Who Would Pay $12,000 for a Jacket?

What to do when fashion gets too expensive.

Gucci safari jacket

Don’t just sit there. Snag an oligarch! Buy a bunch of lottery tickets! Sell your granny to a sex-trafficker! Do something! If you wish to buy any of the delectable new spring merch currently featured in the March fashion mags, you will need to scare up some serious dough. Here’s a terrifying example of what I’m talking about: There’s a certain tan Gucci washed-python safari jacket. Due to my severe inability to grow old graciously, I have been coveting it since it was first shown on the runway last year. All through January, I frantically checked the Gucci Web site in order to ascertain the delivery date and, most importantly, the price. All was revealed a couple of weeks back: $12,000! For that kind of money I’ll wash my own pythons, thank you very much.

How can you, the ordinary woman in the street, hope to compete in this scary new land of $2,000 Carolina Herrera embroidered skirts, $6,000 Proenza Schouler day dresses and “price-available-on-request” Balenciaga car coats? Don’t fret. I have a solution for you. While Uniqlo and H & M offer compelling alternatives to all these stratospherically high-priced duds, there is, you will be delighted to hear, an even more cost-effective, glamour-enhancing solution. How cost effective? I’m talking about a big fat zero. I’m talking about getting yourself a flattering adjacency.

Jennifer Hudson and handler

This devious idea came to me while I was watching the recent Academy Awards. I could not help noticing that every slender A-lister was accompanied on the red carpet by a headset-wearing, black-clad handler or two. These sturdy, hard-working lasses provide a fabulous foil to the attenuated and hungry-looking movie goddesses.

“Everyone loves a flattering adjacency,” observed my husband, stroking our dog and sounding a bit like Dr. No. “That’s why I keep you around. To make me look tall.”

Finding a flattering adjacency requires introspection. Before seeking out the adjacency that might diminish your own particular shortcoming, you must take a long hard look in the mirror. It was only after acknowledging that he too was altitudinally disadvantaged that my Jonny decided to find someone even shorter—namely, moi.

Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni

I admit that I may be somewhat oversimplifying the process. Acquiring a flattering adjacency is invariably fraught with contradictions and complications: Sarkozy, for example, looks good with ex-model Carla on his arm. Her willowy hauteur is a perfect complement to his gypsy-ish, peasant-y butchness. There is, however, a downside: Since she is about a kilometer taller than he is, he sometimes looks as if he is about to start shrieking “Ze plane! Ze Plane!”

Or take Kate and Wills. They may be perfectly matched in height, but her uber-tressiness provides a less-than-flattering adjacency to the future king’s tonsorial challenges.

Another example: My Jonny might have a couple of inches on me. I, however, am several pounds lighter. Touché!

The flattering adjacency concept knows no boundaries and goes way beyond simple matters of height and poundage: Qaddafi, for example, has unwittingly provided a flattering adjacency to none other than Charlie Sheen. No matter what Charlie gets up to in the coming weeks, Colonel Q. will always seem more insane. The reverse applies to Mitt Romney. During the run-up to the last election, he seemed like a terrifying caricature of an arch-conservative Mormon, and then—bam!—Sarah Palin entered the fray, and old Mitt has seemed positively avuncular ever since.

Prince William and Kate Middleton

Let’s get back to that snakeskin jacket. I regret to report that, despite my adoption of various flattering adjacencies, my materialist longings persist. I am obsessed with that jacket. My only recourse, I fear, is to revive that old Fran Lebowitz trick. Back in the ‘80s, the brilliant Fran would use her public appearances to raise funds in the following manner (I’m paraphrasing from memory): “There are 500 people here tonight. If you each give me $1,000, I could buy my condo.” I am reliably informed that about 10 million people per month view our illustrious Web site. If each Slate reader gave me a penny, I would have $100,000. Et voila! $12,000 for the jacket and the remaining $88,000 to splurge on a designer T-shirt or two.

Happy shopping!