We met this I-Dream-of-Jeannie with the light brown hair strolling off North Avenue beach. At first peek through dark shades, her outfit seemed to be making small talk about the weather: “It’s hot, time for a skimpy dress.”

But our fashion paleographers weren’t fooled. They can read between the seams, deciphering the most enigmatic of Fashion Statements.

This one radiates from a sunny summer sundress, the sort invented by French couturier Madeleine Vionnet about 1920, intended to free fashionable women from the confines of whale bones and hooks. Appropriately, it’s bias cut from glowing yellow-on-orange India print cotton, block printed with somber-faced suns. The bracelet in orbit on the left reflects the darker side of sun worship–it’s stamped with Aztec-inspired scenes of human sacrifice.

The sunny syntax is further eclipsed by a black motorcycle jacket, the sort that sneered for a generation when, in the 1954 movie The Wild One, Marlon Brando was asked “What are you rebelling against?” and he replied “What have you got?” In 1977, with the aid of a few safety pins, the same look growled “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” But these days, hip-length black leather zip-fronts with heavy gauge buckles simply affirm: “I’ve got the September Vogue, $1,000 to burn, and plenty of reasons to look pissed off.”

Translation? The combination of the casual freedom of the sundress accessorized by a death threat, hemmed in by high-security black dog, car, and jacket, harks back 2,000 years to a Fashion Statement borrowed from Diogenes the Cynic: “Stand a little out of my sun.”

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Yael Routtenberg.