Why I Hate "Fashion"

On my personal blog, amongst the chatter and occasional rant, I sometimes post pictures of myself before I go out — for errands, for a nice dinner, just sitting around. I enjoy sharing with my readers the different things I wear, and I love seeing pictures of the bloggers I follow. It may be vain, sure, but I certainly don’t think it’s hurting anybody. And last night, before a dinner with friends, I posted a picture of myself wearing a skirt, a light sweater, and an Italian-scarf-and-brooch combination that once belonged to my grandmother. Amongst all of the things I wear, my grandmother’s clothes and jewelry are the most important, the most treasured. I wear them with pride because I love her, I miss her, and she was a beautiful, elegant woman who cared for all of her lovely belongings and passed them down to me. As the oldest of many cousins, and the daughter of her oldest child, some of her most prized possessions went to my family. When I wear them, I feel more beautiful than I do in anything else.

And with the photo, like with any other, came the usual little smattering of comments and questions. Sometimes I ask for an opinion on things, and my readers are honest enough to give me constructive criticism — which I wholly appreciate. But this time, there was no survey, I was simply showing off the scarf and brooch that I was proud and happy to be wearing. I felt beautiful and elegant and like my grandmother would have called me a “young lady.” I shared simply to share. And amongst the responses I got came one that really stopped me in my tracks:

“Please spare us your “#what i wore” posts. Yours are some of the least interesting clothes. They can’t even be justified as retro or conservative, because that can be done without inducing yawns (see Derek Lam Fall 2012, among others). Not saying you need to abide by any sense of trendiness, but just develop some sense of style or quit it with those posts.”

There is something about this seemingly innocuous comment that, to me, represents all that is truly wrong and awful about the concept of “fashion” itself. This comment isn’t outright “mean,” and it’s not insulting me personally or calling me ugly names, but it is undermining any attempt I made to feel beautiful by reminding me — with a succinct dropping of a fashion name I surely can’t relate to — that I am not “stylish.” Even if I look “acceptable” or “good,” I am not “fashionable” by any means. There was some invisible test going on, and I failed it. And this attitude is so pervasive in our culture, especially amongst young people and in big cities. There is this idea that having “taste” and being “stylish” are far, far removed from wearing things that look good on you, or that make you feel good. The competition arises not from making yourself look the best you can, but from having the most knowledgeable and interesting combination of labels and trends possible.

I have made fun of things like The Sartorialist and super-high-end boutiques before here, and I usually do it with a sense of humor and not too much seriousness, but I feel truly hurt by it quite often. When I look at things like street fashion photography, and see the way they consistently eschew the the opportunity to present real people in all shapes and sizes looking beautiful in things that weren’t necessarily expensive or hard-to-find to just show the same thin, beautiful people in designer clothes — I feel even worse about the way we are looking at each other. It is yet another reminder — couched in a genre that tries to present itself as featuring “real” people–that there is pretty, but then there is fashionable, and you should never pretend you are the latter if you are just the former.

Pictures people post of themselves on blogs and personal sites are often in a similar vein. People who take pride in capturing what they wear are often the same kind who abide by “style books,” and Coco Chanel’s rules, and what came down the runway at Paris Fashion Week. They’re beautiful, and always wearing such interesting and fresh clothes–but let’s not forget that that is their interest. It’s their hobby. It’s what they like to do. Just as some of us may like sports or art or movies, they are interested in fashion. In this way, it’s not just an average person demonstrating what they put on in the morning, it’s someone who cultivated and worked on a “look” and are now putting it out there in hopes of approval. It’s wonderful in its own way, but it doesn’t mean that people who aren’t necessarily “into fashion” can’t do the same. And appreciating a girl in a nice new dress she found at H&M is just as simple as appreciating a girl showing off her new Celine bag with a vintage Chanel dress, in perfectly coiffed hair and bold red lipstick. It’s just not the same thing.

When I get dressed in the morning, I do so with the intention of feeling as beautiful as possible. I almost never wear pants, for example, because I feel much more myself and happy in skirts and dresses. Some people might find it strange, or tell me about all the beautiful outfits I am missing out on — and I do love the looks other women put together in pants, don’t get me wrong–but I don’t care. I like looking the way I feel comfortable. Most of my clothes were inexpensive, but I care for the nice things I have and maintain them well — especially the things I’ve inherited. Some days I might go out looking less-than-perfect, but it’s not the end of the world. There is pressure in cities to look good at all times, but I try my best to fight it and remember that I am beautiful as I am. And there is nothing more sad than having an entire industry — and the people who “live by it” — tell me that I am not good enough, that I just missed the mark. I don’t want my life dictated by what is “in season,” and I don’t need to spend half of my monthly disposable income on a new bag. I just want to wear clothes that flatter me, feel beautiful in my own skin, and enjoy my own style.

Fashionable people do wear some incredible, beautiful things, but they shouldn’t have a monopoly on what it means to look good. TC mark

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.


More From Thought Catalog

  • http://annogus.tumblr.com/ Anna Gustafson

    Agreed. I had a “fashion blog” for a while, but stopped recently. For many reasons, but the pressure you described here was definitely one of them.  I even have come to dislike the word “fashion”. I try to use “style” instead. Seems more open to interpretation I guess.
    I am still hoping to post outfits every once in a while on my personal blog. I hope you keep doing so as well. That comment was ridiculous. (see Derek Lam Fall 2012… gag)

  • boherubi

    LOVE IT! spoke your mind and heart. thank you! it resonates with me

  • Nishant

    Absolutely agree! I don’t see any value in mindlessly following the Armani/Gucci/Vogue/DG idea of fashion or whatever this fall, this summer, this spring or whenever. Good post! :)

  • macgyver51

    The concept of “fashion” is one of the five worst things that exist on this earth.

    • Anonymous

      What are the other four? I’m so curious.

      • macgyver51

        Child labor, Josef Stalin, Bravo/E! networks,  & American Foreign policy since World War II

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

        the other four: bieber, bieber, bieber, and rick santorum

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

        have you seen what brand of suit he wears? god, what a disgrace

    • bee

      Is it, though?  I can’t think of many things that so easily express the state of a culture at any given time better than fashion does.  It’s art we wear, on a daily basis.  Unless you live in a nudist colony, of course.

      • macgyver51

         Yes, it is. I never said it wasn’t art, but I’m also of the opinion that some “art” is wasteful and demeaning. Fashion would be in that category.

  • Anonymous

    “When I get dressed in the morning, I do so with the intention of feeling as beautiful as possible.” so honest – and precisely…what more can we do??

  • Gregory

    This article is sort of annoying… The same complaints could be lodged against any other form of contemporary artistic medium  (especially music). Music for instance often produces the same vehemently negative reaction from those whose hobbies it is to stay on top of the seemingly disposible flow of new bands and songs that come out each month when someone who isn’t a music pundit admits to liking a song that was made in 2010. All I’m saying is that the problems aren’t inherent to fashion, but rather to anything whose worth is seen in its “topicality” rather than its substance (not to say there isn’t such a thing as timeless music, or as timeless “classic” fashion). 

    Also, I think you sort of miss the point of “cutting edge” high fashion here. It isn’t too look beautiful – it is to shock, provoke, cobble together previous trends while also break them down, and ultimately to create unique looks that speak to a comprehensive artistic process by the designer. If the point was to look beautiful, everyone would be wearing fitted black v-necks with nice jeans or skirts every day. 

    • Anonymous

      I think you missed several points. 

      1) She wasn’t even trying to be all FASHION blog. She just wanted to post what she wore because she felt beautiful. She wasn’t claiming to be fashionable or what, which makes the commenter rather intruding.

      2) She understands what “cutting edge” high fashion is. What she’s questioning is that why are some people seem to be so appalled at the fact that she posted an outfit photo that isn’t “cutting edge” high fashion. As if there were some rule in the blogosphere that those kinds of outfits are the only acceptable type of content in that genre.

    • http://twitter.com/streatstyle streatstyle

      I absolutely agree that this snobbery exists in many art forms, but why does that make the article annoying? She never said it was exclusive to fashion. She’s just talking about her particular experience, which happened to be concerning fashion.

      To take your example of music, I am the same with music as I am with clothes – I do my own thing, I rarely even know what’s going on currently in the charts/on the runway, and I really don’t care what others have to say about what I like/don’t like. Arguing about music or clothes taste is like arguing about food. You wouldn’t say “Ew, you like beetroot? That is so not cool, everyone these days likes carrots”.

      Obviously once you get into the high end of anything (food, fashion, film, wine, music), there is a whole conoisseur/trend thing going on, and those trends have their place and their reasons, but when it’s at street level it shouldn’t matter. BUT it’s okay if it does matter to people, because as Chelsea says, some people have that as their “thing”. And to be honest, if it makes them happy, all the better for them. It’s just not okay to judge others because their interpretation is different.  Like I said before, it’s utterly pointless.

      To speak to your second point, I agree that high fashion isn’t necessarily for function or to look beautiful – it’s art that isn’t always practical or even wearable. However I don’t think she is talking about high fashion, but rather everyday wear, and how she shouldn’t be subject to judgment from those who feel they have a superior point of view on what people should or shouldn’t wear as they go about their lives. So I don’t think she’s missed the point at all, because that wasn’t the point to begin with.

      • Anonymous

        “Arguing about music or clothes taste is like arguing about food. You wouldn’t say ‘Ew, you like beetroot? That is so not cool, everyone these days likes carrots.'”

        That is a very apt comparison, and I never thought of it that way, but it really does put snobbery about personal tastes into a certain perspective.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VYDVROKY4PUBOKUHB3QF42FH2Y Paul S

        No, people most certainly do that with food as well;
         “Ew, why eat at Taco Bell when there’s this amazing carceneria around the block that has the most amazing organic taco… etc.”
        I mean, you wouldn’t post pictures of a Big Mac when discussing food, would you? But what you did was more akin to posting pics of a home-cooked meal made by your grandmother, which is all good and anyone belittling that is just being an asshole.

      • beatrice

        Music, food and any form of art (fashion, architecture etc.)

    • Omar

      “If the point was to look beautiful, everyone would be wearing fitted black v-necks with nice jeans or skirts every day. ”

      Off topic, but sundresses >>> fitted black v-necks with nice jeans or skirts when it comes to looking good.

      Back on topic, she wasn’t posting about high fashion, she was posting about wearing what makes her feel beautiful. That’s what offended her about the comment someone else left on her picture and that difference is also what makes your reply irrelevant. 

  • http://twitter.com/streatstyle streatstyle

    I understand where you’re coming from to an extent. I have a style blog, and I specifically call it a style blog because I don’t focus on what’s currently “in fashion”. I write about personal style; my own, that of others, menswear I think looks cool, whatever.

    I actually get kind of offended if people call me “fashionable” or if they refer to me as liking “fashion”, because I don’t. I will occasionally take a look at designers’ runway collections or take inspiration from fashion magazines, but I absolutely do not follow it like it’s law. I don’t idolise celebrities and lust after whatever It bag they’re carrying, and I really hate it when people say “Hey you have a fashion blog, what do you think of my outfit?” or “so is zebra back in?”. I DON’T KNOW, DECIDE FOR YOURSELF.

    As for the person that left that comment, if they’re going to name drop designers, they should at least read up on the classics first. Indeed, Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, possibly the greatest couturiers of the last century, both said “fashion fades, style is forever”.

  • Anonymous

    Fashion has never meant the same thing as beauty. This is because beauty is not simply defined as that which looks “good” by some critical mass with power of voice who have self-identified, self-qualified themselves as experts on the subject. 

    There is a little problem, evidently, when the fashion police decide to venture into the real world.

  • Anonymous

    If it’s any consolation, the people who worry too much about fashion are the people who don’t worry enough about real life. It’ll catch up with them at some point.

  • http://twitter.com/kyleangeletti Kyle Angeletti

    Well said. Forget fashion, focus on style and just feel good in what you’re wearing. 

    Also, you looked lovely on Saturday. 

  • Sophia

    “There is this idea that having “taste” and being “stylish” are far, far removed from wearing things that look good on you, or that make you feel good.” YES. YES YES YES THIS. How sad and frustrating.

  • Steve

    who even has the money to be fashionable. to be materialistic and vain in such an awful economy is insulting 

    • bee

      Yes, not spending money is the key to fixing our economy.  I remember now.

    • C

      Shut up, these comments and post are interesting but you are the only idiotic worthless comment i’ve read so far. Moving on.

      • C

        This was in reply to “Steve”. Such an idiot. Can you really see someone wearing expensive nice clothes, and immediately feel disgusted by it? Either he is taking it too seriously, or he holds a deep rooted resent that he has not explained to us, something deeper that has to do with him personally and not just the fact that he saw a man wearing a $4000 jacket.

  • Bob

    Lol @ Gregory, you’re either irrational or a member of the fashion police or music snobs or w/e, since the article hit such a sour note. You’re irritated because…the article is generalizable? ANY piece of good writing can be generalized or have unintended conclusions extracted.

    Everybody has a primitive instinct to demonstrate how they’re better than other people. If the only way these ‘fashionistas’ have for lording themselves over other people is that they blew a couple more thousand on some colorful pieces of cloth, then I think it’s sad. A knee jerk response to what I just said would be to scoff at how this reduction of fashion demonstrates my ignorance, but my point is that something like a preference or hobby is a poor basis for judging yourself better than someone else. I could be described as a foodie, and have cooked/eaten more and know more about food than most people I know. However, I have NEVER used this interest of mine to feel superior or snobbish to anyone else

    • Gregory

      Hi Bob –

      I didn’t mean to sound irritated – maybe the word “annoying” wasn’t the best one to use. I was just saying that the point of fashion isn’t necessarily to achieve traditional aesthetic beauty – it is to provoke, create, inspire, express, etc. (just as all cultural media strive to do). If anything, your emotional reaction to my comment proves that fashion does play an interesting role in spurring a certain brand of creative discourse that doesn’t necessarily occur around other forms of artistic expression. 
      Also, I don’t know where you got the idea that I think fashion or music or whatever should be used to make people feel superior or snobbish (I’m sure you’re Really Into Food, but really, methinks thou dost protest too much about “NEVER” using your “interest” to feel superior to people. No one was asking). Appreciating the cultural value of fashion as a creative art form does not mean you have to spend thousands of dollars on the pieces. Think of visual art. Would you spend millions of dollars on a Malevich piece? No. But you can still appreciate its artistic merit and the role it played in establishing Russian suprematism. Even today, I think (and I’m sure you do too) that Yayoi Kusama pieces hold enormous artistic merit, but would never in a million years dream of spending the money on one. It’s the same idea – lots of people can look at a McQueen collection and see its importance as an art form without being expected wear those pieces themselves.In this sense, I do agree with the author of this article in that no one should expect anyone else to dress like a Chanel model. I don’t understand, though, how this fact in and of itself merits a hatred for fashion in general since that unfair expectation is the fault of the individual, not of the artistic medium. 

      • Bob

        Misunderstandings on your part: I didn’t say you were necessarily one of the artistic medium snobs, I said it was either that or your position on the article being ‘annoying’ for the reasons described was irrational (based on the contents of your first paragraph).

        Regarding your second argument, that fashion is an art form and it is individuals who exhibit this snobbish behavior, I think you need to consider that as opposed to your abstruse art examples, fashion, to a degree, DOES encourage the ownership of the product. That is why you see blogs of this kind, with people showing off combinations of what they own.

        Your personal attacks are irrelevant. I was using myself as an example of how one need not use appreciation of art to feel superior to others.

  • LazyReader

    What that person wrote to you was so totally uncalled for and uncouth.  A lack of taste and tact on her part. VERY unfashionable.  Ironic, right? Because it makes them look ugly–from the inside out.

    I live in NYC, and the cultural organization I work for prefers “us” to dress fashionably (as opposed to “Professionally”). Working there for several years, I’ve developed a sense of style on my own that does get complimented regularly from co-workers and bosses.  I am the queen of TJMaxx and Marshalls–and head to the Jersey Garden Mall once a year.  I admitt I get a certain giddy, childlike feeling when I’m complimented for what I’ve pieced together on the cheap.  I also include items of my late grandmother’s, particularly unusual necklaces and bracelets.

    That said….
    Annually the organization does a series of events on beauty and fashion.  I face them with DREAD.  The people who attend these events, and the people who are an active part of them (designers, their assistants, etc) are some of the nastiest, most self-important people I’ve ever encountered.  I’ve watched as a designer’s assistant snickered and rolled her eyes at an elderly white woman in tie-dye and dred-locks (an educated, kind woman I’d encountered for years), but absolutely INSIST I find a way to squeeze two young women into the sold out event simply because they were “pretty”.  UGH.  UG-LY.

    When more importance is placed over the outside of a person than the inside, there is something wrong. The person who wrote to you is likely to be a shallow, friendless human being.  I feel angry and sorry for her.

    • biteme

      I love TJMaxx and Marshalls! And thrift stores too. 

      • LazyReader

        The “labels” I buy, I do so for the way they fit, and because I can get them for cheap.  I’d go to the GAP if their jeans didn’t give me cameltoe!  Instead, I buy DKNY because she leaves room for hips/thighs in her jeans.  When the DKNY shop in the JGM closed last spring, I nearly cried–I have no intention of paying full price, or even Macy’s sale price for those jeans!  God only knows what I’m going to wear now!
        My point in mentioning these things in my response is that I’m not sitting on some moral hill claiming I don’t “dress” in labels, or have disdain for them overall, but that my experiences with the people who are tied so closely to them have a really skewed view of the world and humanity.

  • Chelsea

    Yes, it is unfortunate when others try to dictate what we should or should not wear. Or what is appropriate. Or what we should feel good wearing. Now you know how I felt, Chelsea, when you told me “You do not dress like someone who is out tonight to find sex by any means necessary. You can look pretty, feminine, elegant, attractive – without stripping your appeal down to its basest, most physical level.”

  • biteme

    I don’t want my life dictated by what is “in season,” and I don’t need to spend half of my monthly disposable income on a new bag. I just want to wear clothes that flatter me, feel beautiful in my own skin, and enjoy my own style.”

    YES! This, exactly. Plus whatever’s in season usually only looks good on people with “modelesque” proportions. As a short, curvy girl, I’m usually alienated by whatever’s being foisted on me by fashion magazines, which is why I go with what I find pretty, tasteful, well-made, and fits and flatters my proportions. 

  • Georgia A Perry

    hey girl – I hear you. It’s tough when somebody wounds that special girl place where you hold your mother and grandmother. I think you might have been asking for it a bit, though, by…asking for it directly. I’m from Indiana so lord knows I have a ton of friends who are gorgeous and stylish but don’t wear designer clothes. People will regularly comment on random facebook photos of them, “you’re gorgeous!” or something nice about their creative thrift store-chic outfit. But the images of them are just random images of them doing their thing. If you regularly post photos of your outfits and ask readers for their comments, that’s what you’re going to get. Even if you were just sharing *this time* if your norm is to allow readers their comments you can’t blame them for offering them up…
    I’m sure you looked hot though, shake them haters off.

  • padface

    I’m not your biggest fan, but I had a look on your blog and I actually think the outfits you posted are really good. Some of them may be simple but it’s in a classic/timeless way. 

    I don’t personally like what I’ve read of your work, but from what I’ve seen I can’t deny that you have style.

    • cunt party

      so you missed the point huh…

  • http://emu-memu.net/fluff eline

    I find the story of how people relate to clothing far more interesting than runway inspired chic.
    Similarly, I often find the concept of a fashion show far more interesting than the clothes themselves.

    Fashion isn’t set to judge you, uninspired people are.

  • Steve_the_cat

    Totally agree with you. If anything, I think you were too soft on fashion. I hate being told what to think and how to dress. Fashion should be exactly as you say: a hobby. Nothing more. Sure, people can look great sometimes when they’re being fashionable, but that’s bound to happen eventually, right?

  • beatrice

    As somebody who adores fashion and styling, on this rare occasion, I wholly agree with you on what you have said. I look at all the designer collections and regularly read through vogue  but I’m not one to follow trends.. I just like what I think looks nice. And frankly anybody who judges what you’re wearing and actually tells you, has no consideration whatsoever. 

  • Derek

    I think, the key important thing that one always have to consider, is suitability. If you can achieve that, you’re set.

  • Stephanie

    I sense that your response is not the fault of “Fashion” but of the cruel and pretentious prick who made that “Please spare us your “#what i wore” posts…” comment, even though you claim to have felt generally unaffected. It seems awfully rude and mean-spirited to me. I’m sure you’re well aware that the internet is a tricky place for claiming privacy rights, and people often set themselves up for scrutiny, whether fairly or unfairly (i.e. posting on Thought Catalog as a writer or commenter) and these attacks cannot help but feel offensive–especially when criticism is generally unsolicited in a personal photograph.

    But I have to wonder…you seem to appreciate dress and the sentimentality of clothing, yet you claim to reject, even “hate” (quite a strong word) Fashion with a capital “F.” You not only inherited your grandmother’s clothing, you inherited trends of days past. A “classic” doesn’t come out of thin air. Dress of any kind exists due to trends–it always has–and like all of modern life (arguably), fashion is speeding up. The Next Big Thing is already over. The best designers are those who challenge our eye and train them to appreciate something new. Fashion’s ability to provoke extreme reactions is a big part of what makes it so utterly fascinating. As my friend sarcastically pointed out with the 2012 NYFW collections, “ugly is the new chic,” but he meant it in the kindest and most curious way. Designers aren’t necessarily interested in “pretty” or by what makes us feel most “comfortable” or recreates a standard of what is “flattering.” It can signify something hidden within society, often abjected by
    mainstream culture only to be translated into average daily wear within a
    couple years unnoticed. One of my favourite examples is Miuccia Prada who seems to achieve this consistently in her collections for Prada and Miu Miu (did you know she has a PhD in Political Science?)

    Also, the fashion industry is mostly smoke and mirrors, and knowing this may actually enhance your understanding of fashion. Ask anyone who works behind the scenes in fashion and they will tell you that even while creating or promoting clothing that they themselves cannot afford, they have the genuine passion to support this realm of cultural and artistic expression. Fashion is bigger than what you can afford to keep in your closet. It can be a referent. Notice also that designers tend to be relatively “unstylish” and walk onto their runway in simple jeans and a t-shirt (think Sarah Burton, the mastermind behind McQueen). Do you think they are merely duping us with the obscurity and ridiculousness of what they send down on the runway? Of course not.

    People keep putting fashion down and it’s just a tired thing to say. I have to agree with Gregory when he calls this article annoying. It is annoying because it offers nothing new to the discussion: people love to Hate Fashion. All I can gather is an inherent insecurity about other people’s judgment–just stop caring what other people think, whether or not they have an awareness to trends or not. Embrace the intimacy of your garments. Feel free to continue wearing what makes you feel “as beautiful as possible,” that’s your prerogative, but it is foolish to undermine or underestimate the power and presence of fashion. Perhaps I am overly dramatizing its social function, but its presence is
    undeniable. It’s more than creating arbitrary or impossible trends
    reserved only for a superficial and wealthy elite. Fashion is

    Even still, HATERS GON’ HATE.

    • Unstylishly Stylin

      Not how I normally respond to things I disagree with, but my opinion boils down to one simple statement:  F*ck that person.

      Glad you are you, I am me, she is she :)

      • unstylishly stylin

        sorry stepahnie!  my comment was not meant to your post, it was meant in response to the comment mentioned in the blog!

    • Sterling

      Yea, I used to date this Stephanie girl….

      I couldn’t afford those glittered Miu Miu’s she wanted for x-mas, so she sent me packing. : (

      True Story

      • Stephanie

        NOT TRUE ahahahah 

  • Jjthejetplane


    It’s really sad to me that fashion, which from my understanding is supposed be a space for expression and celebration of the self, is so embeded with desire to aspire to ‘high culture’ and luxury. I can remember how isolating clothes could be in high school, whether others loked what i had on or not. Negative feedback would make me question, “Hmmn, I’m sorry. Dud I get dressed for YOU this morning?” Positive feedback was equally jarring, creating an unnecessary anxiety to perform a certain aesthetic identity dictated by others. I guess hs never ebds.

  • Fairyqueen

    *Sigh* they didn’t insult your clothes, they just said that they weren’t interesting – and they’re not. Which means that they make for pretty boring blog posts.

    Somehow you’ve managed to take this simple point and go off on your high horse about ‘fashion’ not being in touch with ‘the people’. It doesn’t need to be ‘fashion’  – but if you want to draw attention to it, it should be interesting.

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