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Kitchen couture

(article, Ashley Griffin Gartland)

The iconic image of the professional chef? White jacket and toque. The home cook? Apron and oven mitt.

These are practical, no-fuss duds that keep their wearers tidy and are easy to wash. But they're not exactly glamorous. Which may be why, as the New York Times recently pointed out, female celebrity chefs are vamping up the kitchen. The look of choice? Bosomy, clingy tops, preferably in an expensive, hard-to-wash fabric like cashmere.

Writer Elaine Louie described the new uniform — popularized by such Food Network beauties as Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, and Giada De Laurentiis – as "sexy meets utilitarian" and attributes it to British celebrity cook Nigella Lawson. On her television show "Nigella Bites," Lawson wore tops that were "V-necked or scoop-necked, cashmere, three-quarter length sleeves, and very tight and cropped," and kitchen ladies everywhere, it seems, are following suit. 

“Flip through the channels or scan the bookstores and the look is there in all its glory: sort of tight, sort of low-cut, definitely sexy," writes Louie. "It’s the new uniform of women who work with food. They have thrown away their chef’s outfits, aprons, and other costumes meant to convey authority, and adopted a slightly provocative look instead. It’s warm and retro, a bit Marilyn Monroe.”

Sure, the look is lightweight and easy to move in, and even cashmere can be cleaned once stained. And why complain about cleavage? 

But focusing on their outfits detracts from what the women are really doing: cooking.

That said, take a moment to page through the companion book to the "Nigella Bites" TV series. Lawson decked out in a slinky, silky dress and long fringed shawl while grilling entire spatchcocked chickens? Priceless.