I Care About What I Wear, So Please Get Over It
When I was 16, I got ready for an important event in front of my then-boyfriend. He sat on my bed, staring at me lovingly, as I tried an outfit on, then another. But his face fell in direct relation to each discarded sweater and skirt that piled up around him. Finally, he begged me — in what I would classify as a mildly disgusted voice — to “just keep that one on.”
Since then, and probably way before, I’ve been getting crap for caring about clothes. I’ve had people talk about how shallow fashion is as I rush to shove a copy of Vogue in my bag; I’ve had many boyfriends and even a couple girlfriends wear that same terrified look when I get ready for something I want to look nice for; I’ve gotten wide-eyed stares when a roommate opens my closet that homophobics usually reserve for a same-sex couple kissing on a park bench.
I had a professor, now mentor, who used to chide me about my by-my-standards moderate obsession with fashion, too. He liked to say that I would most likely end up in a career where I could “wear my fancy outfits around.” I am currently in a career where I sit in my house for nine hours a day writing international breaking news, and I have to report that no, I don’t wear my fancy outfits, and yes, I’ve spent full days in my pajamas. And I’m here to say that despite this, I still read Who What Wear and Refinery29 regularly, I still like a good sift through a Nordstrom Rack, and no, this does not make me shallow, idiotic, or deranged.
Trust me, I know all the angles. The fashion industry is evil, it supports anorexia and sweat-shops singlehandedly, it’s aspirational and unobtainable, it’s a waste of money, and it kills brain cells as readily as acid. I myself have made these arguments, when I swore off working at fashion magazines after a couple stints organizing fashion closets and sticking bikinis to models’ boobs with double-sided tape. But I’m here to say that my desire to look presentable, cute, or, dare-I-say-it, cool, and my allocation of reasonable amounts of my own finances to do so, is pretty low on the list of fashion-related crimes. More than that, I’m here to publicly request that the world stop hounding me and my fellow fashionistas, be they second or first-rate, for it.
Think for a moment of all the ridiculous hobbies that human beings spend time and money on. Video games. Clubbing. Gambling. Beauty pageants for five-year-olds. Professional sports. Am I impressed that you know the stats for every quarterback in the NFL? Sure I am. Do I really think that is the best place for you to use your sharp mind? Not really. But guess what — these things make people happy, including my current boyfriend, an NFL obsessive who, for the record, is great at helping me get ready and does not make the horrified face I have come to expect. In any case, these things give them purpose, self-worth, or just an escape from the daily grind. I know guys that throw hundreds of dollars into poker games. And they lose….they lose a lot. What do they have to show for that money, other than some good times with the guys? Nothing. I, on the other hand, have the most comfortable pair of brown leather stacked high heels you’ve ever laid eyes on. I wore them the entire day of my graduation, from my walk across the stage for my diploma to late night, slightly teary-eyed drinks with half my graduating class at the neighborhood dive bar. They’ve also made it through a wedding and more than a few job interviews. I’m not saying that one of these things is more valuable than the other. I’m merely pointing out that they both have value.
I’m also not saying that you have to give any thought to what you wear. I’m not saying that I’ll judge you for it if you don’t (if I do, sorry, it’s just…I do have to look at you, you know). What I am saying is that we all have to get dressed in the morning, unless you’ve found a nudist colony that needs [insert your profession here] or you’re a 24/7 pajama-wearing freelancer. So choosing not to care, or shaving half your head, or taking that extra second to pull your pants down below your butt-cheeks: that’s all a choice, too. And if you are allowed to wear what you like, which luckily, in North America, you largely are, I too should be allowed to wear a nice sweater that sort-of matches my belt and not get ribbed for it. I should be allowed to spend 20 or 30 minutes getting dressed to meet my boyfriend’s parents, or go out with my friends on a Saturday night. I LIKE IT. Some women in this day and age are forced to walk around in cages of fabric against their will. My ability — and right — to wear what I want is not something I take lightly.
Sure, fashion is shallow, sometimes horrifying, definitely eye-roll inducing. But it is also shelter (a solid winter jacket in -30 weather), power (shoulder-padded women’s suits in the 80s), history (your great-grandmother’s scarf collection), and art (have you SEEN an haute-couture fashion show?!).
So, yes, I care about what I wear, and I beg you, please, to find a better place to direct your indignation and horrified-eyes than at my blazer collection.
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Try something today. Count how many times someone brings up some sort of mental illness in normal conversation. Add that number up and tell me it doesn’t strike you as kind of weird how many normal people walk around with the belief that there is something wrong with them.
She assumed it was jewelry. Every year he gets her a charm for her gold chain or a pair of dangly earrings.
Fall if you will, but rise you must.
You may lose what would have been the joy of the experience had you not been so focused on some fabricated idea or unrealistic expectation you had of how it was going to turn out.