BERNARDSVILLE, N.J. — I've been having a recurring dream. Night after night, it's the same thing, with only one change. Last week, I dreamed I was walking up Madison Avenue from 60th Street to 79th Street, wearing a beige Gucci raincoat with little brown Gucci logos all over it.
Three nights ago, I dreamed I took the same walk, wearing the same raincoat--only instead of Gucci, it had Louis Vuitton logos all over it.
Friday night, same dream, Fendi logos.
Last night, I had a nightmare. I was walking up Madison Avenue again--but not wearing anything. I woke up in a sweat. Without my logos, who was I? Without my logos, who would know I could afford Gucci?
Thank goodness it was only a dream. How terrifying to be walking up the street sans logos. The thought crossed my mind: Maybe I should consider Chanel tattoos.
Who remembers what fashion was like when you could tell one designer from another without seeing their logo? Who remembers what shopping was like before fashion gurus came up with a solution to garment parity--the logofying of America?
Who remembers what people were like before everyone became so insecure about their identity they had to hide behind a logo? Who remembers when people used to think, "You are what you eat"? Instead of, "You are who you wear."
I remember when you could tell that somebody was on the cutting edge because of what they said or did, not because they wore a cutting-edge logo.
To be on the cutting edge today, all you have to do is buy a Monica S. Lewinsky pocketbook. (Oops, sorry, that was four months ago.) Or wear a sundress designed by Jerry Seinfeld's ex-girfriend--the one who looks like his new wife. (Another mistake! That was cutting edge two months ago.) Or have a closetful of logos. (A safe bet: They've been around since the year 2000.)
For my 12th birthday, my Aunt Ethel gave me a sky-blue cardigan sweater with my name embroidered on it. She'd paid extra at Best & Co. to have it personalized. Every time I wore that sweater, I felt special. Nobody else in the world had a sweater with "Ilene" in dark blue script. I thought everyone who saw me wearing it would know that it cost extra, and that I was special.
Back then, only rich people had their names on their clothes. (Except if you went to summer camp. Then your mother would have to stay up late at night to sew name tags on your clothes.)
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were so rich they had their names embroidered in hidden places, where nobody could even see--on their underwear, shirttails and the linings of furs.
Nobody hides things anymore. Everyone's wearing clothing with names on it. Just not their own names.
No one's safe from logo-mania. Age has nothing to do with it. My granddaughter's lunch box, notebooks and nightgown all say "Barbie" in pink script. Too bad her name is Chloe.
I should have realized how dangerous logos could be when I first saw a Lacoste shirt, looking as if the crocodile were about to bite off the wearer's left nipple. And how contagious. Every time I go out of the house today, I see dozens of people wearing shirts that say DKNY. I'd only wear a shirt saying DKNY if Donna Karan paid me a lot of money to be her advertising billboard. Or if she walked around wearing a shirt with my initials: ILB. In large block letters.
Oh, how wrong William Shakespeare was when he wrote, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Everybody knows a rose--or gardenia--with a Chanel logo on it would smell a lot sweeter. And cost a lot more.
No wonder Gertrude Stein never made the best-dressed list. How naive she was with her, "A rose is a rose is a rose." Everybody knows a rose with a Celine logo is a lot rosier. And costs a bundle.
Why should someone spend those big bucks for Jean-Paul Gaultier, if nobody knows they're wearing Gaultier?
Designer logos even happened to coffee. Why risk getting your morning java in one of those blue Greek-looking diner cups? Someone might see you. There'd be gossip. Better pay three times as much for a cup of designer coffee at Starbucks. And let everybody know how flush you are.
Lifestyles through logos are everywhere. You can buy membership in whatever "club" you want to belong to just by wearing the right logo. You don't even have to pay an annual membership fee.
It makes sense: If Uma Thurman wears Alberta Ferretti and I wear Alberta Ferretti, am I not Uma Thurman? Who remembers when logic was logical, anyway? The other day, I heard an expert on time discourse on how two and two no longer equaled four.
How times have changed. Sammy Davis Jr. would never have a hit record with a song like, "I've Got to Be Me" today. My mother would never have paid five times as much money for something because it had somebody else's name on it. And, when I was in my 20s, it never would have occurred to me to wear my cotton yellow print cap-sleeve dress with peplum, with a Fruit of the Loom logo on the pocket. But you can't stop progress.
I, for one, am happy about designer logos. I sometimes leave the house without my American Express card. But I never leave without wearing at least one designer logo.
I spent years seeing a therapist because I had an identity problem. Had I only known then what I know now. If I had just worn something with a Prada logo, I could have saved so much money. *