Sunday, July 10, 2011

Glossiest post ever

-I'm kind of fascinated by Into The Gloss, a site about how fashion-types (behind-the-scenes, not models, although the two categories have increasingly merged with the "street-style" blogs that claim to be about "real women" but actually cover the fashion-editor beat, the only difference being that the editors can be a bit older and a bit shorter than the models) choose their beauty products. "Choose" being the key word, because no one profiled has to do anything so crass as buy expensive creams and lotions. They get sent samples because they are just that fabulous. Part of me just straightforwardly likes the site, for its pink-hair and ombré inspiration, and for its unapologetic devotion to getting dolled up for the fun of it. (Nobody's sending me beauty products, even though Technorati recently claimed WWPD's more popular than friggin' Sea of Shoes, but DIY ombré is well within the grad-student budget.) The other, more sensible part of me wonders what, precisely, would happen to the skin of all these women if, instead of using 50 different products that can only be bought at Danish pharmacies or whatever, they switched to, say, Irish Spring, then if any genuine dermatological problem arose, got the relevant strong stuff from a genuine dermatologist. My guess is, nothing at all.

-Speaking of Western European pharmacy beauty products, how did Gwyneth Paltrow become Enemy #1 for the YPIS set? Yes, she's clearly benefitted from nepotism, but she's not, like, Peaches Geldof, or one of the many minor British royals who, though unfortunate-looking, are young and female and thus treated in the (tabloid British) press as romantic leads. Paltrow has both (from what I understand) gone above and beyond her parents in terms of entertainment-industry success, and has built herself as a brand. Not that we need to be congratulating her for these not exactly world-saving achievements, but how did she come to represent idle-heiress-dom? I mean, yes, she comes across as clueless, but she must have some clue about how non-fahbulous even well-off normal people's lives are, or she wouldn't be so committed to making her own more fabulous still.

-No.

13 comments:

Britta said...

I don't get the GP hate either. I mean, she may not be a peace corps volunteer or the best actress ever, but she seems like a decent enough human being. I looked at goop for the first time, and while it might not be the most self-aware thing around, I actually thought it was kind of endearing that GP takes the time to review restaurants and products and give helpful tips for people in a faux chatty style. She also mentions actually buying her expensive face creams, so that puts her ahead of the gloss blog and sea of shoes. (I mean, I find most fashion blogs more irritating than GP's attempt to be Martha Stewart. I find Pioneer Women mor irritating too.) She also recently has pushed her boundaries acting doing country music stuff (and apparently gaining *gasp* weight), which seems like she has a commitment to acting/interests other than her looks. In short, no, it's not social justice, but then neither are most blogs written by wealthy people/celebrities, and they're not judged like this.

I think people hate her because of her looks. Not merely in the "people hate me because I'm beautiful" sort of way, but because her beauty of the icy patrician sort in a way that makes people feel judged (whether or not that's true), and they in return project dislike back onto her. I think there's a similar thing with January Jones. I've read in tabloids that other celebrities think she's a jerk, but reading specific anecdotes, it seems more like male celebrities whining that the hot girl doesn't want to humor their I'm sure fascinating selves. It actually made me more sympathetic to JJ than before I heard she was bitchy.

Britta said...

Oh yeah. I just wanted to expand my rant re. Sea of Shoes :) I think that blog is far more irritating than any blog by an adult woman who parlayed her privilege into a long term successful career acting career and then took up blogging. I mean, any teenager who isn't an Olsen twin with that kind of access to designer wear is clearly spending her parents' money. My puritanical streak feels like 1) no matter how wealthy, kids (even teens) shouldn't have access to that kind of luxury, and 2) how narcissistic is it to have a blog that is just dozens and dozens of photos of you in expensive clothing? At least GP's blog isn't full of glamor shots of her. Couldn't she write about fashion in a way where EVERY post isn't about her own fah-bulous life? Looking at her blog, I don't see what I could glean from her outfits/posts, because nothing is generalizable since most of her stuff is vintage designer wear, and I have no idea to what extent she follows fashion trends. (At least GP has "spring trends" or "tips for storing winter clothes" that I could find useful.) 3) Maybe this is unfair, but why aren't her parents teaching her more social responsibility? With that sort of money, she could start a scholarship to fashion school, or promote sustainability in fashion or something bigger than just liking nice clothes and makeup and liking one's lithe teenage body to show them off.

Miss Self-Important said...

Not that I would necessarily endorse a turn in this direction, but the blogger at What Would A Nerd Wear is a real grad student on a reasonable budget with reasonable tastes who gets free clothing and accessories via sponsorship. You could try that route with only a minor blog name change...

Britta said...

MSI,
That's a great blog :)

Phoebe said...

Britta,

I believe I remember reading about Sea of Shoes and mom being involved in some kind of charitable endeavor(s). How much that cancels out the zillion dollars worth of designer shoe (and clothing) purchases they make in a week, who knows. However delightful and charitable the young woman may be, I agree that the site's kind of ridiculous, both because, as you say, who's spending that much money on a teenager's clothes, and because even if a grown woman who made her own money were running the thing, it's all very predictable: OMG the latest season of designer shoes are all so beautiful! Eh. Not interesting.

MSI,

Yeah, a minor name change, and a very different approach to the relationship the blog has to my physical appearance/person. (I'm fine with readers knowing what I look like, but don't want that to be the site's primary content.) As much as I wish the Cambridge Satchel Company would send me a neon "batchel," (and yes, if you're reading, I like the neon yellow, and I promise to promote it to my blog's three readers) it's not going to happen.

Slightly off topic:

MSI (and Britta),

I found WWANW via yours, and while I love the idea, the result is... a very respectable-looking, photogenic young woman in sensibly-arranged clothing from easily-accessible and moderately-affordable (not going to call J.Crew affordable after the hate-filled thread elsewhere that ensued when I did once before!) stores. I'm all in favor of finding creative ways to arrange stuff from the Gap and so forth, but the site seems more like a guide to dressing appropriately and looking nice but not distracting than it does like a fashion/personal style blog. It's refreshing to see affordable and wearable suggestions, but without a little risk-taking, it's not the kind of site I'd necessarily look to for inspiration. The great thing fashion-wise about grad school is that except for when you're teaching, or even then, you can pretty much wear whatever, and effort of most any kind, eccentric all the better, will be appreciated. (Sweats, no, but dandy flâneur with a twist of gender-bending punk, why not?) You can go the belted-cardigan route, but it's not necessary. So, while the budgetary-constraints bit makes sense, the appropriate-looking one less so. Of course, as I'm writing this, it's occurring to me that NYU's not all that representative. It's also occurring to me that the grad students I'd see in Classics Café at UChicago were often very interestingly-dressed, and this was not because Hyde Park was conducive to that, so who knows.

Britta said...

Yeah, I feel like a major perk of academia is we're supposed to look a little eccentric, so it's not all black blazers for us. I wonder though if there's a bit about being a young female grad student and feeling pressure to dress more "professional." I have a male friend who exudes alpha male authority, and he TAs in faded plaid shirts and old jeans. With the age/tenure thing, I have had professors who wear hot pink leather pants and chandelier earrings, and it definitely added to their academic reputation. Do you find students notice what you wear? I worried about it more until I realized at U of C the kids are giant nerds who crave your approval so respect (or at least not open insubordination) seems pretty much automatic.

Phoebe said...

Britta,

I'm about to enter my sixth and (knocks on head) last year of grad school, and will have taught for half the years total plus one summer. And at that, not full school-days or anything, not every day of the week. So dressing to teach... is something I thought about primarily the first week or so of teaching, when I was 24 and my students were, what, 22? In French, there's kind of an ambient pressure to make an effort, look "Parisian," etc., or not even pressure so much as a preexisting desire to do so, so the danger of any of us going in in undergrad-during-exam-week style was slight. At NYU, meanwhile, giant nerds are maybe not overrepresented, but the fashion-obsessed are, which means that especially in French, students who fixate (in a not-at-all creepy way) on T.A.s style are not uncommon.

Miss Self-Important said...

Wait, so my goal ought to be to look distracting and insane b/c I'm in grad school? I don't see how this follows. And how is distracting and eccentric stylish, while nice and put-together is, I guess, not?

Phoebe said...

MSI,

"And how is distracting and eccentric stylish, while nice and put-together is, I guess, not?"

I don't think you're the target audience of fashion/style blogs. The one you link to is more of an advice blog about professional (well, pre-professional) dress, and as such is closer to an etiquette blog than one urging readers to get excited about clothes. For what it is, the site looks excellent. It could well have a section on how to email a professor without agonizing for a week beforehand. (That would, I suspect, triple its audience among grad students.)

But anyway, there's not some kind of wall between "distracting and eccentric" on the one hand, "nice and put-together" on the other. People in French, at least, often go for all four. By "distracting" I mean non-bland-looking, not hot-pants. By "eccentric" I'm thinking of, say, a classmate of mine (male, obvs) with a curled moustache, not coming to class with ten plastic bags filled with everything you've ever printed out on the seminar topic. What I mean is that I can look at a street-style blog for work-week inspiration, while a lawyer can't, the only real restriction on using such forums for inspiration being the price of the clothes. If I decide neon nail polish would brighten up an otherwise grayscale outfit, I can go that route. It's not about dressing like a lunatic, but about using your own discretion re: what's reasonable, not adhering to a strict dress code.

PG said...

Nice and put-together can be stylish -- one of my law school classmates runs a group style blog and she frequently includes clothing that would be acceptable at her workplace (which is less formal than mine was) -- but it intrinsically reduces the range of possible variations.

For example, if your workplace expects that you will always be ready to meet with the most conservative client, then your style cannot be expressed in anything too noticeably unusual. Your jacket and skirt/pants must be in muted colors and standard lengths. Your hair must be of a coloring found in nature (no ombre) and of a length that conservatives deem appropriate for your gender (no buzz cuts for women; no ponytails for men). No gender-bending in other respects, either (e.g. a woman wearing a tux to a formal event). Your jewelry cannot make any noise when you move.

My mentor was stylish by those standards; she'd even been featured in Oprah's magazine. But she'd never catch the eye of any street-style photographer because she wasn't dressing to catch a stranger's eye. You'd only realize she was stylish when she was standing next to someone in a totally bog-standard Ann Taylor suit with a string of pearls, pearl studs, plain black pumps and only a wedding band and diamond engagement ring on her hands.

Phoebe could probably express a little of her personal style within these constraints, but she'd certainly feel them as limiting.

Miss Self-Important said...

I don't have any particularly vehement views on this question. I like Tania's style (and I think it is style, even if it's uncontroversial) and it has given me some ideas. Most notably, it has helped me over my fear of high-waisted skirts by offering many photos of such skirts in action, and urged me towards the more regular wearing of heels. I don't think TAs in my field are expected to look scandalous or even neon, so that isn't really my issue (although I don't really see what's eccentric about neon nail polish--neon body suits a la American Apparel, maybe).

I guess I don't understand your position vis a vis high fashion. You used to blog a lot about how people ought to apply minimal effort to look (and, uh, smell) good (shower, shave, apply makeup), and I was onboard with that. Then Tavi entered the scene and you seemed to be in favor of doing what she does, with the caveat that most of us don't look half as gorgeous as she does to begin with, and the layers of grandma sweaters would only make us look worse (plus we don't get free couture samples). So what is left to us dull, lumpy people willing to put in a little effort? Constraints (like PG's professional or general social expectations) seem to create a useful boundary against which to put together things that simply, objectively look good on us--which is to say, pleasing to both men and women. Being free to wear a tutu with a neon leopard-print bodysuit and a headband with cat ears is not so useful in that regard.

Phoebe said...

PG,

While I'm sure your mentor looked great, it was precisely this discussion of what lawyers must wear that I was alluding to when I was pointing out that there's a point at which a discussion of fashion-and-style slips over into one of professional etiquette. Unless someone is paying me a corporate salary to care about such matters, I'm not going to read a blog about how to bring a subtle hint of chic to a corporate wardrobe. Along the same lines, because I am a grad student, I can see how a blog like WWANW would be helpful for a T.A. looking for inspiration. But not really creative inspiration, not really fun inspiration, more like, what could I buy next at the Gap that makes me feel good-enough about my body and will be appropriate for my work.

MSI,

"You used to blog a lot about how people ought to apply minimal effort to look (and, uh, smell) good (shower, shave, apply makeup), and I was onboard with that. Then Tavi entered the scene and you seemed to be in favor of doing what she does"

That's not at all a trajectory I remember my own blog having. I've always said that men should care more about their looks than they do currently, and women less. Still think so. I've also, since long before having this blog, been complaining about the notion that if a woman's to be taken seriously intellectually, she's not allowed to be interested in self-presentation.

As for being in favor of "Being free to wear a tutu with a neon leopard-print bodysuit and a headband with cat ears", I think you've just done with my argument a bit what you did re: Savage on monogamy - just because I didn't outline a strict set of rules of dress, or point readers to an existing one, doesn't mean I think anything goes in all situations. There's quite a bit of room to work with between the bodysuit and looking fresh-faced and conventional in sensibly-arranged clothes from the Gap and J. Crew.

What I am in favor of is, if you're a person interested in this in the first place, expressing yourself through self-presentation within the bounds of whichever milieu/situation you're in, and not being made to feel like this is mutually exclusive with being a serious person otherwise. Maybe you're not especially interested in this, which is fine. I don't see where you got the idea that I was saying that the point of grad school is wearing neon nail polish, that this would be in any way expected of grad students. It's a perk, for those of us who want to do such things, that, unlike law, grad school allows this.

Phoebe said...

Oh, and having established that I don't think grad students are or should be penalized for not caring about clothes beyond appropriateness...

This should give some idea of what I mean by self-expression-through-dress - one form it can take - as well as some idea of what it doesn't have to mean. Note that none of the looks I mention need involve too tight/too short, no leopard-print cat-suits, no frame-hiding grandma-layers, no beyond-J.Crew-level expenditures, and most well below that. (Some specific items I mention are NY-specific, but we live where we live, and, esp. in the age of online shopping equivalents could be found elsewhere. The green plaid fleece, for example is from Uniqlo, but I'm sure that if one's willing to spend a bit more than the $20 that likely cost, a green plaid fleece could be located just about anywhere.) The silver lamé leggings (that still lie in a closet near-unworn) aside, most everything I mention would be just fine for 99% of what a grad student does, adjusting according to library vs. class vs. teaching vs. conference.

It's just... a different approach to dress than simply shooting for nice and appropriate. There's - to repeat myself - nothing wrong with shooting for nice and appropriate, but that's not what I, personally, look for in style-writing.