Sunday, June 19, 2011

Exploring Art, Attire and Personal Style: Continuations

I bought a book a while ago that really struck home with me on a personal level.  It's called Growing More Beautiful by Jennifer Robin.  I wrote a previous blog post about it that can be found here.  I want to continue to discuss the concepts in this book a bit, because I think Robin articulates an approach to "dressing fashionably" that should be shared.

I'm not a big fashion guru--I don't follow the trends and I don't pay much attention to what's "hot".  I'm very often on the backside of developing styles--once everyone has them I can finally see them as obvious, but only when enough people are wearing the same things or the same style for it to stand out to me...  You'd think I'd be more interested in things like that, working in clothing as I do.

Perhaps I've never really felt the need to be fashionable.  Even working at my university job, I dressed in t-shirts and jeans and hiking boots on most days, with dress shoes, black pants and a dress shirt on other days.  I've never really been in a situation where looking "fashionable" was necessary.  Well...  Maybe once...  I remember when I was guest teaching for a semester at a private fashion school, teaching theatrical patterning,  I was pulled aside by one of the full time faculty members and told I needed to dress more fashionably as an instructor.  I realized at that moment that I was never going to fit into the fashion world.  I was completely disenchanted and it shattered my understanding of what was important--the education or the packaging.  I finished the semester, and never looked back.

So when Ms. Robin wrote about looking at our attire through the eyes of an artist, it intrigued me.  The more I read, the more I realized that she was talking about dressing yourself in a way that transcends styles and fashion, that connects with an inner part of yourself that has nothing to do with commercialism or trends or peer pressure.  The ability to use color and clothing not as a tool of expression from the outside in but from the inside out was a revelation to me.

Now, remember, I'm a guy.  I haven't grown up thinking much about attire--it's not part of the "pre-programmed gender identification" that I'm supposed to emulate.  So thinking about clothing as an extension of my inner personality, and using it as a way of sharing something with the outside world...  Well, I started thinking that it was pretty similar to the contemporary perspective towards getting tattoos.  If you're smart, you don't get a tattoo for the rest of your life without it meaning something.  The reason may be whimsical, but it's still something felt from the inside out.  You can't change a tattoo like you can a pair of heels when the style has become passé.  You're sharing something with the world from the inside that is important to you, on the outside.

And this may be very old news to some of the ladies reading this blog.  You've got more experience perceiving clothing from this angle.  But I don't.  And it's led me to the next steps on the path--why isn't more of what we wear dictated by what we like on the inside rather than what the fashion industry tells us we should like?

Maybe we are indeed on the cusp of such a new fashion revolution.  The fashion industry has sort of swallowed it's own tail--after generating a culture of consumers that easily discard the old and purchase the new and a state of continually pursuing cheaper production costs.  It's also easy to see how potential purchasers have reached fashion fatigue and dissatisfaction.  The industry itself encouraged the cultural mindset of disposability.

And now suddenly an economic crisis has forced us to rethink our squandering ways, and embrace upcycling, the Do-It-Yourself movement, and frugality.  There is renewed charm in "not consuming" but instead "reusing items from the past" in different ways.  We see a huge growth in nostalgia-oriented crafts, assemblage and mixed media art, as well as the popularity of non-traditional materials to further conservation.  We also see a huge growth in the domestic sciences--a renewed interest in cooking and sewing--activities that don't require spending money to feel included but are instead a more personal endeavor.

We're seeing the "I made this myself" look become popular.  We're hearing it's better to make and share than it is to buy and give.  We're seeing people less afraid of wearing what they like, and not paying as much attention to buying what they're told they should like.  We're seeing people realizing outside appearance is often no more than a carefully manipulated package.  We hear people developing a real desire to find a way to look deeper than the manipulated "frame" presented by our politicians & celebrities, and desperately seeking verisimilitude.

Reading Robin's words was a lightening bolt to my soul.  Wow.  A justification for wearing what you want!  A way of looking at clothing outside of the corporate machine!  A methodology to defining your own style!

It gives me heart.  Now, on to encouraging people to be brave and embracing the outward expression of their authenticity!  It's okay to dress dramatic, sophisticated, informal, streamlined, crazy, elegant, refined, free-flowing, structured, traditional, ethnic, striking, crisp, sexy, earthy, nonchalant, tailored, inventive, conservative, sensuous, rugged, distinctive, unique....  It's needed now.

And life's too short not to.

Live Life with Relish!

All images from Double2M via Flickr.  Creative Commons License.


  1. Hey Corey, it's so interesting that you wrote about this as I am struggling to find a place in my head about the kids here in town, sorry to say our term for them has become "street freaks". They seem to be a mixture of very young, mostly homeless type groups hanging in the park and trying for shock value, nothing pretty about it, but needing so much to stand out in some way. Being very good and true hippies of our time we understand about wanting to be different but this just feels so sad and troubling.
    I will be interested in reading others thoughts on how we dress and adorn ourselves, thanks for the conversation.

  2. Susan, I had a comment all worked up, and then I started thinking about it more and I just have to make it a blog post... It was too much.

    But I hear you. It is indeed sad and troubling, and I'm not sure it's entirely their choice...

    I have to process this in my brain some more...

    : )


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