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What the wild things wore.

On both state and national levels biodiversity protection laws are under the gun. In March, for example, New York Governor George Pataki attempted to strip the contaminant-analysis lab from his Wildlife Department's Environmental Protection Division, defund the state's Endangered Species Unit and dissolve its Wetlands Program. While saner voices and the recreation industry have temporarily saved New York's wildlife habitats from instant evisceration, the operation is still on budget-doctors' schedules. A host of proposed bills at the federal level now menaces the government's power to protect the public's environmental interests from mining and timber companies, agribusiness and developers. But a few moments' meditation and a sip of Evian is all that's required to realize that, while sweeping environmental deregulation and cutbacks might be devastating to our biosphere, the Wardrobe Possibilities are excruciatingly delicious.

Trend watchers tend to assume that Republican belt-cinching signals a return to Ozzie-and-Harriet corsetry--garter, girdle and golf truss--but hasn't history's influence on fashion always been more incisive than that? Didn't Republican women of the Ike-Nixon regency wear cloth coats to advertise their postwar frugality? Didn't Nancy Reagan dress to outspend the Soviet Union? Yes, yes, they did. And so it is only reasonable to expect today's G.O.P. fashion plate to choose an ensemble that proclaims her openness to rural development at any cost.

And what, after all, could advertise the Pataki-Gingrich-Dole agenda more adorably than an outfit made of the feathers, pelts and shells of our endangered species? What would be more Cut 'n' Run Cutting Edge? More Back to Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, more Get the Government Out of My Face or I'll Blow You to Bits? Furthermore, a wardrobe made of such poignant stuff could liven up the era of biomonotony to come, make it mean something fabulous and tragic. Because if a species is doomed, that is, if the cost-benefit ratio of its survival shakes out on the high end (where sensible heartlanders can see that it simply isn't a good buy), isn't it better that it die in a warble of beauty and a roar of profits than just fade mousily away?

So one awaits the result of the budget wars with visions of Kate Moss and Linda Evangelista swishing down runways in beautiful Cougar (Felis concolor) coats with Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) trim, Eastern Woodrat (Neotoma floridana) muffs and eye-bashing belts of Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus). Lo! On their heads perch uncanny caplets banded with iridescent Karner Blue Butterfly (Lycaeides melissa) wings and crowned with feather sprays--heartbreakingly beautiful--from the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), the American Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), the Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) and the Least Tern (Sterna antillarum).

Indiana Bat (Myotis sodalis) skin booties, hand-stitched (why not?) in picturesque sweatshops by single mothers grateful for the job, encase Kate's feet while earrings of Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) skin shimmer against her cheek. Linda's tortoise-shell sunglasses frames, crafted from the carapace of the Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), lend her an aura of sacrifice--as if she's worn her eyes out reading the fine print on cosmetics boxes to make sure the contents weren't tested on rabbits. Scented with ambergris (last century's preferred perfume base) from the stomach of Physeter catodon, the Sperm Whale, Linda would evoke great eras of economic expansion just in wafting by one's table at a Bob Dole fundraiser.

Let tree-huggers howl. In fashion, as in budget cuts, isn't elegance nine-tenths the law? And if The Unregulated Look does not flatter Ms. Pataki or Ms. Dole as it does a supermodel, so what? The beauty of it is: The outfits themselves will be to die for.
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Title Annotation:satire
Author:Phillips, Lynn
Publication:The Nation
Date:Jul 31, 1995
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