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Blackwell mourned by fashion world
Posted Oct. 24, 2008

The world is struggling these days. Our economy is disastrous, and the country has been kidnapped by the presidential elections.

One of the great escapes from the real world has always been fashion. Time spent looking at escapist entertainment like Vogue magazine or hours spent shopping at the mall have been known to ease the worries of some.

However, the fashion community is in mourning this week after the death of one of its greatest champions. The famous Mr. Blackwell died Oct. 19 at the age of 86 after suffering complications from a long illness.

Mr. Blackwell was most famous for his yearly Top 10 Worst Dressed lists. He skewered countless celebrities with his acerbic comments.

Everyone from Christina Aguilera to Renee Zellweger got called out by Blackwell himself.

Stars knew they had hit the big time if they received notice about their fashion choices from the critic.

He began his life in a poverty-stricken and abusive home in Brooklyn (one of the two books he wrote is called “From Rags to Bitches”).

For someone who had such an effect on the fashion world, it is surprising to learn that he only graduated from the third grade.

He became an actor with limited success and turned his focus to designing clothes. He was actually the first designer for a line of plus-size clothing for women. Blackwell wrote his first Worst Dressed list in 1960 and developed a prosperous franchise of fashion criticism from there.

But while Blackwell could be ruthless—he once said Mary-Kate Olsen resembled a “tattered toothpick trapped in a hurricane”—his picks were always spot on. Blackwell predicted the doomed fortune of Britney Spears long before her tumble, naming her to his Worst Dressed list several years ago.

Stars who also made the most recent list included Victoria Beckham, Amy Winehouse (“part ‘50s car-hop horror”), Fergie, Jessica Simpson and Lindsey Lohan.

Blackwell was also vocal about the Best Dressed in Hollywood. His recent favorites were stars like Reese Witherspoon, Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett—women who are all always impeccably dressed.

An outstanding quote from Blackwell demonstrated his barbed wit. He once stated, “Let it be said, however, that my criticisms are based purely on their fashion flaws—I’m sure they’re all wonderful people beneath the deluge of dreck they drape themselves in.”

Blackwell was called “fashion’s meanest maverick”by the New York Times, but it was his passion for the art of dressing that incited celebrities to look their best.

Stars, stylists and designers all worked extremely hard to avoid Blackwell’s discerning eye. It is for this fact that Blackwell should be celebrated—for inspiring the fashion world and its many followers. His enthusiasm for picking out the worst dressed stars can be seen in issues of weekly tabloid magazines who regularly pick the fashion train wrecks.

After every major Hollywood event, the media deem the fashion winners and losers. It is because of the trend started by Blackwell that this phenomenon has flourished.

Even in times of strife, fashion is a way of looking at the beauty in the world. Blackwell also helped us to see the imperfections among the beautiful. He realized that celebrities deserved to be called out on their hideous outfits and celebrated for their hits.

Erin Konrad, a senior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at erin.konrad@laverne.edu.