How come Martha Stewart’s daughter Alexis didn’t bring her mom a Birkin bag when she was released from Alderson prison last weekend? As the newly slender, newly caring domestic goddess emerged from jail and loped off toward a private plane, her golden hair freshly coiffed by Frederic Fekkai, there was nary a Hermes label in sight; instead, Stewart sported a homely crocheted poncho, custom-made for her, from yarn purchased at the prison commissary, by a nameless inmate still languishing in a cell.
Martha says that her incarceration offered her “the tremendous privilege” of meeting a cross-section of people in prison, and causing her to realize that “Every person deserves dignity.” (No kidding! Stop the presses!)
While doing time, she added, “I’ve read. I’ve reflected, and I’ve also learned a lot about our country. I sense in the American public there is a growing need to preserve human connections,” along with “the need to honor many, many kinds of families. It’s not just moms and dads anymore. I’ve seen that.”
Why is it that wealthy convicts only become aware of draconian sentences and the lot of impoverished women after they get themselves locked up? Don’t these people ever read a newspaper?
Oh, well. In a charming twist of fate, and an unwitting commentary on the vagaries of fashion, it seems that that the poncho has now become a coveted item; Martha says she will do her best to secure and publish a pattern for it.
If that’s the case, it’ll surely be knocked off by big name designers, and may soon grace the alarmingly bony shoulders of an Olsen twin. According to The New York Times, Mary-Kate and Ashley are the newest fashion icons, dressing in layers of thrift store castoffs occasionally garnished with an artfully frayed high-end designer creation. The Times calls the result ashcan chic, though less politically correct types have been known to use the term “homeless chic.” (The article fails to note that burying yourself in a ton of fabric frequently accompanies an eating disorder; the wearer feels her unsightly “fat” flesh must be covered up, no matter how thin she really is. Mary-Kate Olsen was hospitalized with anorexia last year.)
In other news, are we the only ones horrified by the Abu Ghraib-ish vibe emanating from a recent Dolce & Gabbana advertising campaign running in the glossies this month? The ads depict naked men and stern women in a dungeon-like setting. Sure, casual sadism has been fashionable for years, but when you’re at war and your treatment of prisoners has become an international scandal, maybe its time to take a break from the marketing of stylish handcuffs and ankle restraints? And while we’re complaining, we also don’t much care for the giant two-page ad for the Peninsula hotel chain in The New Yorker, which features a crowd of non-Caucasian children, the progeny of hotel employees, wearing miniature service workers uniforms (but alas, no union buttons); on the following page a grown-up employee is walking a bunch of the guests’ dogs while surrounded by a gaggle of slender daughters of the bourgeoisie, swinging what look suspiciously like Birkin bags. None of them is wearing a prison-crocheted poncho — at least not yet.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 8, 2005