Fashion magazines have been around since the mid-1800s. Style shows like “What Not to Wear” have been around for 10 years (as of this month) and going strong. Pretty much everyone including me wants to “look their best”. Barring major surgery, we can’t change our facial features, our height or structure, but we can all change our clothes. And unless you live under a rock, you know by now the importance and impact of our image. So with all this media to turn to, what makes us look our best when “well-dressed” is utterly subjective?
Fashion, taste and style are commonly interchangeable words. Yet they’re quite different elements. After all, Fashion is material expression of the current time– garments are chosen to be worn to clothe, through offerings by designers/retailers who feel it will sell. Taste is the preference for a particular design. Tastes range widely to the extent that the “best taste” is usually considered one’s own. Style is the most complex derivative of clothing and expression. Dressing codes are combined into types, take on a name, become recognizable, and are often associated with groups of people. But the true essence of style- whether it’s worn, a common thread in music, or found in an author’s work- is a free use of the proper which German poet Friedrich Holderlin explains is the freedom to break rules. Whether a person is “well-dressed” is often a unique interpretation of this 3 element-combo.
With reality TV hosts mocking then transforming the lucky subject to the glee of the family, how many of us can relate to that poor soul when he/she first appears? Their taste is bashed, their possessions discarded and a new style is handed to them. Do we take notes throughout so that we improve upon the end credits, or do we watch for giggles? Personally, I love “How Do I Look?” and I’ll never give up my subscription to Marie Claire or Lucky. Time spent with these are rewards for tasks such as writing this. With popularity such as Elle‘s- the largest with 42 international editions in over 60 countries, we can expect to see the new trends, the newest it bags, and fresh ways to put it all together better. With all the coverage and “suggestions” we are led to internalize this ourselves- whether its back to a familiar rut or an actual seasonal metamorphosis.
How’s that going? Magazines work. Shows entertain. It’s basically passive stuff. I believe we need to get proactive. After all, these economic times require all we’ve got.
First published November 7, 2011 in womenpartner.org.