So I'm watching TV (dangerous, yes...) and I stumble upon this rerun episode of TLC's What Not to Wear that I haven't seen before. Things were said, changes were made, transformations happened and ultimately I was glued to the screen wasting an entire hour of my day.
So midway through, I realized: No, this wasn't a waste. This episode was actually bringing up many topics and issues about Fashion (with a capital "F") that I've struggled with for a long, long time. And I thought I might blog about it, too, because I think there are others out there that feel the same way I do.
The episode featured Courtney, a 22-year-old woman who is a self-described geek. She wears a lot of black, has a bunch of witty message t-shirts referring to geekdom, does a lot of gaming and practices sword fighting on the weekends.
She's also an investment banker.
There were a couple things Courtney said that really hit me.
"I don't want my clothes to lie about who I am." Wow. This cut right to the core of my quandary with Fashion, and elucidated my whole discomfort with the Fashion industry in general... Where does one draw the line between displaying one's own personality and feeling like one is artificially projecting a fake personality?
Courtney also said, "I'm scared of coming out of this process being something that I'm not." Well, I guess that's the point of the show, isn't it? One gets nominated to do it so one won't appear the way they are currently... There's something wrong with how they look in the first place, so one goes through the experience of the show to change how they appear. It is indeed about change.
But her comment also speaks volumes regarding perspective. Is she sophisticated chic when she's all done with the process, or is she simply glammed up?
In a nutshell--is it worth changing one stereotype for another? To one group of people, Courtney was a "black-attired geek", but did she simply trade that in for what she felt was a "blonde ditz"? What makes one stereotype more socially acceptable than another?
The hosts of the show, Stacy and Clinton, are as charming as ever, but do they realize that how they transform their guest's wardrobe is perceived by some to be as much of a stereotype style of dressing as what they're trying to discourage? "Young Urban Professional" is a style tribe just like "Sword-Wielding Black T-Shirted Geek".
Some Things To Ponder
1) Why is it appropriate to not share your personal interests in your professional life? Why is there a disparity between levels of privacy? (And is that changing as younger generations embrace less and less privacy in their lives as acceptable--especially online?)
2) Does fashion reveal who you are or present who you want to appear to be? Is there a line between the two, and where is it?
3) Who does fashion help? Is it supposed to? What do we perceive as the function of fashion?
4) How do all the former Punks, Goths, and Geeks of yesteryear perceive fashion and it's function today now that they're older? When does one put aside what could be considered youthful expression for a more apparently adult appearance? Who does this make comfortable?
5) In our world of DIY and Upcycled clothing, how much does personal expression trump fashion-appropriateness?
6) How does one draw the line between "being one's self" and "being situationally appropriate"? Is the line between the two blurring as our culture moves forward?
7) Is personal expression becoming more important than the comfort of others? Do we need to wear something to make others feel better? When is this necessary? How do we feel when we see someone dressing to make themselves feel comfortable instead of us? Does that change our feelings about them?
My brain hurt after this episode, and it throbs a bit after writing this... I need to go make something. Haha! Ah, the perfect antidote to thinking is feeling: be creative and expressively emote by making something! : )
Live Life with Relish!
Photo by thepresidentwearsprada. Creative Commons License.
S'pore women have often been "accused" of being not stylish or not dressing up enough when we go out. Generally I dress for comfort because it's sooo hot. But I go for little details that make me happy. I won't wear clothes that make me look hipper than I am because it's unnecessary pressure. Thanks for the food for thought. Now my brain is bursting so I have to go make a bag.ReplyDelete
Whee! We use the same medicine! LOL! Nothing like creating something to really make you focus and forget everything else! : )ReplyDelete
I'm with you--I can't pull of the "hip" look either because it's just not me. I might as well be wearing a Saville Row 3-piece suit... It would like like I'm faking it--I'd be pretending to be something I'm not. In the end, I'd look displaced. : )
I think your idea about little details is a good idea. That's a great place to start!
I like this post because it is soemthing i struggle with myself. When I was in High School I was a hippy-sh Zeppelin/Doors-type chick and I was comfortable in my gauze blouses, levi's and feathered earrings, but when I went to college somehow I became preppy to "fit in" and then by the time I entered the corporate world I had completely lost my own sense of style. But what IS that? I still ask myself now. I am an artist, but no longer look like one to even myself. I have lost my sense of self expression thru fashion. Only my artwork tells who I am.ReplyDelete
Diane, I think that everyday more and more people are starting to wear what they like. I think "capital F" Fashion will always be there as a presence in our lives, but I think how we let it influence us will really start to change. No longer is any one look so "cool" we all have to have it--there are too many out there! I feel the younger generation is more apt to simply wear what they like, because they can find more and more evidence online of people who think and dress just like them--which decreases the effect of peer pressure to "conform" a bit...ReplyDelete
Our professional lives will always have an appropriate dress code, but I think that's even changing as this younger generation gets older. I think we are seeing more of a "Suits aren't necessary to do office work" comfort, and the only morale that's affected by not wearing them are those older guys who don't know what to do with their ability to be expressive and practical at the same time!
You'll discover your artistic attire again (have faith!), and you'll figure out ways to be yourself while not being a spectacle (unless that's what you want...) Give it time. Start small (hey, this is a perfect excuse for a new set of shoes and handbag!) and go from there! But have fun most of all. Life's too short to waste on making fuddy-duddies comfortable. Be you, and relish it! LOL! (ok, that was a bit cheesy, I admit... LOL!)