Welcome to the Fashion Apocalypse

It’s Fashion Week, and the style armageddon is upon is!

Grab your Goyard totes, girls! Gird up your loins with Gaultier girdles! The style armageddon is upon us! The final runway rapture is looming! Welcome to the Fashion Apocalypse!

The 21st century is shaping up to be, at least from a style point of view, the most terrifying, titillating, tumultuous, fabulously tacky, gloriously glam-obsessed, spray-tanned, deliciously deranged, and relentlessly entertaining period in the history of La Mode. Take an objective look around and you will plainly see that it’s totally Sodom and Gloccamorrah out there! From Uggs to Ed Hardy, from Lanvin to Louboutin, from Pauly D to porno-chic, from prepubescent Internet wunderkinds to geriatric groovers like me, the cacophony of conflicting trends, incomprehensible bloggings, and maniacal “must-have” musings is only getting louder.

The cast of Jersey Shore

This state of affairs is unprecedented in history: The French Incroyables of the 18th century; the glam-rockers, punks, and goths of the ‘70s; the New Romantics of the early ‘80s; the Shibuya Girls of the ‘90s—all of these wacky trendsters pale in comparison with the tattooed, Gaga’d, Winehouse’d, tarted-up trolls and trollops of today.

So what happened? How did we end up living in this all-bets-are-off world where sockless Brooklyn hipsters with Edwardian moustaches make artisanal pickles while, across the bridge, desperate office chicks believe they have no social currency unless they own 398 handbags and 268 pairs of shoes, the heels of which are so high that they would previously have been worn only by a woman who was lying on her back wearing nothing but the pumps in question and a ball-gag?

Here’s how: For most of the last century, fashion indulgences were strictly the prerogative of a small bunch of snooty broads with rich husbands. In the 1950s, regular people like toi and moi had to make do with nifty-but-unchallenging styles like “preppy” or “mod.” Respectable women dressed like the queen, intelligent women dressed like Iris Murdoch, and sassy or common women dressed like my mum/Lana Turner.

Then the counter culture loosened things up. By the time the ‘70s rolled around, the masses were becoming a tad louche, in a Soul Train kind of a way. But there was still no Sex and the City or Ugly Bettyor Project Runway,and thedevil was not only not wearingPrada, he was actually wearing a polyester Nik-Nik shirt and a Members Onlyjacket. Fashion was for marginalized freaks, as exemplified by the fact that, back in the day, you could not sell a movie script or TV show based in this elitist milieu.

But then, in the early ‘90s, the apocalypse belched and started its preliminary gurglings. Fashion hitched a ride on the public’s burgeoning obsession with celebrity, edging its wicked way onto the red carpet and, bit by bit, into the center of the cultural landscape. E’re long, everyone in America was delusionally identifying with the stars and, by association, with their freebie designer frocks. “Where’s my Dior? Where’s my Valentino?” they shrieked. Within the space of a couple of decades, fashion had gone from being an unwelcome effete intruder to the only motherluvin’ thing the population cared about.

Stores and fashion brands proliferated, offering wildly hip garments at every price point. (Prices are like toast in the Fashion World: They have points.) The Web ensured that you, the ordinary women in the street (no offense!), could buy any blouse at any price at any time of the day or night. Et voilà! Unlimited, unsupervised fashion masturbation, 24/7!

Lady Gaga

The aberrant beauty trends which have thus far accompanied the fashion apocalypse are even more alarming/intriguing/hilarious/apocalyptic than the blouses. While in the past a gal was happy to dollop a mitt-full of Ponds Cold Cream onto her face and call it a day, she now stops at nothing in her quest to look like a 17-year-old stripper. These days, beauty hounds are talking lipo, skin peels, anal bleaching, fake boobs, vaginal rejuvenation … and that’s just the men!

Whether it’s Botox or Balenciaga, the Fashion Apocalypse is utterly uncompromising. Nobody is immune. Not even Michelle Obama: In the past, our first lady’s fashion choices—even those of the breathy Jackie Kennedy—took second place to her character and accomplishments. Today Mrs. O, despite being a Harvard Law graduate and Christ knows what else, is subjected to the same fashion-police/red-carpet reviews as a cheesy third-string actress. WTF!

So there it is. The Fashion Apocalypse! I can’t stop it, but I can write about it, thereby, hopefully, helping you, the quivering masses, navigate the current minefield of extremes and excesses. Henceforth I will be unfurling some new aspect of this dire-but-compelling state of affairs on a biweekly basis on this very Web site. Hopefully you will enjoy a chuckle or two, and when you do, I sincerely hope that it will be at the expense of somebody other than yourself.

Vive la mode!

Like Slate on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.