Sunday, June 30, 2013

Fashion: The Huh? and the Predators and the Reality TV

My mother more than once said that it was a bad idea to enjoy food too much. Because we won't get to eat after we die. Because she read that someone who communicated with the dead through automatic writing was told (by the dead) that one of the reasons that Heaven was so great was because they (the dead) didn't have to cook.


What the...


Now, there are a lot of "Huh?" levels in that, so many that it's hard to pick one. There are plenty of people who won't stumble over the belief in Heaven, though I have my agnostic doubts. I suspect that a lot of those people would, however, have trouble with the automatic writing. And then there's the idea that a God that can create Heaven and Earth can't create food without having to employ cooks. That, of course, ignores the whole side issue of people who take joy in not just the eating but the cooking, and for whom a Heaven without butter and garlic and saucepans and a good nimble gas burner would be Hell...

I'm ignoring all that.

The part that I'm addressing is the idea that we should refrain from experiencing joy because we might lose it. That, I fear, is an area where my mother's genes sometimes show themselves in my thoughts. When I make fun plans, there's always a part of my mind telling me to wait. Wait until it's safe. Wait until that "Hmm...probably nothing, but go in for this test just in case," from my doctor has been resolved. Wait until I don't blow that work deadline. Wait until I've survived the layoffs. Wait until I have a guarantee of safety and stability. Wait wait wait.

Ignoring the foolishness of panicking at every tiny threat, and the fact that there's never such a guarantee, isn't the fact of an unsafe world a good reason to snatch at good times and enjoy them right this minute? But that's not the logic that my brain instinctively goes with. My brain, of all things, seems to fear that if I have fun today, and then the world falls apart tomorrow, I'll feel...stupid.

What the what?

All that leads into the fact that I've been watching What Not To Wear.

Yeah, you didn't see that coming, did you? See, for the first time I've been seeing clothes and their companions (like vintage rhinestone jewelry, say) as a possible source of joy. And even as I buy a silk blouse here and an above-the-knee denim skirt there, I still find myself feeling the threat of...feeling stupid.

What Not To Wear--the American version, not the British one that, by the way, got a lovely brief little parody on Dr. Who, with Captain Jack's clothed state being threatened (Have you seen Captain Jack? Even clothed?)...

...Where was I? Did I mention Captain Jack?

Ah, yes--What Not To Wear, despite its sometimes-over-the-top mockery of the participant's original wardrobe, despite my doubts about reality television, seems to be doing a fine job of unpacking and sifting my own thoughts about clothes and fashion and self-presentation. And touching on that whole fear of joy. When the sociology graduate talked about clothing as being misleading and false, my head said, "It's communication. Aren't you supposed to care about communication?" When the rounder people talked about losing those last ten or twenty or fifty pounds before they started thinking about their clothes, my head says, "Is there a law that you can't be happy in your clothes right now?" And the women who are afraid to look like they're trying--that, yes, I really understand.

In junior high and high school I saw fashion as a competition to find out who could most slavishly and expensively copy the style of the instant. It was what the mean girls did in those lazy sunlit moments stretching on the savannah as they picked their teeth and bonded after eating the unpopular.

But now, well... I begin to see that style doesn't have to be a predatory act. Some of that realization comes from the beauty bloggers. A lot of you don't just write about perfume, and when you're talking about the more visual elements of beauty you're not resting up after the kill or trying to make yourselves into a clone of the leader of the pack. You're expressing yourselves. Enjoying yourselves. Finding something to say about yourselves and your society and your identity as women and your sense of whimsey and...well, stuff.

That all feels like an introduction, but I don't seem to have more to say just now. Perhaps there will be fashion posts in this blog, as time goes on; perhaps that's what I'm introducing. Wouldn't that be... well, really weird?

Table image: Wikimedia Commons
Chef image: Wikimedia Commons
Captain Jack image: Wikimedia Commons
Hat image: Wikimedia Commons
Lion image: Wikimedia Commons.


  1. "Perhaps there will be fashion posts in this blog..."
    Not weird! Do it!

  2. It was fun how you went from cooking and eating to clothing. :)
    I for one, enjoy eating tremendously. I love food. Therefore, I take care of how much and what I eat.
    As for clothes, I am seriously unable to copy current fashion styles. Not that they wouldn't work for me, it's just, I need more time to incorporate new type of style into my wardrobe and until it feels right, I just don't go for it.
    Btw, life should be all about experiencing joy whenever you can - we all get our fair share of bad things, so enjoying yourself while you can should be a must.

  3. I am so pleased you discovered What Not To Wear. I am very late 'coming to my senses' about clothes and have a long and chequered - and colourful - history of fashion faux pas. WNTW is a wonderful programme - inspiring and heartwarming, and unbelievably transformative in most cases. I look forward to your fashion posts...;-)

    Oh, and I chuckled at your portrayal of the mean girls' rapacious behaviour - 'bonding after eating the unpopular' - brilliant!

  4. What a delightfully warm post. Although I'm coming from a slightly different place, your comments about fashion as expression resonate with me. I have always loved clothes, leading to (perhaps for different reasons) an equally "long and chequered" wardrobe, as Vanessa said. And regardless of how mortified I am about all the embarrassing shortcomings of my personality, I can never bring myself to feel *that* embarrassed about the things I've worn. Only when I've dressed inappropriately for an occasion, risking offending people, have I had regrets. Otherwise, clothing for me is a fun expression without a lot of risks. After all, what's the worst that could happen? One might look "bad" for a couple of hours. So what? It is, after all, just clothes. :)

  5. Hey, Das! And welcome to the blog, and my apologies (to you and everybody commenting) for falling off the face of the earth without responding. OK, cool, I'll plan on making fashiony posts. Now, a stroll through my blog makes it clear that plans don't always come to fruition, but they're a start. :)

  6. Yo, Ines! I'm just baaaaarely becoming aware of current styles, much less wearing them. :) I did subscribe to Harper's Bazaar, recommended on the sewing forum that I read as a good source for fashion pictures that are current but that, unlike much of Vogue, you could actually see on the street. We'll see if that trains my eye or if it's untrainable. (Said eye does remain in the eighties...which could, come to think of it, be the subject of a post. Hmm.)

  7. Vanessa! Yes, I find that What Not To Wear is starting to influence me to a dangerous degree. I actually wore (gulp) a knee-length skirt that fit a couple of times, and then put on one of my usual designed-to-be-calf-length skirts, two sizes too big and designed for taller and narrower people and therefore essentially ankle length... and the image in the mirror bothered me. I wanted that long column to be a column rather than a sack. I imagined something narrower ending in a tiny flare. I wanted style! Ack!

    I may be starting to feel the need to wear clothes that fit. What will this lead to?!

  8. Yo, Natalie! Yes, thinking of clothing as expression rather than as a test that I haven't studied for or a job interview for which I'm not qualified, seems to be the key for me. Making _me_, rather than others, the motivator behind my clothing decisions. The puzzling bit is why this feels like a new thought, this late in life.