Military Chic Overpowers the Fashion Industry


Watch out, the invasion has already begun. Not the war to unseat Saddam Hussein, but the invasion of the fashion runway with military-inspired garb is well underway.

Like the short-waisted Eisenhower jacket made famous by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, wars tend to spark fads and even fashion revolutions. Designers are influenced by events in the broader world, and so are consumers. That means that war in the Middle East comes home not just through CNN, but also via the catwalk.

And if you're anti-war, don't despair that you'll miss out on the trend. During the Vietnam War, protestors wore army surplus. So whether you're accessorizing with solidarity or not, you can charge ahead with your martial look.

On the February catwalks, designers traded prediction for reaction, and loaded their shows with illustration, rather than evocation, of the global climate. Body armor and layering were the order of the day.

Bomber jackets, Army coats and camouflage prints are being shown by everyone from Marc Jacobs to Jean Paul Gaultier. Tommy Hilfiger has answered with five-pocket drab cargo vests. Insiders say Madonna, always on the cutting edge of fashion, is filling her new video for "American Life," the first single off her new album, with catwalk hunks in high-fashion fatigues and the singer prancing in full military regalia.

There's no question that high fashion is down in the trenches. In fact, cargo pants are so entrenched now they've become mainstream. Add in dog tags, shoulder tabs and braiding to complete any look.

But don't let drab overpower fab. Mix camouflage with glitter. For an ironic touch, pair a distressed leather bomber with silk cargo pants. Military couture promises the violent clash of the stripped-down and the glammed out.

A word to the wise: If you find snazzy accessories like an old Purple Heart at a thrift store, don't incorporate it into your outfit. Experts say wearing medals you haven't earned is strictly a no-no.



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