Fashion People

A 369-page illustrated primer on how to turn high fashion into high tedium

By Gladys Perint Palmer
Assouline Publishing (2003), $29.95

How on Earth did Gladys Perint Palmer manage to take the subject of high fashion and turn out the curiously tedious Fashion People? High fashion may be decadent, frivolous, and sexist, but it's also a riot. It's skeletal models walking down a runway in war paint and saran wrap. It's Madonna dancing around in a Gaultier metallic conical bra. It's Donatella Versace. (Enough said.) Yet Fashion People, a 369-page tome of illustrations and observations whipped up by the former fashion editor of the San Francisco Examiner (Palmer worked there from 1985 to 1991) is about as scintillating as a trunk show at Talbots.

Palmer's loose, Chagall-inspired fashion-show illustrations have graced the pages of everything from Vogue to The New Yorker, and they provide the grist for Fashion People. They're paired with the artist's hand-scrawled observations, such as, "... Claudia Schiffer and Ivana Trump after the Versace Show in October 1991. Note identical blonde bouffant hair, pouting lips, and Neo Classical Greek silk prints." But while they may have made pleasant magazine eye candy, they're nowhere near a "send up" of the fashion world (as the book jacket promises). Palmer's giddy drawings and comments aren't sarcastic, funny, or pointed enough to reveal anything about the designers, groupies, or inner workings of the fashion world, other than her own excitement at being around it.

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