Iowa fashion to micro-encapsulations, it struck me that many of the older people seemed to favor bright, crispy-clean, polyester-blend garments, with sharp permanent creases. This struck me as being reflective of the astringently clean-cut crop fields. Iowans seem to like their natural fibers seasoned with a bit more pesticide than we do on the coasts — but then, they’re the ones actually growing these things.”

And finally, this account of a drive through our countryside:

"I was driving back to my hotel in Perry from a hot-rod show in Jefferson, the moon was rising, and the land was stretched out flat and green in every direction. The sky looked dizzyingly limitless; the cicadas were buzzing in synchronous throbs, and the sun was slanting in backlit oranges and blues over the screaming green corn fields.

"The landscape suddenly rolled up the steel garage door on my soul and threw a beauty bomb into me that destroyed me. It was like an inward-moving tsunami that smashed noiselessly through my skin and owned me in such a way that I could feel the color inside my chest. Iowa was cheerfully absorbing my neurotic urban toxins and giving me a spontaneous color transfusion—so generously it made me cry."

Golly, I hope Cintra won't go away mad. Come back any time. Continue to be our friend. Just remember to wear jeans with your cowboy boots --- we think boots combined with skirts is altogether too Texan.


JJ Daddy-O said...

Wilson is a great writer and acerbic enough that, if she wanted to really trash Iowa, there wouldn't be much left but a smoking hole in the ground.

Frank D. Myers said...

I'd kind of figured that out. I'm hoping she'll stay on our side. Iowa has enough problems with Republicans and Christians --- we really don't need to be reduced to a smoking hole in the ground.

Mary said...

It's funny that people tuned in to her jabs so intensely when she closed with such a beautiful landscape description. I never heard of Cintra Wilson before I saw this post, but I'll keep an eye out for her work now.