When you list the personality traits that can generally be attributed to fashion designers, having a sense of humor is not exactly high up on the list. So when Maya Rudolph began impersonating Donatella Versace on Saturday Night Live, it all seemed like a recipe for...well...a lawsuit. What designer, after all, wants to see themselves lampooned on national television by a snarky comedienne playing them drunk as a skunk, excoriating Ian McKellen portraying Yves Saint Laurent in an equally inebriated state? And more importantly, since when were designers famous enough to warrant the attention of America’s leading late night comedy team?

While SNL’s fascination with Donatella Versace began with Maya Rudolph (the self described wannabe diva with whom the idea originated), the sketch itself pointed to the way in which fashion spread beyond the world of haute couture and into American living rooms. It began in 2001 with Ben Stiller’s fashion farce, Zoolander, and will continue in 2003 with fashion world roman á clefs by Plum Sykes ("Bergdorf Blondes") and Lauren Weisberger ("The Devil Wears Prada,") for which both first-time authors received unprecedented mid-six figure advances. And though it remains to be seen whether anyone in America can keep a straight face when it comes to the world of high fashion —all of the examples listed above belong squarely in the world of satire, suggesting that on some level, average Americans are still more likely to be amused by fashion folk than they are to identify with them — at least the real Ms. Versace is taking it all in stride.

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