There’s a lot of chatter, among both the veterans and the very young, about how fashion used to be so great. Even the Zoomers seem to agree that the ’90s, a decade when few of them were even alive, represented a golden era packed with designers whose genius far exceeded that of anyone working today. There are a ton of differences between then and now. But one thing I keep thinking about, particularly as I listen to In Vogue: The 1990s, Vogue’s terrific podcast about that decade, and re-read books by the writer Teri Agins, is that fashion used to be a subculture. Its niche status afforded its arbiters and participants (including shoppers) a reputation of expertise, of connoisseurship. It wasn’t something everyone followed or knew about—and it certainly didn’t need celebrities, because it had its own, in designers, models, writers, hangers-on, and obsessive consumers.
Now, fashion is popular