Fashion is weird. Think about it. Everything’s always in this vague flux of being chic, then not chic, then suddenly chic again, like it ever really goes anywhere except the back of the line, only to come back up front, reinvented. It’s not like we have a whole lot to work with when it comes to clothes, we just recreate old ideas and make them somehow new again.
Which is pretty cool, I think; the extent to which we can be creative with a limited amount of material. And of course, I think the way we design and assemble our clothes has the potential to speak volumes about who we are, but I also think the look we project has to do with way more than the clothes: it’s not about what we wear per se, but how we carry ourselves. The attitudes we put forth. How comfortable we are in our wrappings. It’s about how we wear our clothes, instead of the other way around.
That said, judging people based on their clothes is silly. Sure, you may not particularly like something a person is wearing and could never picture wearing it yourself, but that doesn’t make it completely and objectively bad. Maybe you just don’t get it. Maybe you’re sitting there judging a bigger girl for wearing horizontal stripes thinking she doesn’t know how to dress for her figure, when in reality she’s intentionally doing a form of “fat drag” — wearing horizontal stripes tongue-in-cheek, precisely because she “shouldn’t.” You don’t know. Sometimes getting dressed is about more than the clothes.
Last week, I experienced a first — a first to-my-face criticism (instead of behind my back, as is customary of most normal humans) of my outfit. And by “criticism” I mean, someone who was a recent acquaintance said something along the lines of “I hate that top. I hate your whole outfit. And the skirt is heinous, where did you even buy that?!” Just like that, in all seriousness, like NBD.
I was wearing black.
I stomped out my cigarette, raised an eyebrow and looked at her. Powder blue blazer that arched up at the shoulders with the ghosts of clumsily removed shoulder pads. White newsboy short shorts, cuffed and puffing out weirdly like a medieval cleric’s. Gold chains layered “ironically” over her little brother’s wife beater. Thick frameless piano teacher-esque reading glasses, the type my grandma wore in the 80s before swapping both them and the gold chain they hung from for a sleeker black-framed pair.
And then, to add insult to injury, she added, “I could dress you so much cuter.”
At that point I stifled a laugh, realizing how stupid I was for even feeling offended. Cuter by whose standards, exactly? I gave her outfit the once over again and tried to imagine myself encasing nearly translucent thighs, so white you can see the veins, inside even whiter puffy shorts, hanging gold gumball-machine necklaces around my neck one after the other with a straight face. Seriously deliberating over which pair of fake glasses to buy that would make my face look more interesting.
No, screw that. I didn’t spend all those years as an insecure adolescent growing into who I am just to try to be someone else all over again, all because someone thinks black on black is a bad choice. (Black on black is never a bad choice, by the way.)
The thing about fashion is that it’s never really about the clothes.
You can just as well have someone looking like a tasteless mess in head-to-toe Dior as someone sparkling and confident outfitted in little more than an artfully-gathered trash bag. After all, it’s not about the fabric but the person inside it, and like with everything else, whoever appreciates the ensemble will appreciate it, and whoever won’t, won’t. And who really cares, when you think about it? Clothes come off. It’s not that deep.