Even if you never use the word “fashionista” unironically, Stephen Fried thinks he owes you an apology. He’s really very sorry about having invented the word back in 1993. Did you not know he invented the word fashionista? Well, it’s important you know he did so you can someday forgive him for it.
“Twenty years ago, I apparently changed language forever,” the fashionista inventor wrote in an open apology to The Atlantic and all of us. “I published a book that unleashed upon an unsuspecting public a single word of terrifying power and controversy. That word is ‘fashionista.’”
Doesn’t a word like “fashionista” seem like something that just happens naturally, like how one errant misspelling on the Internet can snowball until we’re all talking like Lolcats? But Fried says he invented it for his book, Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel Gia, and he remembers the moment exactly:
I created it because as I was writing about the fashion industry—and young model Gia Carangi’s immersion in it—there was no simple way to refer to all the people at a sitting for a magazine photo or print ad. I got tired of listing photographers, fashion editors, art directors, hairstylists, makeup artists, all their assistants, and models as the small army of people who descended on the scene.
Since I was re-reading a lot of the newspapers and magazines from the period of Gia’s supernova career in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and remembering a lot of coverage of Sandanistas (and a lot of “–ista” jokes among my mag writer friends), I just decided to try it.
The label only turned up in his book four times, and nobody made much of it at first. But in ensuing years Fried e-stalked his creation across the Internet, and found that while the word “fashionista” occurred only three times in 1993, it jumped to 26 times in 1995, 54 in 1996, and 74 in 1997.
That jumped to 200 uses in 1998, though, when HBO made a movie about Gia’s life starring Angelina Jolie. In 1999, the Oxford English Dictionary even decided it was a real word and put it in the dictionary. Fried says his wife wishes he’d copyrighted it.
Fried doesn’t seem to have too much to apologize for, though. After 20 years, almost nobody would know he invented it in the first place, which is probably why he told us. So Fried is fine, but it will probably be a long, long time before anyone is ready to forgive T.J. Maxx for trying to make “Maxxinista” happen.
Via The Atlantic/Photo: Shutterstock