Thursday, November 22, 2007

Fashion and Looking Good. (Or The Post In Which I Do A Quick 180.)

Jessica Simpson--Looking good or being a fashionista? Image from Instyle.

My last few posts have raised some interesting issues between "fashion" and "dressing well." Are they synonymous? Can we break them apart and still feel like we're in the game? Or, must we drop out and resign ourselves to "doing the best we can" and never being "one of those." OK, sorry, there's enough vagueness there to remind Wende of the fog in her beloved San Fransisco.

Wende wrote:

Once you've been told that you "need" a handbag that costs more than your mortgage payment... do you get excited and go shopping? Or do you sigh, figure "fashion" is out of reach in your life, and go back to schlepping the same old bag? (Or do you figure the whole fashion game is silly and continue to buy basic black on sale?)

First, I think the author is writing to folks who really, really care about being "fashionable." That is, I think the author assumes you want people to look at your handbag and make a favourable judgment about your fashion know-how, your appreciation for quality, your "hipness." You want folks to look at you and say: "She knows what she's about." And, most of her audience probably wouldn't be caught dead outside the gym in a jogging suit, no matter where it was from.

Her book (and web site) seem to be a great resource for doing so without breaking the bank. So, in her defense, I'll say that she tries to send the message that "fashion" is not out of our reach.

That being said, however, I have had both reactions after writing the previous post. (1) Fashion is most certainly out of reach--and (2) It's very silly of me to even want to "aspire" to look as put together as Ms. Simpson. It's utterly hopeless.

Instead of Ms. Simpson (whoever she is, I see a woman in scuffed, dusty black boots, down at the heel. Her coat is big and sits on her hips making her look like a michelin man, even though it isn't puffy. There's a hole right by the left breast with burned edges. The lining of her pocket trails after her dirty knit gloves when she takes them out to put them on. The fingertips are beginning to fray and wear away. And at the end of them dangles that beautiful black Hermes bag. What do you think? Would the bag distract you from this deplorable shabbiness? Probably not. Not even the bright pink scarf up near the face is going to save it. (This is the 180.)

Once again, Wende, I think you are right.

Most women's money would be better spent replacing the jogging suit with casual pants and a casual top in a Joyous Color. If people are focused on your face and thinking that you're looking healthy and happy, they're NOT pricing your handbag.

Or--shall we say, rather, a decent coat in good repair, boots cleaned and polished and a pair of gloves that actually warm the hands. --And what about the bag?

As I was posting the totes below, the husband nearly choked when he saw the prices. I defended them, saying, "Well, that one is a Hermes. If my grandmother had bought one, I'd still be able to carry it today. The leather would not fray. The stitching would never come out. The buckles and straps would stay on forever. And it would still look good."

When I went and told him about the great patterns Zooza found for me for making my own bag, he asked me, "Will your granddaughter be able to use it? Will the stitching never come out? Will the straps stay on forever?"

Given that I'd be sewing it, the answer to all of the above would be, um, no. It's different thing altogether--something I can change on a whim. Given I like variety and have a low tolerence for boredom, this could be a good thing. (Given that I'm inherently lazy and don't like sewing much it may not be a good thing.)

The point is--be a fashionista if that rocks your boat. Look for bargains, do it well. I have no problem with that at all. Me--I want to look good. And Wende's right. I don't need to believe that becoming a fashionista is the only way to accomplish that goal.

But I do need to polish my boots.


smallcitybeth said...

Good thinking! I like, and appreciate, the way you've reasoned this all out. I will never be a fashionista, nor do I aspire to be -- but I do want to look my best on a very limited budget. I think what we're doing in Wardrobe Therapy will help us do that. (Let me change that. I *know* that what we're doing in WT will help us do that.)

Alana in Canada said...

But oh it is so easy to get sidetracked! All the "advice" out there is so overwrought. I am very grateful we have each other (including everyone's fabulous purses!) and Wende's good sense to guide us.

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