Saturday, December 5, 2015

Fashion: In which I respond to a question nobody asked me

I've been binge-listening to the podcast Pop Fashion. This post was inspired by a thought from their... lemme check... April 10, 2014 episode.

Don't mock me. Stop it.

They discussed "normcore", a term I'd never heard before. My understanding is that it refers to regular, normal, boring clothes, sometimes worn deliberately as a statement, sometimes just worn. This was contrasted with not-found-in-nature colors in hair and nails and makeup and such, seen as an "anti-normcore" movement in beauty products. One question was why the same person may have "normcore" clothes, but also pink hair and 3D nails and glitter makeup. To quote, "How can we be both normcore in dress and and then...crazy sparkle land in beauty products; why is this happening simultaneously?"

I have a theory: I think it's about creative ownership of your own appearance.

My feeling has always been that the world of clothes is owned by the fashion industry. You--well, at least I--go shopping or go online hoping to find something that fits, that's affordable, that isn't hideous. If "fits" and "affordable" are challenges, adding the requirement that you like the item or that it expresses anything about you, is often an un-achievable luxury. Good enough is good enough. That's especially true in the early fashion-awareness years, junior high and high school, where taking a risk that might not come off can feel like a life-threatening risk.

I keep wanting to veer off into several more paragraphs, including references to Paul Graham's essay Why Nerds are Unpopular, and my own fashion experience, and that stuff about my mother, but I'm just going to conclude: For some people, including me in past decades, expressing oneself with one's clothes isn't an option that comes up at all.  Maybe a message tee or a Santa hat or an ugly Christmas sweater, but not on a regular basis.

But nail polish doesn't come in sizes, and most people can afford it. Makeup can be washed off before school or work. And if you gulp and straighten your spine and take the risk of showing up wearing it, and it doesn't work out, at least you didn't burn a year's clothes budget on it. So it's partly about budget, as the podcast discussed, but I think that budget is just a stepping stone to creative ownership.

And continuing on the theme, I think that this also explains why people who don't care much about their everyday clothes will pour heart and soul and all their spare cash into cosplay. Cosplay is about creative ownership. OK, it's a little odd to say that when you're imitating someone else's fictional creation, but art always imitates art. Cosplay would lead me into a discussion of sewing, which moves creative ownership of your clothes back to you, but I'm going to chew on that for a while.

My path to kinda-fashion, as discussed on this blog, started with utterly (utterly) abandoning all efforts at fashion. I wore black. Black skirts, black sweaters, black mock-turtle tees, black tees, black flats, black tights, black socks, black coat. By abandoning all effort with regard to clothes, an area that I didn't understand and wasn't comfortable with, I opened up space and time and money for experimenting in areas where I was more comfortable, or at least more interested. Perfume, of course. And scarves. And rhinestones. I could easily see a different version of me instead going with nail polish and pink hair. Ooh, no, deep intense plum hair!


No, that's not happening.

But anyway, that's my theory on normcore clothes with anti-normcore trimmings. To pull myself back into the discussion, I'm about to go out wearing Mom jeans, a polo shirt, a grey cardigan, a knit hat, a pair of black Merrells--and a spray of Papillon Salome (the perfume that Angela at Now Smell This gave a 7 on the skank scale) plus something with rhinestones.

So there.

Link Roundup from my own blog: Being a GirlFashion Voice, and The Huh? and the Predators and Reality TV.

Image: By Evi Michailidou. Wikimedia Commons


  1. As someone who wears all black and then does my hair orange (even when its not halloween) I totally relate to that of which you speak/write. Size and budget and I'll add body image and time keep me from venturing too outside of what is quick and comfortable, But I can dye my hair orange on a sunday afternoon and carry that statement with me for the rest of the month. No diet required!.

  2. Yo, Cynthia! Y'know, I just keep thinking about goofy hair colors. It's getting grayer, after all, so there's plenty of blank space to show color....

    Never gonna happen. I'm pretty sure. But...

  3. I veer to normcore without the nails. And occasionally also sport Salome. It takes all sorts, I say. I also have a lot of scarves but haven't really adopted a scarf wearing persona yet.

  4. How do I keep missing comments? I think that Blogger is hiding them in a basket somewhere, and releasing them at random.

    Anyway, Hi, Vanessa! I seem to be comfortable with scarves; I can't say why.