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Friday, October 17, 2014

Beautiful Lies

"Sometimes people are beautiful. Not in looks. Not in what they say. Just in what they are."~Markus Zusak

Why is the tall, thin woman considered to be the pinnacle of beauty?

This has been drilled into our consciousness from the beginning of our lives via advertising and editorial photos and every kind of media imaginable. Why? It's not some genetic pre-set. It's not because tall thin women produce better babies and thus we have the ideal hard-wired in our primitive brain. They're not  necessarily smarter, better at sex, or healthier. None of the above.

The sad truth is that it's because mass manufactured clothes are more likely to fit and look better on a tall thin woman. Or, at least they're more likely to look better in a photograph. Manufacturers hire advertising agencies to sell their products; the advertising agency hires tall, thin women to model those products solely because even if the clothes are complete schlock, it's easier to manipulate those clothes on a tall thin woman and end up with a good photo. Which is what sells clothes. Hence, the last century of the tall, thin woman being idealized.  

As if this weren't bad enough, those photographs are always manipulated, now more than ever via photoshop, so that the already tall thin woman can be stylized into a kind of homogenized, bland 'perfection.'  So at this point even the tall, thin model who posed for the photo probably feels 'imperfect.' 

The point of breaking down this obvious chain of logic is so that the next time you're sat in your comfy pj's and see an ad featuring the standard, impossibly perfect, tall, thin woman you can remember all this and not get sucked into comparing yourself with something that doesn't exist for one thing, but also is an 'ideal' that came into being by default, and has nothing to do with any real aesthetic. It's just about selling clothing, period.

Beauty product manufacturers have a slightly different approach. Paula Begoun, who wrote The Beauty Bible, debunks most of the fairy tales told to sell skincare products at extraordinary prices.  We buy it (they hope) because we're made to feel not good enough as we are. We can be perfect as soon as we purchase x,y, and z…and continue to use it for the rest of our lives, or at least until they come up with the 'new' and 'improved' version, which will also include a price hike that's in accordance with inflation…Most of this stuff contains so little of the 'magical' ingredient(s) that it doesn't really affect the state of your skin. Anyway. You get the idea.  

Next time you're out and about, look at people. Really look. You'll see that what's attractive isn't about a size, shape, skin or eye color; it's not about a brand of clothing or a fancy haircut. What is attractive is good health and attitude radiating from a person. Someone who takes care of themselves- which means self respect. And, as I'm fond of pointing out, we can also enhance how healthy we look by wearing colors that flatter our coloring, and wearing clothing design lines that flatter our specific shape. 

So the takeaway here, hopefully, is a reminder to stay grounded- enjoy the pretty pictures, but remember why they are the way they are, and don't allow it to affect how you perceive, dress, or treat yourself. 

Happy Dressing!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Stylish Debate

"Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and 

not giving a damn." ~Orson Wells

I recently read a very succinct description of the difference between fashion and style: fashion is the relationship to the external, while style is the relationship to the internal. 

The fashion oriented person is more concerned with whether or not the clothing they wear is similar to what they see out in the world. With fashion the emphasis is on the clothing; it distances the individual from themselves; it's perhaps a way of specifically not expressing self. The style oriented person, however, is primarily concerned with what's inside themselves- their sense of self and expressing their personal aesthetic. The style oriented person is more concerned with pleasing themselves than meeting an external standard.

It may be for some that self expression takes too much courage. For some however, not expressing oneself is too confining. (That would be me.) Others just have no desire to express themselves, and enjoy the constant change that fashion provides. I think in the long run style is more personally rewarding. I think the human animal needs to express themselves, to some degree, in some way, even if not via their clothing. Either way, it's important to respect what colors and design lines flatter you- that helps you put your best foot forward in the world, no matter what your position on style or fashion.

Another consideration is cost, obviously. If you're determined to follow fashion you're committing to buying a substantial portion of your wardrobe anew every season. If you can afford that, more power to you. The rest of us need to have more restraint in our choices. Even if I had that kind of money I think I'd rather invest it than blow it on clothing I was going to get rid of every season. But then again, should the fashion-oriented person donate those clothes to various thrift shops, style oriented (and/or less financially endowed) folks like me will happily pick up their cast offs the next season …

Like I said, I think personal expression, i.e. 'style' is more rewarding than following fashion, but I'm always one to champion what makes you happy- so if it makes you happy to follow fashion, then that's exactly what you should do. 

Either way, it's good to be clear on the difference. 

Happy Dressing!

Friday, October 3, 2014

A Fashionable Journey

"You can never be overdressed or overeducated."~ Oscar Wilde

I love looking at fashion shows online ( haute couture for the outrageous, fantastical creations, and the ready-to-wear which most of the time I think most people still find too 'outside the box.'  In the midst of my usual befuddlement at the latest shows, I realized I had the perfect topic for my blog. There's a great lesson in all that wonderful absurdity- it's a great example of how to translate your own aesthetic into a wardrobe you'll love. 

Your personal aesthetic is not a static thing- it evolves.  There'll be things you love for a while then don't anymore, and then decide years later that you love them again. There were most likely things you loved when younger that you cringe at the thought of now. There are fashions yet to come that you'll fall in love with. There are things you've probably loved all along and will continue to love your entire life. This is all just human nature. 

I like to be very inclusive with personal aesthetic- I want to include all the things you love, if possible. From the simpler, obvious things like specific colors, textures, design lines and fashion concepts to the more abstract- a place, an ideal, an object.  To me the job is to figure out how to translate what you love into some aspect of your image. Fashion designers like to play with literal or whimsical interpretations that often end up being great art, but essentially not wearable; you can go this route as much as you're comfortable with, or you can break down what you like about it and find a less literal and perhaps less outlandish way to express it. Take your seemingly too-abstract 'like,' figure out what the specific characteristics that you like about it are, then see if there isn't a 'visual' way to express that that would work within your wardrobe. Sometimes it may not lead to anything, sometimes it may lead you to something totally unexpected that you'll love. The interpretation may be so obscure that only you can see it, but you'll be reminded of the original concept every time you put it on.

Seeing as how personal aesthetic is always evolving, this interpretation is also subject to change over time, of course. Finding new ways to visually interpret your aesthetic for your wardrobe should something you can have fun with all your life. And why not? How many other things in life are we able to only consider our own preferences for?

Happy Dressing!