"For Whom Do Women Dress?"

Anne Hathaway says, “Most women dress for their most fashionable friend.” Do we?

WWD posed this question to front row types during fashion week and got the expected range of answers. French Vogue's Carine Roitfeld says she dresses for herself; designer Isabel Toledo takes another view. “Women dress for men. I do dress for myself because it makes me feel empowered, but I’m definitely looking for [my husband's] expression, not his approval.”

It's kind of a tricky one: it's basically asking you to define yourself. Obviously Roitfeld's answer is the "right" one (if life were a Cosmo quiz) but the truth is it's the rare woman who decks herself out to sit alone in her apartment, and when she does it can often skew more Dare Wright than confident fashionista. I'd also say most women don't dress for men — who for the most part don't care or, if pressed, at the end of the day like figure-friendly stuff and are baffled by much that is awesome. Isabel Toledo and her husband are a famously tight artistic unit who inform each other's work, but most of us wouldn't make a decision based on a significant other's opinion — while it's undeniable that someone's disapproval has the power to deflate excitement, it's rarely going to change an independent mind. (And to the perverse amongst us, it's like a red flag to a bull.)

As to friends? Also a dicey proposition: if by "fashionable friend" Anne means the person most likely to appreciate efforts that's one thing; if it's craving the approval of a stronger personality, that's quite another. (And yes, this is probably putting way too much thought into an off-the-cuff response to a reporter's question.)

Different women dress for different people. In a sense, though, Roitfeld's answer is probably closest to the truth: when we think about self-presentation of any kind, it's with the ideal of our perfect selves in our mind's eye — but this itself is a mutable concept, varying depending upon the movie you've seen or novel you've read or, yes, the company you keep. Even Toledo's statement seems to suggest that she wants — rather than "approval" — to see reflected in her husband the person she is trying to project. Clothes, after all, are just pieces of cloth, and it takes the burden of an awful lot of human context to make them more. The chic aunt, the TV style expert, the nagging mom, the critical boyfriend, the mysterious girl who left your school after 10th grade — all these people are standing behind the mirror. That's why the career of a stylist must be a tricky one; a good one has to ferret out this information and project it; otherwise it's deciding who someone wants to be to the world. Your "friend" may dress for a dashing spinster Spanish Civil War correspondent with a French mother, but that's just "her." If you're honest, probably no two answers will be the same.

Year in Fashion: For Whom Do Women Dress? [WWD]