Tuesday, November 15, 2011

In tepid defense of "fashion"

-Hello from the great outside world, namely the closest big city by train, where I ran errands and ate a burrito as per usual, and am biding some time before more NYU, again, just to shake things up. I also bought a neon-yellow t-shirt at American Apparel, to partially satisfy an unmeetable wanty (Kei, your term remains useful as ever), and was reminded that clothes-shopping is not so great actually. Fine, maybe it's especially not-great at the establishment I chose (chosen on the basis of, where else sells t-shirts in fluorescent shades?), which requires an ID for the credit-card purchase of a t-shirt, and where there are gratuitous pictures of butts on the wall.

But even under the best of circumstances, blech. The dressing room, the taking off and putting on and taking off and putting on of layers, does anyone enjoy this? If I "like shopping," it's that I like walking around a busy area, and those tend to be commercial areas, and I do enjoy some window-shopping, occasionally walking quickly through a store, etc. Actually shopping for clothes, with intent to purchase, is tedious. And there's not much point in doing so in person, now that there are no stores unique to specific locales, and everything can be purchased (and returned) online. I will remind myself of this the next time I express anything less than full enthusiasm for living in the woods.

-Refinery29 does its fashiony best and pleads with college women to stop the North Face, Uggs, and (evidently - what happened to Vera Bradley and HervĂ© Chapelier?) Longchamp combo. Fine. But this! "A college wardrobe must be classic — funds are limited, so long-lasting pieces reign supreme for a smart shopper."

One bit of that statement only - the "funds are limited" one - I agree with. But if you're not going to experiment with dress (or, wear weird stuff) in college, when else? You're not going to an office, your choices can't be (as easily) vetoed by your parents, and you're more likely to still be the build that wacky clothes are designed for. You can dye your hair and paint your nails however you'd like. You couldn't before, and soon, you once again won't be able to. You may or may not one day have a job in the corporate law environment whose strict dress code PG sometimes pops in to describe, but you probably will have responsibilities - to a family, to a demanding poodle - and fun trips to H&M will stop being such a central part of your existence.

And whatever you may think, however fast your metabolism, you will be fatter when you're older than you were at 19, so remember especially to steer clear of any "investment pieces" with a waistband.

-Hadley Freeman of Ask Hadley fame responds to a man who wants to know, no offense or anything, what the point of fashion is. And here, readers, we have an example of a cousin of the Mansplanation. Dude does not want Freeman to explain fashion to him. He is telling her, in the form of a question, that he thinks it's dumb to care about fashion. Nothing she can possibly come up with will convince him otherwise.

Freeman's response is the classic and WWPD-approved sports comparison. Scrapped of nuance, said argument goes: men, you like this dull thing called "sports," so you have no place telling us that we're silly for finding shoes compelling. I've tried this, to limited success. Because one aspect of fashion - a rather large aspect of it, if we're using "fashion" to mean "high fashion" and not using the term to also encompass "style," "street fashion," and "self-expression-through-dress," as colloquially everyone does - involves the rich and thin showing off for one another and being judgey, "fashion" gets a bad reputation. Think - again, regular readers - of how Quinn on "Daria" is part of the "Fashion Club," which isn't about avant-garde Antwerp designers or creative arrangement of thrift-store finds so much as being a small dress size at the snootiest store at the mall. Think Anna Wintour. Someone with no body fat and a limitless bank account is laughing at you behind your back. To care about clothes beyond neatness and appropriateness is to sympathize with the bullies. Meanwhile, "fashion" is as hated as it is largely because it's a world/concern associated with the feminine, with women and gay men. Hmm.


kei said...

I went to AA today as well! But to satisfy a Groupon. I also had the feeling of "ooh, shopping!" which started to wane almost immediately as I entered the store. We didn't have butts on the walls, or perhaps I didn't notice them. But I did wonder if there was an employee dress code--not only do you have to wear AA, you have to wear it in a particular anti-flattering, 2005-"ironic," ugly manner. Hair is subject to rules, too, it seems, and possibly body odor. While everyone was nice and things worked out, it wasn't terribly exciting to notice _after_ the transaction that the sweater I bought was listed one price but marked up $8 more. Also, it's just funny that they have resorted to Grouponing to make people come back to their stores. I hadn't been in a long time.

The original "wanty" system has totally failed, but yes, I use it all the time too. Or more specifically, it is used against me--"Why are you so wanty these days?" I think I just express wantiness in different dosages, and it's expressed to a greater degree as the holidays approach...

Phoebe said...


This is a store I used to go to plenty, but because I had, for complicated reasons the people at the store found extra baffling, an official discount there. But the neon wanty left me with no other option. I'd never tried Groupon, so maybe this wanty didn't need to cost $25. Hmm.

Whatever the case, the store was near-empty. One preppy-looking girl (well, late teens) walked in with her mother, looked at a neon shirt I was holding and said, "That's cute!" Then I heard the mother, a bit later, tell the daughter that maybe it was time to go to another store, one that "isn't also in Chicago." Could well be this store won't be in NY or Chicago for long.

Wantiness definitely comes and goes. When I first got Bisou and first moved to the woods, I was struck by how pointless it would be for me to wear anything other than take-puppy-out-in-muck clothes. Sweatshirts I hadn't thought about in years suddenly reappeared.

And maybe I was somehow influenced by the fact that I'm surrounded by math-and-science sorts, who, though to their credit are not "too brilliant to bathe," probably don't have strong opinions either way on tights-under-shorts or making neon shades "pop."

But then it started to seem kind of dreary to have utterly scrapped an interest in clothes, just because I'm not residing... not only not in a fashion capital, but not in a place where, in the course of the day, I necessarily see more than one or two other people, even from a distance. So I get inspiration from style and street fashion blog, not people walking down the street.

Or from memories of wanties past - that's how I ended up with my other momentous purchase of the semester, the gold-rimmed aviator sunglasses that were well out of my usual <$20 budget for that item. I'd been admiring these on chic women in a variety of locales for some time. (A third might have been a rounded-collar but not quite Peter Pan collar white dress shirt from Uniqlo, but they were out of my size, and I wasn't entirely sold on the idea regardless. Too Alexa Chung a few years ago? Or is there nothing wrong with using Alexa Chung a few years ago as inspiration today?)

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