Thursday, August 19, 2010

The New Adventures of Old Elaine

by William Van Meter

New York Times
August 18, 2010

On a recent August night, young women in stilettos teetered precariously through the cobblestone streets of the meatpacking district in Manhattan. Appropriately for the neighborhood, they were squeezed into minidresses that were as snug as sausage casings. But a few blocks south, far away from the blare of Hummer limousine horns, at the fashionable opening of the Algus Greenspon Gallery on Morton Street, a more demure look prevailed.

Like a modest Robert Palmer-girl army, the women mingled in floor-length print dresses and brown lace-up boots with their hair in messy secretary buns. The genesis of the look could have been those unforgettable images of fundamentalist Mormon women that dominated the news a couple of years back. But if you squinted, what you saw was a sea of Elaines. Listen and you could almost hear the funky slap bass that played as segue music on Seinfeld. Could it be that the stars have somehow aligned to make Elaine Benes the summer’s downtown fashion muse?

Over the years, Elaine has stood out as a beacon of a faded era, in long floral skirts, blazers with padded shoulders and granny shoes with socks. Just about every inch of her skin was covered as if she were photosensitive. Unlike other 1990s series with a more easily imitable style (see Melrose Place), Seinfeld was decidedly anti-fashion. But now, if you happen upon an old episode, Elaine just looks cool — and of-the-moment.


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