Liz Smith: Archie Panjabi — An Actress and Her Product Placements

Actress Archie Panjabi wearing a dress by Carolina Herrara ©Erin Baiano for The New York Times

Our Liz wonders — whither the New York Times?

“I ASKED the clothing store clerk if she had anything to make me look thinner and she said, ‘How about a week in Bangladesh?’” said a wisecracking Roseanne Barr.

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I WANT to complain bitterly about something. Maybe nobody cares but me, however, I consider myself to be an ardent fan of The New York Times, constantly correcting my overly-critical friends who think the nation’s premier newspaper has fallen on bad times.

I am forever boasting of its record, its dedication and the fact that it would be an enormous loss to this country should it ever change radically and maybe, go under. (The contrary is certainly the hope of Rupert Murdoch and his Wall Street Journal. But I want both of these great newspapers of record to thrive.)

Still, they are doing something in the Times on Sundays that is almost incomprehensible.

They have a column called “What I Wore,” a kind of diary of consumerism with actresses, models, social climbers and charitable women. Last Sunday, on December 4th, they featured an actress I really admire. She is Archie Panjabi, an Emmy-winning character on the successful series “The Good Wife.” As the character Kalinda, she is the deus ex machina of what happens in this legal drama, sleeping with men and women too in order to gain her ends — which are usually (but not always) good causes engaged in by her law firm.

Ms. Panjabi appeared in the Times pages in a beautiful dress by Carolina Herrera. I liked knowing what great designer she was wearing, as this is information we all need about a real art form, couture, and how the other half lives. I like to know who designed what.

But the newspaper article about a week in Ms. Panjabi’s life was absurdly ridiculous in its “fashionista” overkill. On Monday, she “wore J Brand dark boot-cut denim.” She boasted she has about ten pairs of them. Then she went on about her Vince oversize sweater, a black Neil Barrett wool and black Chanel boots. When I gave this article to my associate Denis Ferrara to read, he gagged and said it destroyed his remaining brain cells.

The rest of the week, Ms. Panjabi told us everything she was wearing every day, mentioning 55 separate clothing and design names plus a few restaurants. (What a treat for the unemployed and underpaid wannabees whose mouths were watering.)

Is it the Times way to dispatch advertising people to show retailers that they are mentioning them, or is it just left to Ms. Panjabi to make a fool of herself for doing it for them? Such an excess of consumerism and conspicuous consumption I have seldom seen. Or is it part of the Times editing way to try to completely identify every part of everything any of these celebrities wear? To give all the facts? Or news fit to print? (I am surprised they didn’t give the cost of the items and exactly where one could buy each and every item if only one had the means.)

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I HAVE done my share of touting favorite places, favorite people and favorite retail and wholesale “names” in the dozens of celebrity columns I have written over almost fifty years covering entertainment. But “What I Wore” is a nasty excess in these particular times. Maybe it’s just the Times point of view to create desire and envy and to show how superficial people can be. No wonder every kid you know wants to get in show business where the chance of becoming a millionaire is so appealing.

Maybe the Times will find some poor school teachers in the Bronx to tell us what they are wearing and how we can aspire to same.

Or maybe Ms. Panjabi’s press agent wrote this ridiculous piece of crap. She remains one of my favorite actors on television and perhaps she is not to blame for such excess.

7 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Lila says:

    “… a nasty excess in these particular times.” Indeed. One would think that in an entire week of life, one might concern oneself with something other than haute couture.

    Personally, my favorite jeans are ones that FIT, which are maddeningly hard to find. But find them I did, and they cost all of $17. She can keep her J Brands.

  2. avatar Count Snarkula says:

    If I might offer a different perspective…we are officially in a “recession” though personally I think we are in a “depression”.  If you look back to the last depression, you see the movies.  Heavy glamour, madcap heiresses, woes of the rich, etc.  People like to see beauty and people doing well when times are hard.  “The Women” and the over-the-top fashion show comes to mind.  I might agree that the article was a little over the top, but I also found it interesting.  But the Count is a clotheshorse, so there is that. 

    • avatar rick gould says:

      I absolutely agree with you that we are actually in a depression, but no politician or pundit has the balls to actually come out and admit it.

      And it’s very true that Hollywood glamour of the golden movie age took people’s mind off the Great Depression.

      The only difference is this time people need to pay attention and demand accountability as to the shenanigans that have led us to our current state of affairs.

      And a little prediction for 2012…the worst is yet to come. Seriously.

  3. avatar D C says:

    What I wore: 
    Last Friday I spent my Friday off preparing the mansion for my ladies group luncheon on Sunday.  First, I went on an errand for my daughter to take care of the speeding ticket in that town 20 miles west of us that I had to go to and beg for the paperwork they never sent her.  I dressed down for the occasion, or, as I told my husband when he finally called and asked me to stop by his classroom, “I dressed for sympathy, so cannot be seen by decent people.”  I wore doubleknit black stretch pants I ordered online to work out in during the cold winter months about 3 years ago, and a 3-sizes-too-large button down ribbed knit shirt with only one bleach stain on it.  I took the document and put it in my husband’s car so he could get it, scan it and email it to the daughter so she won’t get arrested next time she drives through that town on her way to see mommy.  I went home, and changed into shorts, because it was getting warm out.

    Next I graced the aisles of the local grocery store.  I wore stretch denim shorts with an elastic waistband from WalMart coupled with a gimme T-shirt I got as I walked into a sporting event about 6 years ago.  The lovely outfit was topped off by low ankle crew socks I picked up at Walmart and New Balance cross-trainers from Academy. 

    Onward and upward, after unloading the groceries, I began cleaning!  Sans jewelry, I sparkled in the dining room after cleaning up all the glitter from my holiday craft projects — you know glitter… it’s like herpes — it gets everywhere and you can never get rid of it. 

    I could go on and on, but in these particular times, it would just be rude to all those who suffer if I kept on about something as trivial as my fabulous weekend wardrobe. 


  4. avatar Joe Albanese says:

    Is it possible (and probable) that Ms.Panjabi managed, by mentioning 60+ outfits in print, to be able to use this as a tax write-off?  If that is the case, I am wearing an Escada tie, Calvin Klein shirt, Johnston & Murphy shoes . . .

  5. avatar maytaguide says:

    “What I Wore”… NYTimes
    Liz, I couldn’t agree with you more. I, too admire Archie Panjabi as an actress, but I think the NYT is lowering its standards, or perhaps just trying to appeal to a younger demographic with upscale income.

  6. avatar Frau Quink says:

    It is disappointing that a terrific actress like Ms. Panjabi feels she needs to participate in that type of mindless reporting.