The Point of Fashion, According to Me

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January 23, 2013 by Julia

As I write this, I’m sitting in an oversized navy blue fleece from Old Navy, with jeans and white socks. Not even cutesy patterned socks. It’s freaking cold outside! I don’t care about what I look like today. I went grocery shopping with an antsy toddler who either ate half the products in the shopping cart or threw them on the floor before we made it to checkout – that’s it.

But this is not going to be a tirade against fashion. Because some days I do care about what I look like, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

It’s easy to dismiss the fashion world as superficial and trendy and a waste of time and money. (No offense, fashion world!) And I do think that the fashion culture often emphasizes the importance of one’s appearance over one’s actual self. Not cool. Not cool at all. The pointlessness of it offends me.

But once I get over my own holier-than-thou self, I have to admit there is more to fashion than sheer vanity. It might have been the first season of Project Runway that convinced me. Serious innovation went into those designs; the contestants were passionate and inspired and exhausted by the work. The work was no joke. The clothing had meaning, but it to also had to move and flatter the human body. Art and identity and necessity had to diverge…much in the same way good architecture has to provide us with shelter and security and beauty. It is part of our nature to make the things we need both practical and lovely to look at – take the pottery of the Greeks or Aegeans, with the graceful curves of their lines. The Alexander McQueen show at the Met in NYC in 2011 was mind-blowing. Good design makes the world a better place. Fashion is no exception to this rule.

So, I respect fashion designers. But what is the point of fashion to me, personally? It’s mostly about self-expression. I want my outside to match my inside. I want to look attractive, but more importantly, I want to feel like myself. Certain things appeal to me – patterns, jewel tones, scarves, t-shirts and jeans – and if I find that something reflects my taste and makes me feel comfortable in my own skin, I want to wear it, whether it’s trendy or not. I want people to know that what they see is what they get. What is the point of false advertising? If we’re going to achieve intimacy in our relationships, romantic or friendly, our natural appearance is going to come out eventually – so why not put it forward, in the best light?

That whole “in the best light” part is tricky.  Some days, we have more important things to worry about than how we look, and obviously – appearance does not matter on those days. And then some days are special (wedding day) and you really, truly want to make every effort to look as beautiful as possible. But on regular days – which would in my case involve meeting up for a playdate somewhere like the mall or library, and then spending the rest of the day at home – if I can find a way to hone my tastes down to a scarf or cool piece of jewelry, I am going to feel good. There is a happy medium between trying too hard and not trying at all, and that is what I aim for on regular days. It’s like, I may not have had time to blow-dry my hair, but I do own this shirt that has a really cool embellishment and it’s my favorite color (green). The part of me that likes beauty lives on, despite my status as a stay-at-home mom of two young kids. Also, I have a bad-ass tiny heart tattoo on my left shoulder. Don’t know if I mentioned that yet.

In summary: if we make an effort to figure out who we are, and how that might be expressed either beautifully or interestingly through our (and also appropriate to the environment {so annoying how every statement requires disclaimers!}) clothing, then I think we are realizing the point of fashion. Trends are harmless (except in the case of scrunching up our layered socks over the hems of our jeans in the late 80s/early 90s), but just so you know, if you are perfectly on-trend in every way, I am going to assume you have no idea who you are. So you might want to get on that.

Just kidding. I’ll still be your friend! I’ll be anyone’s friend, though, really. Hmm, maybe I need to get a t-shirt with that statement on it.


That’s Jack in my belly, in 2011. And yes, I feel that paisley on a huge belly reflects who I am as a person.

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