Oprah's fashion effect
Looking back on 25 years of the "The Oprah Winfrey Show" is like looking into a fashion time capsule. The talk show titan has worn it all -- from big hair to big shoulders to big ball gowns. She's gone with makeup and without, hidden her lumps under Spanx, and showed off her curves in skinny jeans. She is America's fashion realist.
Beyond what she's worn herself, Oprah has been influential in bringing fashion into America's living rooms, and putting it in the pantheon of pop culture. Bridging the divide between Seventh Avenue and Main Street, she's invited such designers as J. Crew's Jenna Lyons, Tory Burch, Diane von Furstenberg and Michael Kors onto her show. Extending their democratic reach may have added fuel to the phenomenon of designers launching inexpensive lines and one-time cheap chic collaborations.
Oprah treated countless members of her audience to makeovers with experts such as Bobbi Brown and Frederic Fekkai. And the styles she featured on her "Oprah's Favorite Things" holiday freebie bonanzas famously sold out within hours (including Ugg boots and cashmere cable knit Ralph Lauren sweaters). Just last week, she visited Ralph Lauren's Telluride Ranch. (Oprah introduced Lauren when he received a special award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2007.)
But Oprah has also reflected the struggles most women have fitting into fashion, both literally and figuratively. We watched her weight go up and down, and sympathized when she was snubbed at the Hermes store in Paris. Her weakness for expensive Christian Louboutin shoes -- or any shoes really -- is well known, and totally relatable. She featured the French designer's shoes on the show, calling them "little pieces of sculpture" and once gifted Jessica Seinfeld 21 pairs.
She never dressed for a man, she dressed for herself. And her love of the finer things reinforced the American ideal that if you work hard enough, no matter what size you are, you too can have the best fashion has to offer -- even if it's custom-made, which many of her designer gowns were.
Oprah cleaned out her closets several times, selling castoffs at the Oprah store in Chicago, or on EBay, with proceeds going to charity. But throughout it all, she wasn't ashamed to display her love of clothes and style, even talking fashion with First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House.
What's next for Oprah? Who knows, but a fashion line wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility. Something tells me it would be successful in every channel.
-- Booth Moore
Photo: Oprah Winfrey acknowledges fans during a star-studded double-taping of "Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular, in Chicago. Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press.