Fashion Versus Style

I’ve written before about the kind of blogger I am not*, and fashion blogger was definitely on that list. But, as I mentioned yesterday, I’m running low on content, and it feels like it’s time to abandon my preconceived notions about what this space should be. So here it is: a post about fashion.

I have a blind spot when it comes to fashion. I can tell you what looks good on other people, but I can’t put together appropriate outfits for myself. There are lots of reasons for this: I hang on to old clothes too long, reasoning that if it looked good on me five years ago, it must look good now; I have a penchant for bag lady and hippie clothing, like oversize pill-y sweaters and too-big jeans with holes in them; I value comfort over appearance,  and accordingly buy things a size too big; I like the nineties too much, and don’t believe you when you tell me that a pair of aging Dr. Martins and a concert t-shirt isn’t an acceptable “going out” look; and, most importantly, I have very little patience for things that I can’t figure out quickly.

In spite of all of this, if you were to catch me on any given day — walking the dog in the extra-large sweatpants I bought from a gift store on family vacation or coming home from work in a cheap gray suit and thrift-store orange and blue polyester button down — and ask me what I think of my outfit, I would tell you that I look damn good. It’s true. How else would I be able to leave the house wearing insanely ugly clothes? I know a lot of what I wear is terrible, but I like all of it. And, for what it’s worth, every once in a while, somebody else will validate me and tell me they like what I’m wearing (or at least some small piece of it) that day. If you were to ask me why I think I look so good, I would tell you that I may not be fashionable, but that my t-shirts and ratty shoes and retro work wear all suit my personal style.

Barbara Kingsolver nailed it when she parsed the difference between fashion and style in her essay, “Life Without Go-Go Boots.”

Now, there is fashion,and there is style. The latter, I’ve found will serve, and costs less. Style is mostly a matter of acting as if you know very well what you look like, thanks, and are just delighted about it.

She goes on to say that style also requires consistency, and gives the example of a friend who wore buckskin moccasins every day without fail, a different pair for daytime and night, and continued to wear them under clear plastic galoshes when she moved from the Arizona desert to the rain forest with a Tasmanian geologist.

Fashion and style often do not agree.  Fashion would tell me not to wear the baggy black and white synthetic fiber button down with the dizzying geometric pattern with combat boots and a pencil skirt to work. Style says that I can (and should!) wear it happily. Fashion would tell me that the rose-colored polyester blazer was marked down to $11 at The Gap for a reason, and that the fact that it’s a blazer does not mean I can pair it with a worn in floral western shirt and wear it to work. Style says the fact that it’s a sweet polyester blazer means I can wear it anywhere. Fashion would tell me that it’s time to throw away the eleven year old Chuck Taylors that are coming apart at the seams. Style says hang onto those babies for dear life.

I should note here that there are some items in my wardrobe on which style and fashion do agree: the 1940s snakeskin pumps with sky-high heels and pointy toes that I inherited from my grandma, my collection of quirky, clunky necklaces, and my classic-fit Levis jeans. Here’s why style trumps fashion, though. When pointy-toed heels are out (actually, that might already have happened) and the bloggers stop wearing “statement necklaces,” I can keep on wearing what I wear. And I will get away with it because, I know very well what I look like, thanks, and am just delighted about it.

As an aside, part of why I wasn’t happy at my old job was because I was afraid to dress like myself. There were too many people, there were too many big deal partners who grimaced at anything other than a dark suit, and the feeling that I could be fired for anything at any time was too strong. At my new job, I try to wear cowboy boots with my suit once a week, and not always on Friday. Consistency is key.

*My sister wrote a similar post once as well. Do you read my sister’s blog? It is very funny, and very well-written, and you should give it a go.

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1 Response to Fashion Versus Style

  1. Pingback: The Candyman | Bending the Rules

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