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So. Some people have been asking why I'm so into Winona Ryder's clothes lately. The fact is, I started off just wanting to make a minor joke about how she, and the industry she works in, and the media that covers that industry, are so above-it-all that they can completely miss the seriousness of something like a criminal trial. So I made an offhand joke about how I was more interested in what she'd be wearing than in the actual legal maneuvering taking place in her trial.

And then a funny thing happened. I actually became more interested in what she was wearing than in anything else about the trial.

I've never had any sort of fashion sense. My wife has trained me out of some of my worst habits, but I've simply gone along with her demands; I've never actually understood just why certain colors and fabrics in combination make her smirk at me. But I guess over the years I've come to appreciate, if not the actual aesthetic sensibilities that underlie the world of fashion, at least the fact that there are such things as aesthetic fashion sensibilities, and that there really are people who take them very seriously.

So I found myself noticing that in all the pictures of Winona at her various court appearances, she was dressed dramatically differently. But it always seemed to look really good. Well, almost always. And when it didn't, I had a creeping sense that the fault lay not in her clothes, but in my lack of understanding of what she was trying to say with them.

Which brings me to the next stage in my evolving appreciation of what was going on. For someone like Winona Ryder, her clothing choices are a form of creative expression. They are a form of speech, as in the constitutionally protected kind. Such that this mousey little waif, who (in all honesty) really isn't my type, and for whom I swear I'm not harboring an unhealthily obsessive interest, is actually doing something really interesting here. She's making meaningful statements about who she is, and what she values, and broadcasting it to the four corners of the globe, thanks to a twisted media dynamic that values something as superficial as what an actress is dressed in over something more substantive, like, say, who we should vote for in the upcoming midterm elections.

Anyway, I wanted a place where I could examine in one place the various images I've been spending more and more time thinking about, so I thought I'd put them on this page. I also wanted a place where I could talk more honestly about what I think this all means, without the droll knavery I tend to use in my [postings about celebrity] in the weblog. But then I realized I should probably try to answer some of the puzzled questions I've been getting about why I'm so interested. Hopefully I've done that. At least a little. -- JohnCallender


This is an image from the Saks security camera, showing Winona during the shoplifting spree. The caption at http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/021024/170/2ictj.html, which is where I stole it from, reads:

Actress Winona Ryder is shown in a frame from surveillance tapes of her famous shopping spree at the Beverly Hills Saks Fifth Avenue store in December 2001 obtained by the syndicated entertainment television program 'Extra.' Ryder was arrested Dec. 12, 2001, for alleged shoplifting at department store and faces trial on the charges Oct. 24 in Beverly Hills Municipal Court. No cameras will be allowed in the courtroom. Photo by Reuters (Handout)

This is Winona coming back to the court after the noon recess during the June 3 court appearance. This is when she allegedly received an injury to her right arm while being jostled by photographers.

This photo is from the June 6 court appearance.

This shows Winona's arrival at the courthouse on June 14.

This shows Winona's arrival at the courthouse on October 16. For those of you playing along at home, this was the outfit that really did it to me. I called it "stunning" in my coverage, and I meant it; I felt like Saul on the road to Damascus, lying there in the dust, shielding my eyes from its radiance. This is when my interest in what she was wearing to her court appearances really shifted into high gear.

Another view of the October 16 dress.

This is from her arrival on October 24. Here's the caption, from http://news.yahoo.com/:

Actress Winona Ryder (news), framed through a metal detector, waits for her attorney Mark Geragos to pass through security as she arrives at the Beverly Hills courthouse October 24, 2002. Ryder is appearing for the start of her trial on charges of alleged grand theft, commercial burglary and vandalism in connection with her arrest December 12, 2001 outside Saks Fifth Avenue store in Beverly Hills. REUTERS/Pool

Another view from October 24. This shows the yucky purse I commented on in my coverage. Although I kind of like this look (aside from the purse), lies.com fashion correspondent Lucy really hates it; something about the material the dress is made from, I think. I'll try to get her in here to add some commentary about just what it is that bothers her.

Lucy: To add in my commentary, per request, it is mostly the fabric of the dress that bugs me; it looks like a cheap, shiny satin, which strikes me as being inappropriate for court, and kinda tacky, given Winona's usual tastes. (You couldn't find this sort of material to allegedly shoplift from Saks while researching a movie role, I'd bet.) But I also think this dress is rather unflattering on her -- it accentuates curves (especially in the picture above this one) that make her look larger than her usual waifish self.

Winona arrives on October 25.

Another shot from October 25. Note the same purse as the previous day. Also, I guess I just don't understand these things, because my wife would definitely laugh at me if I tried to wear those shoes with that dress. I mean if I tried to wear those colors in those locations on my body. At least I think she would.

Lucy: Although I'm not your wife, I would also definitely laugh at you if you tried to wear these shoes with that dress. And not even because I'd find it funny to see you in a dress. The red shoes seem completely out of place here -- at least the ugly purse is a neutral color.

This is from Winona's arrival on October 28. I think this may be my favorite photo from the whole sequence. It's not my favorite outfit, mind you, but the photo itself is really cool. I like the composition of the three elements (Winona, the Linda Fiorentino-lookalike female deputy, and the sign), and the expression on the deputy's face as she stares at Winona. There's something I find fascinating, too, about the juxtaposition of the two women, and (especially) their clothes. They represent opposite ends of the clothing spectrum, one dressing in a different expensive original each day, the other wearing an unflattering male-mimicking uniform, and yet both of them are constrained by similar requirements. They have to dress as they do; they have no choice. And there are similarities in their respective outfits; the shape of the collars, and the way the clothes are embellished with little touches: Winona's embroidery, the deputy's rank insignia and badge. Did Winona pause to compare notes on accessories? I love what you've done with your microphone. What do you use on your ammunition clips to preserve the shine?

What would happen, I wonder, if they were to switch clothes one day? The two women are actually pretty similar looking; I can imagine a whole Prince and the Pauper fairy tale script spinning out of it. Maybe that's what I'm actually watching here: a movie. Maybe that really is Linda Fiorentino. Where do you draw the line between reality and fiction, in a land where movie producers sit in the jury box and reporters crowd each other to get a shot of what the defendant is wearing? I could stare at this picture all day.

Another view of the October 28 outfit. This is the shot that prompted my comment about the unfortunate interaction of high-powered flashbulbs and a white bra. Or maybe that see-through effect is intentional. What do I know about this stuff? Our lives, and our fashion statements, are defined by accidents as much as by intentions. One of the things I've been vaguely aware of for a while now is that for the person who understands fashion, it is the breaking of the rules (always, though, within carefully circumscribed boundaries) that makes the difference between a merely acceptable appearance and one that gets talked about (in a good sense). At a certain point, the difference between accident and artifice vanishes, and I'm pretty sure that for Winona and clothes, at least, that point has long since been passed.

Another shot of the October 28 outfit. You now can see the shoes, and the purse (which, despite my attempt at humor in the coverage on the weblog, actually does appear to match her outfit, and to not be so huge as to justify a continuation of the big-purse running gag). I think it's kind of funny how it looks like Mark Geragos, Winona's lawyer, is holding the purse.

A nice close-up of the October 28 outfit, showing the embroidered collar.

The infamous October 29 outfit. This is the one that inspired the lies.com headline, "Winona Day IV: Green and Frumpy." As I've looked at it more, though, I've begun to have a deeper appreciation of what Winona was doing here.

Notice the tattered fringe of light-colored material showing through on her left collar.

The hideous purse from October 29. Or is it? I think maybe the sickly purple color of the purse in this image may be an artifact of the lighting, or the glass the press are shooting most of these photos through, or something. Then again, maybe it really is that color, and is supposed to be, and it's just my complete absence of an aesthetic color sense that prevents me from understanding its appropriateness.

A nice close-up of the October 29 housecoat's collar. Notice again the worn edge (on the right collar, this time), with the lighter material showing through.

Another close-up from October 29, with the left collar's worn edge on display. I think the reason I'm so fixated on that worn edge is that this, again, is one of the things I've been chided about by my wife in the past. I'm prone to throwing on a shirt with a collar that's seen better days, and is showing exactly this kind of wear, only to have her cluck and shake her head, sending me back to the closet to try again.

When I said to Lucy that this outfit looked like it came from a thrift shop, her response was, "Yeah, I'd believe that. She's always had vintagey tastes in clothes anyway." So again, what looks to me like a mistake is probably intentional.

Here's Winona arriving back at the courtroom after the lunch break on October 29. She's unbuttoned the housecoat, and you can see a dark blouse underneath. You also get a good view of the end of today's purse, with what I have to think is a more accurate version of its real color.

The outfit from October 30. Notice the expression on today's female deputy. She seems much more self-assured than the one on October 28. She's not looking at Winona with barely concealed envy, but with an amused half-smile.

Today's outfit inspired one tabloid to run a mocking piece that talked about Winona's faux pas in wearing a see-through dress, a black bra, and white panties. Which I have to admit, does seem kind of odd. It's hard for me to reconcile the notion that Winona is both aware of the see-through effect and would choose to wear mismatched undergarments like that. But it strains credulity to think that she's not aware, and she (or whoever has responsibility for picking out her clothes) clearly chose that underwear. So what's the answer?

At the moment I lean toward a twin explanation: first, she may want us to think she's unaware. In her trial, she wants us to see her as the victim of an unfortunate chain of events, an unfair invasion of her privacy, and the images of her mismatched underwear being beamed throughout the world helps reinforce that, at least in her mind. Her other motivation, which actually dovetails nicely with the first one, is that she likes being the center of attention, and when someone like that finds that their fantasy isn't playing out properly, that people aren't paying quite enough of the right kind of attention, they sometimes start to act weirder and weirder in order to provoke a response. Again, the choice of clothing parallels the decision to go shoplifting, and to bring the case to trial. It's a plea for attention, any kind of attention, even negative attention. Just don't leave me out in the cold, with all those other actresses who can't act, really, and who are no longer sufficiently young and pretty to get the good roles.

Later: Looking more carefully now, and especially at the later image with her father, I think I may have been completely off-base here. That light-colored stuff below the dress's waist striping is her skin, I think. See below.

A slightly closer view of the outfit from October 30. Out of Winona's view, the deputy is still smirking.

Another view of the outfit from October 30, and another nice juxtaposition of Winona with the female deputy. The paparazzi are obviously getting the hang of this, as the same carefully composed shots appear day after day.

The amusement of the earlier shots is gone from the deputy's face; we seem to have captured some negative interaction. Perhaps the deputy made some comment that didn't fit the upstairs/downstairs scenario in Winona's mind, in which the uniformed deputies are the equivalent of her servants, required to avert their gaze and not speak unless spoken to. You can see Winona's eyes flash as she issues a curt reminder to the deputy to remember her proper place. Which is, of course, a funny twisting of the reality, in which it's Winona who's on trial, and the deputy who's in charge.

A close-up of the outfit from October 30, with nice detail on the earrings, and the pastel shades of the dress's accents.

Winona with her father, from the October 30 morning arrival. Dad, you let her go out with mismatched undies like that?

Later: You know, in looking at this again, I think the light-colored stuff showing through beneath the stripes on the dress is just her skin. The panties are actually below that, and appear to be some sort of dark patterned material (flowers?). So my earlier ranting about her selection of black bra and white panties appears to be completely stupid.

It's interesting (well, to me) how the longer I look at these things, the more I see, and the more my previous conclusions look wrong.

Lucy: Yeah, I think you're right, that light-colored bit under the stripes is probably skin. The dress is somewhat high-waisted, so unless she's a granny-pants kind of gal, that's her lower stomach. (Although, now that I look at the picture again, I'm noticing that, if that's the case, Winona has fairly short arms, proportionately. Aren't your fingertips supposed to reach to mid-thigh?)

Really what this dress needs is some lining, or a slip underneath; the same is true for the other sheer-ish black dress she wore a couple days ago. Her skin is way too pale to not have something between it and sheer dark fabric, and black undergarments just make it clearer where the lines are.

Another reader writes: The skin colour may be her pantyhose showing through as they are flesh toned and most pantyhose go as high up on the waist to the top of the navel?

Another shot from the morning arrival on October 30. Dad and Winona find something to smile about.

Winona arrives at the courtroom after the lunch break on October 30. I like this one because of the blurred image of the woman in the background, lunging to get her moment of fame. An aspiring actress, maybe, desperate to get her face in front of all the agents, producers, and directors who are hanging on the daily feed of Winona news?

Another shot of Winona arriving at the courtroom after the lunch break on October 30. I think it isn't just the paparazzi who are getting good at this; look at the way Winona stops just so in the metal detector, turning back to give us that nice pose. We've seen that pose a lot.

Winona arrives the morning of October 31. It's certainly a far cry from the angel in white on October 16; at this rate she's going to be a bag lady by the end of the trial.

A closer look at the outfit of October 31.

Another shot from the morning of October 31. Note the return of Linda Fiorentino in the role of sherrif's deputy.

Winona upon her return from lunch on October 31. She's removed the long coat, and carries it folded over her arm. Underneath we see not a vest, as I earlier assumed, but a jacket. (Or what I would call a jacket, at least. I think I'm probably misusing most of these terms, since my clothing-related vocabulary stopped growing shortly after I learned to tie my shoes. You fashion Eskimos, with your 243 words for "snow," will just have to bear with my pidgin fashionese.)

Another shot of Winona arriving after the lunch break on October 31.

Another shot of Winona arriving after the lunch break on October 31.

Winona's arrival on November 1. As mentioned in the weblog, I wonder if the fact that today's outfit is nearly identical to yesterday's reflects a growing appreciation on Winona's part of the seriousness of her situation. When defending yourself against charges that you're clothes-crazy enough to go shoplifting for designer outfits you could easily have paid for, maybe the wearing of eye-catchingly different clothing every day of the trial hurts more than it helps.

Another shot of Winona arriving on November 1.

Another shot of Winona arriving on November 1. I'm definitely getting an "all funned out" feeling from her here.

Winona arriving on November 4. She's back in white (yay!), with a skirt (I think) under a white jacket. She's also giving off a slightly unsteady vibe; she seems to be leaning to one side in this photo. A still image is a pretty unreliable source for such information, I know, but I can't help speculating: has she been hitting the painkillers a little early today? I suspect she got hooked on them in the wake of her plastic surgery, and as someone who was popping the same drug for a while in the wake of a wisdom-tooth-extraction-gone-bad a number of years ago, I can appreciate the appeal; those things take you out. But it's pretty hard to reconcile her needing to have a couple handy in her purse for random shopping expeditions with her claims not to be abusing them; my doctor got me off them pretty quick, as soon as the pain had diminished to the point where I could deal with it without needing the sledgehammer-to-the-frontal-lobes approach. I think we'll be getting the full story on this one of these days. Probably right around the time that rights for a tell-all as-told-to autobiograpy surpasses the estimated remaining value of her acting career.

Another shot of Winona arriving on November 4. Again, she just looks a little checked-out to me here.

Another shot of Winona arriving on November 4. The caption on this one at Yahoo News, from whence I stole it, reads:

Actress Winona Ryder (news) is seen through a tinted glass as she is searched with members of the media and the curious observing from outside the Beverly Hills Courthouse Monday, Nov. 4, 2002, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Ryder, 31, is accused of stealing more than $5,000 worth of apparel from the Beverly Hills Saks Fifth Avenue store in December 2001. (AP Photo/Ric Francisi)

This is a pretty interesting shot. Besides the unusual pose, and the continuing theme of Winona looking just a tad blotto, we've also got the leering onlooker reflected in the glass atop her head. He's symbolic of the weird obsession everyone is displaying toward her these days: society, the news media, and, obviously, me.

Another shot from the morning arrival on November 4. Winona gives us the by-now-obligatory 90-degree turn to the right for the shot through the metal detector, but her heart isn't really in it, and she forgets to hold her head nice and high, as she did in previous shots. Meanwhile, an out-of-focus Linda Fiorentino looks on. Is that a look of sympathy on Linda's face? Has even she been seduced at last by Winona's parade of waif costumes, buying into the defense's portrayal of an innocent victim, trapped by her own celebrity?

Interesting accenting with the bracelets. Has that weird-girl-from-English-class look.

Winona arrives for jury-deliberation day, November 5. We're back to the low-key look, with a dark jacket.

Another shot of her arrival on November 5. Hm. Maybe it's not a jacket, but a dress, with tights beneath. There's that same woman behind her again; I suppose it's probably her publicist, or someone similarly associated with her entourage.

I don't know why I find this photo so amusing, but I do. Just me being weird, I guess. Here's the caption from Yahoo News:

Members of the news media wait for a verdict in actress Winona Ryder (news)'s shoplifting trial, outside the courthouse in Beverly Hills, Calif, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2002. Ryder is accused of grand theft, burglary and vandalism for allegedly stealing more than $5,500 worth of items. She faces up to three years in prison if convicted. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Winona arrives on November 6. She's looking good, and distinctly non-high. There's the publicist (or whoever) behind her again.

Another shot of the arrival on November 6. Egads; what is with those shoes? Notice Linda Fiorentino, watching her in the background. I'd like to believe she's wishing her good luck, though I'm not sure why I'd like to believe that. I guess it just goes with the script.

Another shot of the arrival on November 6. Could this be the last Winona head-turn shot?

Here's the photo the trial is destined to be remembered by. (Were cameras allowed because the jury could no longer be tainted by media coverage?) She's waiting for the verdicts; tense enough for you? Caption from Yahoo News:

Actress Winona Ryder leans forward in her seat prior to the reading of the verdicts in her shoplifting trial at the Beverly Hills courthouse November 6, 2002. Ryder was found guilty of grand theft and felony vandalism for a $5,500 shoplifting spree at a Saks Fifth Avenue store last December 12, 2001, but was acquitted of a commercial burglary charge. (Lee Celano/Pool via Reuters)

She stands with her lawyer, Mark Geragos, to listen as the verdicts are read.

After the verdicts, she smiles at a deputy. (Is this the same deputy who was the subject of my previous upstairs/downstairs fantasy? I'm not sure. Maybe if I'd watched the TV coverage I'd know, but I was driving somewhere at the time, dammit, and hadn't yet bought the Tivo I'm planning to pick up, so no Winona-verdict video for me.)

Judging by her expression in this image, I'd say she's just really, really glad to have it over with.

Sentencing to come on December 6. According to news accounts, prosecutor Ann Rundle has said she won't seek jail time. "I find Ms. Ryder to be very nice. This was never about her character, only her conduct." I so wish I could have been a fly on the wall for the 15-minute private courtroom conversation Winona reportedly had with Rundle prior to her (Rundle's) closing argument.


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