Did you see this ad on the back of the Times Sunday Style section today?

The ad heralds the opening of the new Juicy Couture flagship store on 5th Avenue, which was apparently slated to open in July, when this ad campaign might have made more sense.

Perhaps the ad creators were aiming for a Sofia Coppola-esque “Marie Antoinette” feel, you know, Chuck Taylors shelved among the satin court shoes in Antoinette’s closet, and girls in towering powdered wigs bopping to The Cure?
marieantoinette.jpgWhat was most amazing about that movie, actually, weren’t the oh-my-gosh-isn’t-that-supposed-to-be-clever stylistic juxtapositions, but the fact that nothing happened: it was a movie utterly devoid of content, which, given the momentous events threading through Antoinette’s life, reflects the triumph of surface over substance.

But back to Juicy.  Let’s parse this slogan: instead of cake, we’re offered velour; instead of food, clothing; instead of sustenance, shopping.

Had Juicy’s store opened on schedule, their ad campaign might not have hit such a sour note, but coming as it does now, while Wall Street (along with Mom and Dad’s 401(k)) crumbles into New York Harbor, the ad smacks of the kind of disdain displayed by the titans of AIG, who racked up a $400,000 resort bill the day after the government “loaned” the company $85 billion dollars.

(Oh, don’t worry, we are assured by an AIG spokesperson, the trip was planned long before the bailout occurred. Apparently in the insurance business, trips like this are “as basic as salary as a means to reward performance.” Hmm. And did anyone want to think about the fact that a steady stream of resort rewards like this one might damage a company’s bottom line? Nah. Silly me to think such a thing.)

AIG’s huge slice of government cake is separate, of course, from that 700 billion dollar layer-cake being offered to Wall Street from a recipe concocted by those Versailles-worthy bakers, Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke, a cake now liberally (conservatively?) bedecked with pork-barrel roses. Perhaps one rose for each “no” vote on the first go-round?

Execs at Juicy Couture must be asking themselves whether crowds will flock into their huge new store, eager for velour tracksuits that cost $256. Or perhaps shoppers will economize and get just the $118 hoodie (which, for those of us who grew up in a different generation, means a hooded, zipfront jacket).

Somewhat ironically (I often think that the ad folks at the Times must have a deep sense of whimsy), the lead story in the Style section is about parents having to say “no” to their teen-age children, due to belt-tightening measures, even among the Sutton Place set. One mother quoted in the article wonders if her daughter’s selfishness was her fault, the result of “early lavishness” when her kids were young. Um, I dunno: if you give your kids everything they ask for, all the time, mightn’t they decide that they are entitled to everything they ask for, all the time? And that thus, when times get tough, their response might be, “I don’t care, I need my three hundred dollar tracksuit or I’ll just DIE.”

Nah. Silly me to think such a thing.

I missed the Juicy Couture boat, I confess. I never understood why you’d want to walk around with the word “juicy” on your ass, particularly if your ass were … well, let’s just say that most of the asses walking around out there aren’t really equipped for such an epithet. Most, in short, don’t look like this:

Thumbnail image for juicybutt2.jpgHad I even an ounce of sewing talent, I would invent a different kind of sweat pant, a juicy alternative, if you will. These sweatpants would be designed for the fuller-figure gal, the woman with the butt that, with every retreating step, sways out the statement, “I carried several children to term and all I got was this ass.”

I would call them Sarcasti-Pants and they would say things like “sardonic,” “ironic,” or – depending on your mood – “phlegmatic,” “sanguine,” “bilious,” “saturnine.”

I could special order a few dozen for Paulson, Bernanke, AIG execs (for their next resort outing, peut-etre), and Mr. I-used-to-run-Lehman-Fuld: tracksuits in a delicate puce velour, and across the ass would be emblazoned “oblivious.”

Now I know that Juicy Couture isn’t to blame for the financial meltdown or the hideous, corrosive gap between the extremely wealthy and all the rest of us – a gap that has widened into an abyss over the past eight years. It’s clear, though, that we are headed for non-Juicy times, desiccated times, even, and heads are gonna roll.

And that’s why this ad really pisses me off: so if you don’t have three hundred bucks to spend on a tracksuit, screw you?

Is this how the French rabble felt as they peered in the windows of Petit Trianon, Antoinette’s faux-shepherdess palace?

And thus through a somewhat complicated geometry, I think this makes Laura Bush into our Marie Antoinette. Do you think Laura wears Juicy?


**I’m traveling this week and am treating you all to some ghosts of blog-posts past. Wouldn’t it be great if the economic situation happening when I wrote this post had resolved itself by now?