Mettre à jour

If you like fashion, you may enjoy WWD; 100 Years, 100 Designers WWD; 100 Years, 100 Designers. WWD stands for Women’s Wear Daily, the newspaper for the fashion industry. In their first edition, June 1910, they explained their mission as follows, “There is probably no other line of human endeavor in which there is so much change as in the product that womankind wears. This brings about an enormous amount of traveling, and the result is that important men in all departments of women’s wear are scattered everywhere over the earth’s surface and lose track of events and happenings, which it will be out purpose to try and chronicle as briefly as possible, so that these men can pick up and at a minimum of time and expense keep posted.” The gender role references are thankfully reflections of a by-gone time! The price of an annual subscription used to be 50¢ and it’s now $99 a year, so the quaint ideas about women who wear fashion instead of making it aren’t all that has changed.

The lavishly illustrated coffee-table sized book is divided into sections: a decade by decade survey of the main influences on fashion; layouts featuring the editors’ selections of the top 100 designers presented in alphabetical order; and a chapter of interviews with or press releases by various designers. There’s some great historical material here, like a quotation from WWD’s January 27, 1926 edition: “I am now asking myself how many moons will wax and wane before the women wear trousers on the streets of New York.” Naturally, many of the top designers featured are French: Pierre Balmain, Callot Sœurs, Pierre Cardin, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel,  André Courrèges, Christian Dior, Jacques Fath, Jean Paul Gaultier, Nicolas Ghesquière, Hubert de Givenchy, Alix Grès, Christian Lacroix, Jeanne Lanvin, Thierry Mugler, Jean Patou, Paul Poiret, Sonia Rykiel, Yves Saint Laurent, and Madeleine Vionnet. One of the longer interviews is a conversation with Coco Chanel from the July 2, 1963 edition of WWD: “Anyone past the age of 20 who looks into the mirror to be pleased is a fool. You see the flaws, not the beauty. Beauty is charm, which has nothing to do with looks, and it’s physical proportion, nothing too much, everything in balance.” That’s still great advice, almost fifty years later.

In honor of WWD, I looked for an expression that had to do with the word “wear.” In French, there are two candidates, porter and mettre. Mettre is used more in the idea of “to put on” and it also shows up in a host of idiomatic expressions. The expression mettre à jour (mettruh ah jshoor) seemed made-to-measure because the word jour means “day” as in the D of the newspaper’s title. Literally, the expression means “to put to day,” but idiomatically it means “to update.” That’s what WWD has been doing in the fashion industry now for 101 years.

About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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