What Makes Fashion, Fashion?


I got caught up in watching Stylista this past Fall. The show was about eleven hopefuls vying for the coveted position of a junior editor position at Elle magazine. Staying at home day-in and day-out leaves me wishing for a life a bit more glamorous sometimes, so that’s how I got into the show. Watching it actually made me feel better about my “boring” life. The fashion industry is a dog-eat-dog world and after each show I was glad that my worst crisis of the day was a diaper blow out. Seriously, there was way too much drama for my liking!

But that’s not my point.

During the show the question emerged, “Who determines fashion?”

During one episode the contestants had to direct a photo shoot and magazine layout for the challenge. One team did, what I thought, was a brilliant concept, using headless mannequins to better keep the designer’s dress in the spotlight. What I thought was brilliant was deemed as tasteless by Anne Slowey, Elle’s Fashion News Director, and Joe Zee, Elle’s Creative Director.

In another challenge, a team chose what I thought was absolute hideousness as far as an outfit went. Once again, however, as the show wrapped up, I was shown to have no clue when it comes to fashion. The outfit was termed fabulous, showcasing a great grasp of what the season’s styles were.

As the show wore on, with similar scenes repeating themselves, I began to wonder, “Just exactly who determines what is stylish and what isn’t?” What’s more, “Why do we as women get swayed so easily by what others determine is in style or not?”

Take ankle boots for example; these darn shoes can’t determine if they want to be shoes or boots, so they’re both. And they’re all the rage with Hollywood. This rage, of course, creeps into all the fashion magazines telling us that they are the season’s must-have in footwear. I think they’re about as ugly as Ugg boots, but at least Ugg boots can be redeemed for their comfort. Ankle boots don’t look as if there is anything redeeming about them.

Last night I was looking at In Style magazine. It informed me that flannel shirts are a hot item. The same magazine also told me that I could pair a leather jacket with a floral dress for a cute style as “Paris Hilton did” and that layered, clunky jewelry would add class to even a T-shirt and jeans. I also learned that tweed is “it” for the winter and chunky scarves work with just about anything I wear.

I love the look of tweed and I’ve been in love with scarves before they were cool to wear, but leather with floral? Not to mention, this woman grew up wearing flannel because it was the warmest thing to wear in upstate NY and I just can’t see myself purposefully purchasing a $200+ flannel shirt because it’s currently in style!

Some styles I have loved as they have emerged. Others I have hated. It took me about two years to get into capris, but once I did I never went back. Ugg boots I have refused to buy. However, I’d love to find a great pair of skinny jeans, and ballet flats were the best thing to ever hit the shoe market!

The thing is, even the styles I don’t care for I always feel (just the littlest bit) as if I’m frumpy because I’m not wearing them. Why? Why do I even remotely care?

Perhaps there is a science to this whole fashion thing, but from what I’ve observed the only reason something becomes fashionable is because someone rich and famous started wearing the item in question. If someone like me had started wearing skull scarves and skull t-shirts, back when skulls were in, I would have been looked at as a bit strange in the head. But because people like Lindsey Lohan and the Olson twins started displaying these styles, all of a sudden it was the in thing to wear.

When I was watching the show I was amazed at how people’s outfits would be critiqued and torn apart, and yet the very people tearing them apart would have on outfits that didn’t look any better! In fact, sometimes they looked worse. They, however, were the important people; the people being critiqued were not. There was the difference. It depends on who are you when it comes to what is considered acceptable. If Anne Slowey says that chunky jewelry is it, then well, I guess it’s it.

So why do I care about being in style? Why do I let people I’ll never even meet determine what I do and don’t wear? Maybe it’s because I have some last remnants of high school left over, when I was never in style and was picked on for it. I’m thirty-three years old and I’m still caring about what people think of me. True, not as much as I once did, but still, there is that little trace of wanting people to think I’m a classy woman who’s on the up and up.

I don’t care so much that I’ll wear a style I hate, but at the same time I will consider things I never considered before because I do care. I care about being modern and classy and I feel like wearing in-style clothes helps me do that. My problem is, by the time I usually have the money to wear what is fashionable, as well as the courage, the item is already being auctioned for charity by the stars. Such is the finicky state of fashion.

As the years pass the more I develop my own sense of style. As my style emerges it tends to run along classically romantic lines (I think that’s what Speigle catalogue calls it): long lines, solid colors, a hint of lace and cashmere, blacks, tans, creams, with an occasional splash of a deep red thrown in. It may not be what Jennifer Aniston or Angelina Jolie is wearing right now, but it’s my style. Who knows, maybe someone famous will make it fashionable in a few years!

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