• U.S.

Spending Money To Look Cheap

3 minute read
Joel Stein

I can’t tell the difference between rich women and white trash. I see women in Manhattan wearing leopard-print miniskirts, bustiers and stiletto heels, with platinum-blond hair, and the only way I can infer class distinctions is by the size of the dog they’re walking. And with the ultrashort miniskirt coming into fashion, it was more pressing than ever that I find out how to differentiate haute couture from the Jersey mall.

I called hotel heiress Nicky Hilton, 17, who, along with her older sister Paris, is known for going to swank parties dressed like a Dynasty character about to get dressed. “I don’t think guys can tell the difference,” she admitted. Nicky uses the tried-and-true method for determining whether an outfit is too outrageous: “If I’m wearing something too whatever, my mother will say something.”

Still looking for answers, and perhaps some pictures of Nicky Hilton, I read INSTYLE’s special issue The Look. On page 104, I saw Jordana Brewster in a pair of jeans with holes cut out from the ankles to the waist. The pants, which cost $4,975, were made by Roberto Cavalli. So I headed to Cavalli’s, a very posh store on Madison Avenue that sells to Cindy Crawford and Bruce Springsteen’s wife and has a window display with a pair of leopard-print pants and a matching leopard-print shirt. I went to ask saleswoman Tiffany Denee what kind of women shop there, but she was busy helping another customer, former All My Children star Eva LaRue. Tiffany was answering my questions without even talking.

When I pointed out my confusion over Cavalli’s $1,300 see-through pink miniskirt, Tiffany had me examine its beading and detailing. I told her that most guys wouldn’t pick up on the beading and detailing when they’re staring at something else. “Women dress for women,” Tiffany explained. Actually, women dress sexy for men, but they usually have to do this in a place where there are other women around, so they spend $1,700 on a Cavalli white leather skirt so the other women don’t think they’re cheap. That’s why the logos are on the outside.

Expensive clothes, Tiffany explained, give women confidence about dressing provocatively. “When you know you have a $1,000 pair of jeans on, you walk a little differently,” she said. Probably away from red wine. I asked Tiffany what kind of clients Cavalli caters to, and she told me there were three types: “International women, women with rich husbands or boyfriends, and prostitutes.” Prostitutes who know more CEOs than Ron Insana.

I don’t know why it’s acceptable for rich women to go to formal events dressed like the female Lamborghini team from The Cannonball Run. But perhaps it’s because women at both ends of the economic spectrum have a lot of leisure time and therefore are more focused on sexuality. Or it may be that the rich and the poor are simply freer from society’s rules than those in the middle. Or maybe what links nonworking poor women with rich trophy wives is that they are commodified the most. I don’t really care. I’m just going to start shelling out for benefit parties, because I don’t think I’d last a day at the Sturgis motorcycle rally.

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