More ramblings on fashion: creative expression or frivolous obsession?

I thought this was an interesting piece and posted it on Inge's links thread:

I'm struggling with trying to reconcile my appreciation of fashion with the tendency for others (and even myself sometimes when I'm feeling guilty about it) to think that having an interest in fashion is shallow and vain. Is caring about what you wear, taking pictures of yourself and posting/blogging about it a narcissistic and unhealthy obsession and a frivolous pastime, or is it a legitimate form of artistic self-expression and means of communication? I spent all these years studying "serious" topics like medicine and yet I love reading about fashion and thinking about what to wear. I spend my days trying to save lives and yet when I get home (after the kids are asleep) I stay up late watching Project Runway. I have to admit sometimes my interest in fashion seems a little odd and silly even to me! Maybe it's just a necessary left-brain right-brain balance? I can't draw or paint (my kids are better artists than I am!) or write (don't have the teen angst I had the last time I wrote a lot of poetry), I don't play music (used to take piano lessons as a child, but I don't have the natural talent my mom and brother do), I rarely cook (since the kids always prefer to be with me when I get home from work, DH has taken over the cooking duties). So fashion is really my only hobby and creative outlet.

Growing up we always thought my mom was way too dressed up all the time, always wearing makeup and heels, and yet, she never sat there taking pictures of her outfits and posting it on the Internet like I do...does that make me vain and self-absorbed? What is my daughter going to think of me when she grows up?

I just finished watching The Devil Wears Prada (thread discussion from last month here and I identified a lot with the Anne Hathaway character. I still feel like "lumpy blue sweater" Andy sometimes because I'm such a fashion newbie and have so much to learn still. And especially when her friends and family don't understand her sudden style transformation and think that her whole personality has changed. She denies it and says, "Same Andy, just better clothes". That's how I feel. I'm still the same me, just dressed a little nicer!

Also, I really hate to admit this, but sometimes I look at everyday people walking around in their baggy sweats and flip flops (especially since I was at the airport a lot this weekend) and I'm a tiny bit jealous that they don't have to worry or expend any brain cells thinking about what they're wearing. They're perfectly content to wear whatever, satisfied with what they have, not coveting the next purchase or trying to perfect their wardrobe by filling yet another hole. Maybe it would be more "zen" not to care what you wear. I don't really want to go back to my pre-YLF non-style or wear gear all the time...I just wish sometimes that I didn't stick out so much or care so much what I'm wearing!

Anyone else struggling with these same thoughts and contradictory feelings? I know I've started similar threads on this before but I'm still ruminating on this topic! I hope I don't offend anyone with my comments, I am not trying to be inflammatory or comment on anyone's motivations or personalities aside from my own. I personally don't think fashion is frivolous, otherwise why would I spend so much time on it, right? Fashion is fun and makes me why should I feel guilty about it?

I am really really happy with where my style is now, thanks to the help of Angie and all of you at YLF, and I think it's done wonders for my self-confidence! I guess I'm just feeling a little conflicted about this whole journey and how even as far as I've come, I've still got a long long way to go. Even when you think you've got your style all figured out, sometimes you can get thrown for a loop and your style will move in a whole new direction. I don't know where I'm going with this and I'm rambling way too much, so I'll stop (this post is what happens when you're up too late because you drank a Pepsi for lunch and have the next day off!), but I'd love to hear your comments and hear how you feel about fashion and your own style journey!

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • Kirti replied 7 years ago

    Natalie, I do understand what you mean. Sometimes when I am struggling to find the perfect jeans or the perfect sandals or whatever, even after visiting a million stores, I sort of wish I could revert to the past where I wore flip flops and 'good enough' jeans. I also look around me sometimes and feel like everyone is dressed up so effortlessly, like they just waltzed into a store and picked out the perfect dress, like they didn't have to make even a fraction of the effort that I make to find the perfect wardrobe items.

    But then I remember the dissatisfaction I feel from having a closet where I can just pull out items and know they work well for me, shoes that don't pinch or poke or make my ankles hurt etc. and I feel like the time I spend building up my wardrobe is worth it.

    As for blogging, I don't feel like that is silly at all. A lot of others do though. Whenever I have visitors and they see my husband taking my outfit photos, they laugh and make fun of it. Not in a mean way, they just don't understand. But I don't care. Because blogging helps me connect with other people who are as interested as I am in personal style and clothes, it helps me document my style journey and frankly, it gives me something to do. That's why I started blogging, because I was stuck at home in a strange country wearing pajamas and being nervous about going out. Style blogging helped me regain some of my self confidence and helped me deal with the uncertainty I was experiencing then. And now I love it too much to stop. I love the high that I get when others appreciate my style through comments, I love sharing my thoughts behind each outfit and I even like it when an outfit doesn't work and you guys help me analyse it. So what if others think it is silly? Style blogging is something that makes me happy and I don't think it silly or narcissistic or superficial, rather it is fun and creative and I would be proud to share my blog with my kids someday.

    Phew! Sorry for such a long reply!

  • jayne replied 7 years ago

    A hobby is an obsession. I know this about myself because I was obsessed with gardening as my hobby for over 12 years and when the garden got finished, as there is no more room for plants and I am not allowed to take more lawn, then I had to find a new hobby. And now it is clothes.

    No one has ever accused me of being vain or selfish when gardening was my hobby and I used more time on that, and even more money.

    I did not do gardening to make the house prettier for the family. I did it for me. I did not do gardening for consumption of flowers or food, I did it for my asthetic sense.

    Now I do clothes. I still do it for me and my asthtic sense. It is no more selfish than gardening as it takes time and money to explore. I failed many times at certain flowers. I fail with styling or buying the wrong pieces now with clothes. It costs the same, it takes the same effort, although my fingernails are generally cleaner.

    Luckily, there is no one in my life who criticizes me or makes fun of any of these hobbies, so I don't feel your frustration. But if I did, I would be able to hold my head high and call it my new hobby. because it is. And so can you! A hobby is an obsession and when the obsession fades from this one, you will have learned the skill of dressing yourself and be able to teach your daughters.

    My oldest daughter is 13 now. A budding beauty who has her own fashion sense. I enjoy being able to shop with her and point out why something works or doesn't (as opposed to telling her what to wear - she wo'nt tolerate that). For a few years we will share this passion, until she moves on, or I do. Both my daughters know more about makeup than I do. They learned on YouTube,. it is a major part of modern life to care about our apearances. And i can see that already just adding a touch of makeup, my daughters are more lovely and in control of what others see. So I applaud them for going a differenf direction in that area than I have taken. But I do it from knowing where I am, because of my hobby.

    Hope this helps. Just my 50 cents or so!

  • Deborah replied 7 years ago

    Natalie, I'm kind of glad you posted this because I doubt I would have shared this otherwise. I think I understand where you are coming from. Over the past 12 months I have experienced an inner debate with myself. For the past 10 years I have been in church ministry work, particularly working with and developing programs for disadvataged members of our community. It's work I am particularly gifted at and work I have an intense passion for. Since relocating I now work in a secular job, still in the community sector, however over the last 12 months I have been moving closer to changing careers and moving into something more fashion related. Of course my internal conversation has been along the lines of how could I possibly consider doing something so frivolous when I could , literally, be feeding "the poor". But also for the last couple of years I have been developing a program that assists long term unemployed women and part of that is addressing self esteem and job interviews etc so I am beginning to see more clearly how my love of fashion and style can actually be a means to reach out and offer support to other women, hence combining my two passions. I know this is a little different to the dilemma you have expressed but may I encourage you that you spend you days making a huge and worthwhile contribution to society, you co-provide for and love your family, so a hobby or interest outside of that should not make you feel bad or guilty. Would you feel the same if your hobby was say a sport or cooking??? Having extra curricular interests is important to rounded and healthy life. Let go of the guilt and enjoy your "hobby" xxx

  • krishnidoux replied 7 years ago

    Oh, Natalie! What a great question you bring up. It is something I have wondered about, especially in the beginning of participating to this Forum. I have given a good thought about this myself.

    We ask ourselves tons of questions because this (Forum, blog, WIW's...) is a relatively new way of communicating, of acting socially in our day and age. Your mom may not have been taking pics of herself but she had a group of friends, a social circle, activities that today may not exist or be at our reach.

    As with anything new, it takes time for everyone to accept it, to see it for what it is. On top of that, there is the psychological reaction of your entourage to your transformation(s). Just like the Anne H. 'S character, you have to constantly explain yourself, or be faced with others outward reactions. People don't want us to change, it makes them scared. It's THEIR insecurity they try to project into us by pestering us with questions, remarks, etc.

    I think WIW and this forum is actually an extremely healthy thing. It is accepting to take a cold look at ourselves, learn how to make it look good and FEEL BETTER about the whole thing.

    Anything that is hidden, that we avoid looking at, thinking about, can be a source of deep suffering. Today we are bombarded with images of photoshoped 14 yr olds. Everytime, it brings us back to our own body, our own appearance. It takes a mind of steel not to be affected by this. How many times a day are we made to think about our own body, secretly, in ourselves? A dialogue of comparison starts. "Look at her legs, I wish my thighs were more like this, like that. - Maybe they could be! If... you changed your diet... - If only my tummy wasn't like this, that. - Well you SHOULD get the dust off that "Abs of Steel" VHS video... - I wish I was taller. - You're not tall enough! - Smaller - You're not small enough!. " etc.

    Do you think that even our mothers, our grandmothers, were made to think about their bodies so often in the course of their lives? I think certainly not. Also, I maintain that their lives were not as stressful as ours in the sense that stress comes in all kinds of boxes, some of them invisible.

    So to actually face the appearance "issue" head on, is to tart thinking about your body in a positive way. First to look at it with a good, honest eye.

    WIW from others are extremely helpful in that because it shows us real women of all ages. Just like any live group. On the internet we interact with others, but they are invisible, hidden behind an avatar, or if we see them it is only a head shot. WIW are very courageous acts. And helpful to us.

    After we have looked at our body as it is, we can start playing around dressing it to our liking, depending on our personality, the type of message we want to convey, what group we identify with and how we want to express ourselves. Appearance IS important. Please go read Angie's very first post

    In our grandmothers era, women had girdles. With the years and the progressive undressing of women in mass media for the male's pleasure and at the women's sanity expense, this "girdle" has come to be our very bodies. In the 80's you had Jane Fonda advocating literally making your body the girdle... later all the craze was about "Accept Your Body As It Is" but that is easier said than done... All these responses were an attempt for women to feel better in their bodies, but they still confined the women to their solitude. Each woman was alone facing the beast, if you will. Even in an aerobic class, one was made to "compare" their bodies to the instructor's. And when you read self-help books about Accepting Your Body, you are still alone in your living room.

    Now, with the internet, forums, and blogs, we can connect with actual other people! It is a BIG step forward. WIW's and engaging in a style journey is actually quite freeing because it gives us another point of reference, much more powerful since it's interactive, and with others. In tackling the appearance issue head on, with the help and encouragement of other women, we can stop the inner destructive dialogues, feel good about our bodies, finally, in a tangible way. And this gives us more mental space for the other things in our lives. Plus you gain friendships!

    So Natalie, your questioning is valid, but don't forget all these other realities. You often post WIW and in doing so have been so helpful to others. I have enjoyed so much seeing your style evolution and it has inspired me many times.

    Sorry for the long post this morning...

  • ramya replied 7 years ago

    Natalie... I get you...

    For majority of my life all through the college I was this Asian nerd who bothered more about grades then about her looks or clothes...
    Oh dont get me wrong I always was into fashion on others... I always knew what was in or what looks good on others but then I wouldn't be bothered doing them on myself...

    I always thought looks dont define who I am but my grades and professional success defines me... Only later did I realise that it was just my insecurity about my looks manifesting...

    Then I met my now husband... not only did he make me comfortable about my looks but also gently proded me into getting into fashion... he was there shopping with me... picking things that suited me... saying what works what wont...

    Encouraging me to socialize, talk to you guys...

    Now that I am in a new place with different culture.. this is helping me.. I am confident.. I have a hobby, I enjoy doing it...

    There are times when I wonder if it is worth the hassel... but I do know that without it I would revert back to the old ways which I donot want to do

  • April replied 7 years ago

    GP -- I have also struggled with this, wondering whether I should be devoting more time to fighting world hunger or gazing at paintings rather than searching for the perfect pair of jeans.

    Somewhere on this forum, I remember posting my feelings about being in the Philadelphia train station and feeling so grateful to the people who were dressed in anything other than gear, doing their part to contribute to the visual interest of a public space.

    That's how I think of it now. It's not the only thing that's important to me, but it's one of them, and I can see it as a positive thing rather than a failing.

    There's no way I can be convinced that the contributors on What Not to Wear aren't doing a good thing when they go from the "before" to the "after." To me, the "after" is one way of saying, "I'm glad to be alive," and that's surely worth doing.

  • Astrid replied 7 years ago

    Thanks for linking to the article about fashion and feminism, it was very interesting.

    I can relate to what you're talking about, especially about sometimes wanting the times back when one would simply throw on a pair of jeans, tank and flip flops and would be ready to go out without having a second thought about fashion, outfits or personal style. It was so easy, wasn't it? I'm a practical person and most of the time I just want to get on with my day and be comfortable during whatever I do - and not think about my clothes. I definitely think that I still have to work a bit on that and replace the clothes that don't work that way.

    The thing is - when I look back I remember how self-conscious I was, how unhappy with myself. And then I think that it's all worth it. I feel so much better since I discovered a love for fashion. For me that's not the newest fashion, I'm not an edgy person and I never will be. But it's taking care of myself in deciding what looks good on me, being brave and sometimes taking a risk and wearing what I really always wanted to.

    I'm shopping a lot more now than in the past, but I'm not really buying more, if that makes sense. I bought quite a few things that didn't work out in hindsight, but these were simply purged too - I did some ruthless purges over my YLF time. I think the idea of a small practical closet and careful spending makes me feel less frivolous. Although that doesn't mean I would think that about other people with bigger closets!

    And for the pictures, I simply have no one in my life that cares about style or fashion. If I didn't ask my questions here, I wouldn't ask them at all. All people around me are the type of people mentioned in the article you linked to - "I wear clothes so I won’t be naked” people. ;)

  • lyn67 replied 7 years ago

    Same dillema here, GP :-)... but we really have to allow ourselves one hobby, isn't it?

  • Transcona Shannon replied 7 years ago

    Excellent discussion Natalie! I struggled with these thoughts when I first started posting my outfits on a daily basis. But I've come to the conclusion that I'm having a lot of fun with this - I'm learning, growing, contributing to a community and enjoying reading about others' thoughts on fashion and style. I work in a completely non-creative environment and yet I'm a very creative person. YLF is my creative outlet and fashion is my way to express myself. But I also try and not take it all TOO seriously. I have a real life with family, commitments and needs and that real life will always trump my YLF participation, and so it should. I asked hubby one time if he thought YLF and posting outfits was self indulgent and he very calmly replied "Probably. But what hobby isn't?" Anything we do for ourselves could be considered self indulgent but everyone needs their "own thing", you know?

  • replied 7 years ago

    I don't think fashion is an obsession unless it consumes you to the point where it's all you think about and all you spend your valuable time on.

    For years, music was my hobby, which may have seemed like an obsession to some because I spent so much time practicing and performing. However, compared to the classical pianists who spend 8+ hours a day practicing, my 2 hours of practice a day was nothing more than a hobby. Also, that hobby turned into a career as I started playing professionally and then opened up a piano studio in my home to teach children and teens how to play. I also love to cook, and when I was a SAHM cooking was indeed more of a hobby than it is now that I'm outside the house for 40 hours a week. Still, it can be said that I cooked fresh meals from scratch to keep my family happy and healthy.

    My mom had several hobbies: gardening and sewing. The gardening consumed the bulk of her time and was a borderline obsession., but she ended up selling plants to a local nursery to help pay for my brother's college expenses. The sewing, of course, clothed all 6 of us children as well as several grandchildren that followed years later. Also, thanks to her sewing for me, I learned a lot about fabrics, quality workmanship and about how clothing should fit. Whenever she took me to the mall, she would teach me the difference between good and poor quality clothing. When at the cloth store, she would teach me about good vs. poor quality fabric.

    It was largely because of my mother that I learned to care about my appearance and about the message the clothing I wear sends to other people. She taught me to respect myself and to put my best foot forward. So yes, fashion has always been somewhat of a hobby for me... moreso now that we have the internet and online shopping that allows access to a much greater variety of styles. Lastly, in this day in age where practically anything goes, it's even more important than ever to know how to put individual pieces of clothing and accessories together to make great outfits.

    In a nutshell, as long as I'm not neglecting any of my personal and professional responsibilities, and as long as my family knows they will always be my #1 priority, and as long as I don't go into debt with the stuff I buy, I feel good about my fashion hobby/obsession!

  • Jem replied 7 years ago

    I don't have anything to add, but wanted to say how much I enjoy all of your well spoken comments. It's hard not to feel guilty about so many things... I am thankful to be able to come here to find others who enjoy discussing fashion and other things. I really enjoy your posts GP and am sorry you are feeling conflicted right now.

  • ManidipaM replied 7 years ago

    Natalie, first of all, thanks for the great link, and then, for a fab thought-provoking discussion so very typical of you!

    In that piece you linked to, this line really jumped out at me: " I think it gets treated as trivial because women get treated as trivial." This is precisely my current position on fashion and feminism.

    I recall the years when I tried to 'show' or *prove* I was not trivial by burying the 'trivial pursuits' very briefly in a workplace that had that same judgemental air, even if it came from women who had internalized the sexism of that statement. And another workplace where you were judged for not being fashionable *enough* --- but that's still being judged for fashion. And at the end of the day, not only is it sexist to stereotype in this way, it takes all the joy and individuality out of it. With that realization, I stopped listening quite so hard to the environmental noise.

    I have to say I do NOT envy the lady who walks past, comfy in her track suit or flip-flops. I rejoice in her being comfy in her own skin, whatever she's wearing. Not everyone shares my other hobbies of cooking or gardening, and that's just fine. And some days, I do confess I can't be bothered to cook a hot meal, go weeding, or even 'dress up nice' --- and that is quite cool too I think. The day I start judging myself or someone else for not being 'dressed RIGHT' is the day fashion is no longer the right hobby for me. Or rather, it's the day I have sacrificed the joy of it to silly snobbery and oneupmanship, true to those same sexist stereotypes of women. That's when it will have become a frivolous obsession, indeed.

    Hope I never get there. Yes, I do enjoy the aesthetics of a perfect-length pair of pants on a passerby; and I sometimes gently suggest to a friend that she might want to switch something around a little. And I come to YLF to get a dose of that myself. But the feminist and the friend in me love my pal in the cropped, belled-out pants no less for her not wearing the clothes 'right'.

    If it is about creative expression, there is room in the vocabulary for the laidback, the cobbled-together, the don't-care Bobby and the 'I am shabby because it is a statement of my politics' ladies too.

  • Astrid replied 7 years ago

    Manidipa, you're so eloquent (as always!). I agree with everything you said.

  • cheryl replied 7 years ago

    Such an interesting read. I have no guilt at all over my love for fashion. We all have to get dressed every day, there is nothing at all wrong with enjoying it and having fun with it. My family and friends tease me sometimes because of my big wardrobe and more so because of my inventory and spreadsheet, but its all good natured and I am not ashamed of it. Life is too short, choose to be happy and do things that put a smile on your face.

  • qpswan replied 7 years ago

    Oh, GP, you are one of the many reasons I love this website!

    My mother always says, "The way you dress is the way you are addressed." I believe that the self you present to the world is a choice.

    I love this quote from The Devil Wears Prada:

    "This... stuff'? Oh. Okay. I see. You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select... I don't know... that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you're trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don't know is that that sweater is not just blue, it's not turquoise. It's not lapis. It's actually cerulean. And you're also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent... wasn't it who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it's sort of comical how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you're wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff."

  • Angie replied 7 years ago

    This is an interesting read. The topic comes up a few times a year!

    For me, it's this simple:

    Hobbies are fun, so fashion is fun.

    Style is an art form, and art (in my book) is not frivolous. I am a huge art appreciator and almost studied Fine Art at Varsity. I take art seriously so I take fashion and style seriously.

    Feeling great in your clothes extends beyond the physical and visual. It's emotional and affects your psyche and over all sense of well being.

    Fashion and Style are my livelihood - 20 years! I take a great interest in the world of trends, designers and retail. It's an ongoing topic that never dies and creates endorphins for those who enjoy it. How can this be bad.

    And of course, everything in moderation. Like all hobbies and interests, they have to stay fun. If they are not fun anymore - stop.

  • rae replied 7 years ago

    Wow, I really want to come back later this morning, read everything, and comment more deeply.

    Short answer before I've woken up is that, like many things, fashion can be creative *and* frivolous, fun *and* narcissistic. It depends on how you handle it, and what the person is like. There are many blogs out there that I personally feel fall into the "full of herself" category... I know we aren't supposed to be judgy here, but hey that is why I love YLF. IMO the people here approach fashion with a humble and joyful spirit all at once. There are two sides to the coin. It's my opinion that your pictures are tools in a study - not mere flash and dash egotism.

    As for envying the sweat pants crowd - I think it falls into the same category as blissful ignorance. I do sometimes envy people who can be completely happy sitting acouch all night watching sitcoms. I envy people who don't aspire to more than they have, because they don't have to try, either. But for whatever reason, my mind happens to crave more - one state of being isn't better or worse; it just IS. We all want different things and different things make us happy.

  • ironkurtin replied 7 years ago

    A lot of good thoughts here! Here are mine.

    GP, I think you're making too rigid boxes for yourself. Quit judging yourself or listening to other judgements and just enjoy. If other people don't understand it, F them. Serious. The less time you spend worrying what other people think, or might think, the happier you will be. Your daughter is going to think what she is going to think, and not enjoying clothes won't make her stop. As for wasting brain cells on thinking about clothing, one reason I shop is to put things on and *not think about them* I can be perfectly comfortable knowing that I love what I am wearing. It's OK if I won't want to wear these things forever. Medicine changes, fashion changes, life goes on. That's part of the joy.

  • replied 7 years ago

    I agree with qpswan: "The self you present to the world is a choice."

    We all have to get dressed in the morning, and it doesn't take any more time to put on a nice outfit than it does to put on a shabby one. Also, if you catch the sales like I do, it doesn't cost any more $ to dress nicely than it does to dress plainly; say, in t-shirts and jeans. It does take more time and effort to shop for nice clothing, but with online shopping, almost anyone can find time in his/her day to browse (window shop).

    I personally don't envy the sweat pants crowd because that's not the way I want to dress. I will not be caught outside my home, not even to walk to the mailbox, in sweats. That said, the folks who want to dress that way are certainly free to do it. No judgements from me, unless they complain about not getting promoted or whatever. If you're employed, there are certain dress codes you most likely have to follow. I don't know which work environment would be sweat pants friendly, unless you work at home and never go outside, lol!

    Those of us who take the time to dress nicely should not feel guilty. Also, certain careers, occasions, etc. dictate the way we should dress. Obviously, not everyone has to dress the same way because not everyone has the same lifestyle. That said, being inappropriately dressed makes one be perceived as clueless or unprofessional.

  • Jamie replied 7 years ago

    Natalie -- I'm so glad you brought this up as I've been thinking about it a lot myself lately. All of the comments above are valid, so I won't rehash them. Every time I ponder this, I come to the same conclusions as expressed by krishnidoux, qpswan, Angie, and Angie's very first blog post. Then, I'm back to enjoying one of my passions.

  • harmonica replied 7 years ago

    Thanks for starting this interesting thread, GP! Short reply bevares i am still in the mountains. I hear you on the topic and fond lost of food answers, ie on hobby(jayne), on not thinking too square (ik), love the fun things in life etc. My short comment is that blogging, wiw, Internet has developed a new public/private space that din not excist earlier. This is a quite new phenomenon with many dimentions. Arjun Appadurai's thoughts in his book 'modernity at large' is very interesting and still current.
    Sorry for no links and short answer. And i find it brave of you to share this with electronic likebeings

  • JR replied 7 years ago

    Very interesting topic here. I've been thinking it over myself, being another nerd and former Christian worker. How does this relate to both my intellectual and spiritual concerns? I'm not going to write an essay on this, but here are a couple of quick thoughts.

    For some people I'm sure it is a frivolous obsession, but it doesn't have to be. It's all a question of balance, really, and priorities. Dressing is an essential part of life, and there's nothing wrong with wanting to do a good job of it. I personally put this in the category of work smarter, not harder. I don't intend to fill my closet more, or turn into a clothing snob looking down on others who don't do it "right", but if I have to spend the time and the money regardless, might as well do it well, right? And there definitely is creative expression involved, for sure.

    I'm putting more time and effort into this right now than I can personally justify on a long-term basis, but I'm in learning mode, and that's the way things go.

  • Diana replied 7 years ago

    Have not read all the other replies yet, and think I will want to spend some time digesting them, but I did want to add my thoughts.

    In short, yes, I do sometimes worry about whether or not my interest in fashion is frivolous. Not from a personal growth type of standpoint (i.e. could be saving the world instead) but from the standpoint of worrying what others will think of me. In particular, my field (academia, science) has this bias that looking too polished is somehow "corporate" or too slick. Academic science is one of the only fields where it's sort of acceptable to dress like a schlub. More for men than for women though. For women, it's this weird sort of middle ground where it's bad to look too homely but also bad to look too snazzy. There's this perception that you should be spending all your time thinking about important science-y things and not wasting your brainpower on vanity or fashion.

    That said, I decided a long time ago to stop letting this bother me. I am who I am, and people just have to deal with it. I AM vain (and I don't think it's a bad thing), and I enjoy fashion, but it does not make me any worse of an academic or scientist. I refuse to buy into those dumb preconceived notions by changing the way I dress or think about fashion. On a day to day basis, I do not encounter this bias, because I see the same people every day and they know that I am not shallow or flaky. For something like a job interview where I'll be meeting lots of new people that have a hand in deciding my professional future, I'd likely tone things down a bit, but that's as far as I go.

    My personal feelings about fashion are that it is a hobby and a form of art or creative expression. Hobbies and art are by nature not meant to be wholly practical. They are for our own personal enjoyment. I very strongly believe that things like art and culture and things that bring beauty and pleasure to this world are a big part of what makes us human and interesting.

  • rae replied 7 years ago

    I loved this quote from the article you linked:
    "... fashion and style are so much like a language, I’m always a bit baffled when people say things like, “I want to be judged on who I am, not on the clothes I wear.” It’s a bit like saying, “I want to be judged on who I am, not on the words that come out of my mouth.” But that’s a point for another time."

    Personal style is art. It is language. It is *expression*. Fashion itself does not dictate that which is expressed; the ultimate message of an outfit is crafted by each fashionista in her own right.

    I didn't learn letters and grammar because I thought, "Wow. My thoughts are so beautifully important that I must find a way to preserve them for the ages."

    Do some women express arrogance and narcissism? Heck yes! Do some writers and artists come across as obtuse or snobby or self-important? Of course. Do you? I'd never think so. We've discussed your rubric and style statement and you've worked hard to create a wardrobe that says what you want it to say - feminine, modest, professional, retro. The pictures and discussion are part of that work and that study.

    One thing I simultaneously love and *hate* about The Devil Wears Prada is that, although, there is a lot of fashion involved, it's not necessarily a story about fashion. Getting caught up in a job, losing one's moral compass in order to get ahead, neglecting loved ones: these are issues that arise in every idustry. You could look at Fashion as The Big Evil, corrupting a wide-eyed innocent. But to me, the true villain of the story is Andy's own ambition.

  • replied 7 years ago

    I don't think that a love of fashion precludes having a 'serious' mind, too. My husband and I, both medical doctors (well, he's now a high-falutin' Professor of Oncology), both take a keen interest in fashion, and have spent the last two days in Milan (so much more chic than our home turf of Paris, we've decided!!). OK the Milan trip is part of our Silver Wedding Anniversary celebrations, but believe me, I've been stocking up on Autumn/Winter fashion while there, and we've been staying in the Hotel Armani Milano, and loved every decadent minute of it, (spa treatments and all!) and will have memories to treasure for the next twenty-five years. And, NO, I'm not ashamed. I work part-time for eight months of the year at a private hospital in Paris, where my international patients EXPECT me to look chic (when I'm not in theatre scrubs, of course!). The money I earn there, allows me to work on a volunteer basis for 12-16 weeks each year with Médecins sans frontières (doctors without borders). This volunteer work has seen me in many a war-torn or disaster-struck zone in the 16 years I've been doing it. And during that time, I've seen other volunteer colleagues fall by the wayside, because, frankly, it's damn tough! So I don't think I'm merely a selfish air-head. But neither do I see an incompatibility between the compassion that keeps me going with MSF and my love for good clothes. And, yes, I too, use Vogue, Elle, Marie-Claire, and Inès de la Fressange for inspiration; they are just as much a part of my bed-time reading as are my professional medical journals.

  • MsMary replied 7 years ago

    Let me put it this way: I recently put in my application for a Very Important Job, and in the last section of the form where it said "talk about your hobbies and interests," I said, among other things, "I love fashion and style and enjoy curating my wardrobe." As others have said, it's a hobby and an artistic outlet, and I'm not at all embarassed or ashamed of the time, energy and money I spend on it.

  • HelenInCanada replied 7 years ago

    Wow - many interesting thoughts. Great soul-searching question, GP. Definitely worth exploring, since if I'm not mistaken, it has come up several times.

    While I love to encourage and support hobbies (they're SO necessary for maintaining sanity and a sense of well-being IMHO), I wouldn't encourage one that ceases to be enjoyable. A hobby that is destructive (say, excessive bar-hopping and drinking, or shooting chickens/doves/whatnot illegally), that depletes your bank account before you buy necessities (collecting jewellry or rare items), or destroys valuable relationships (for example, excessive porn-watching or strip-club-going) are obviously BAD and need to end.

    Natalie, your 'day' job contributes SO much to society, and is (I imagine) stressful and full of challenges. Of COURSE you deserve a fun and relaxing hobby. Keep it if that what it continues to be. Should a woman who loves interior design and shares that online be ashamed? No - it helps others beautify their surroundings too. Same as style and fashion.

    Now you've also mentioned being tired of standing out. Here where I live, if you are dressed shabbily or even 'unfashionably' , you stick out! Environmental norms are funny! People here just gobble up trends and fashion (I live in northeast Toronto). It's fun to look at and behold. Too bad you don't see it more where you live (I guess NoCal is really laidback, fashion-wise.) Rest assured you are in good company, though. There's a huge community of fashion / aesthetics lovers, as you know from YLF. Does this mean you need to exclude other pursuits that interest or intrigue you? No. Fashion is but one.

    Just my thoughts on a groggy muggy afternoon. Will think on this some more.

    ETA: You know, if you want to soothe some of this guilt you're feeling, perhaps you could get involved in your medical association's nonprofit activites/fundraising once a month, or something along those lines...? Taking part in charity events more often? Worth a look.

  • fern replied 7 years ago

    Fashion / art / architecture / fiction / foodie food - they are all things you can only spend your time & resources on once you are secure, financially & otherwise, so I guess they are automatically "frivolous". They are also the things that make us human. They are just for art and for joy, but I personally don't want to live without them.

  • rachylou replied 7 years ago

    I think about these things too and question, for example, if I let impulse run away with me in this area.

    Impulse, vanity can be a funny thing. People can get pretty vain about the dumpiest fashions. For example, I have a rather perverse love for Catholic radio. Quite a lot of time is frittered away on discussing ideas for creating dumpy outfits, basically, and whining about folks wearing shorts in church. On the other hand, there's a nun who converted to Catholicism and started a new order where the sisters wear the habit; she was driven in no small part by how disturbed she felt as a young Jewish girl to see nuns give up the habit. I guess she felt the habit was a sign of hope in the world and she took heart from it. The funniest little things can move people in the most serious of ways.

    I think you have to allow for the human spirit and keep watch for its faults. Making things beautiful is an act of appreciation. But if you spend all day scoffing at the so-called ugly or changing your outfits to enter different rooms of your house, you should maybe ask yourself if you couldn't be more useful.

  • Irene replied 7 years ago

    I don't know. I've had LOADS of self-esteem issues in the past, and getting into fashion helped me overcome them. Then I lost weight (a fair amount) and buying fashion got so much easier and thus, more usual.

    I'm not sure wether it's frivoulous or not, and as long as it makes me feel better about myself and more confident in front of other people, it's fine with me. I don't think I dress so well that people pay actual attention to it, but more to my happy smile.

    PS: I have noticed, especially recently, a sort of obsession with outfit ideas, like if Angie writes a post on boyfriend jeans, it's all about boyfriend jeans for a week on the forums, and I feel that we all in the forum create a sort of need to consume because you are either in or out of it. That scares me a bit, but I think it happens in EVERY sphere. The new Apple store is opening soon in one of the main streets in Barcelona and people are taking photos of the fake façade they cover the real store with. Seriously. And I don't think they are even that techno-freak. That's us. We have everything we need so crave for things we don't need but feel like having.

  • Meredith1953 replied 7 years ago

    A lot of thoughtful commentary going on here! GP you always bring up really interesting topics! I just want to say that a hobby "in moderation" brings both joy and stress relief. If it truly starts to make one feel guilty or stressed then a little self-examination is in order. Of course some of us can be made to feel that sense of guilt and stress because society or someone important in our lives doesn't value our hobby. That can't be helped, as people will have their own opinions. Fashion for me, is a way of letting others see who I think I am on the inside. It is also a way of respecting and loving myself enought to want to present myself well. I hope I don't sound preachy. I think you have a real gift for putting together beautiful outfits and I always enjoy seeing them.

  • Debbie replied 7 years ago

    I just saw this and wanted to add my 2 cents worth.

    I have made this comment many times but it bears repeating at least to me. I came to this forum looking for a dress. I found so much more. I do not think I am self absorbed. I believe that I have become self aware. Whether or not I am having a stressful day I have the tools and the items in my wardrobe to look put together on the outside which gives me a confidence boost. In a world where women work full time raise children take care of a home. We tend to get lost or at least I did. I cannot stress about what other people think of my love for fashion because it is something I love and they do not have to have the same opinion. I hate golf but my husband loves it So that is fine.
    Natalie keep enjoying fashion for you!

  • goldenpig replied 7 years ago

    Wow, I am blown away by all the warm, thoughtful, supportive and insightful comments! I will come back and savor them over and over! So much food for thought.

    Kirti--I really enjoy your blog and how creative you are at remixing your outfits. I too sometimes wish I wasn't such a perfectionist when it came to finding the right items. Then again, once I have everything together it does seem worth it to have only items that make you feel fab in your closet. It just takes a lot of work!

    Jayne--I know, it seems like other hobbies like gardening or cooking are more "accepted" by others. You are right though, hobbies are obsessions by can't get really good at something without obsessing about it a little (or a lot!). And it's true, there is so much to learn from the internet now that we never had access to before.

    Deborah, interesting that you chimed in about the reigious aspect because I do think the Bible has lots to say about vanity...maybe that is where the root of our cultural disapproval of focusing on fashion began? I think that is great that you can find a way to combine your two passions and do a lot of good!

    Krish, I love your historical perspective! Yes, it seems like people have always been social, it's just that the means of expression and connectedness have become much more technological and online-based than before. I count you all as my "friends" even though I've never met you in real life...I still feel like I know you all really well because we hang out together online a lot! And thank you for saying that my WIW are helpful to you and others. I think that assuages my guilt that posting WIW's is not all about me showing off and fishing for compliments...I really do like it the most when people say that they learned something or were inspired by something I posted! I know I have learned so much from looking at yours and everyone else's WIWs!

    Ramya, waving to fellow Asian nerd (hee hee!). In contrast to you I never paid much attention whatsoever to fashion. But like you I am enjoying it immensely now!

    April--WNTW was one of the first shows that got me interested in fashion...I agree that it seems like it does wonders for the self confidence of the women featured on the show so that is a good thing!

    Astrid, I agree, sometimes I long for the ease of not thinking about my clothes and just throwing them on. I'm hoping that as I get more experienced with putting together outfits and remixing, that I can get back to that easy phase, but instead what I throw on is always stylish and well put together! :)

    Lyn67, I agree, everyone needs at least one hobby, otherwise there's no fun in life!

    Shannon, I agree, real life and family always has to come first! I agree, you are a really creative person. Funnily enough I never considered myself a creative person AT ALL but now I'm finding out I just have to find something that interests me and I can learn to be more creative if I'm passionate about it!

    Ruth, I really like what you said: "In a nutshell, as long as I'm not neglecting any of my personal and professional responsibilities, and as long as my family knows they will always be my #1 priority, and as long as I don't go into debt with the stuff I buy, I feel good about my fashion hobby/obsession!" I need to remember that one!

    Jem, thanks for your appreciation! It really helps!

    Manidipa, you are right, it never helps to be judgy about other people's fashion choices if you don't want to be judged yourself! I try not to judge others negatively whether they're interested in fashion or not. But I do have to admit a secret thrill when I see another "fashiony" person walking down the street!

    Yes very wise Cheryl, life is short and we should always choose to be happy! I know seeing your smile always makes me smile in return!

    Thank you qpswan! And i love that speech, it really made me laugh!

    Angie, you are so good at what you do it seems effortless for you, second are like a 10th degree black belt master of fashion! I wish it could be one-tenth as easy for me someday, Sensei! Fashion is really fun for me, which is why I can't and don't want to stop doing it!

    Rae, so true. You'd think the way I am posting and studying this subject so intensely, that I was trying to get an online degree from MFA (master of fashion arts)!

    IK, so true, everything changes and we shouldn't spend so much time worrying about what others think and more about how we feel inside!

    Ruth, yes, those of us who try to dress well shouldn't be judged any more than those of us who want to live in comfy gear all the time.

    Jamie, thanks. I'm glad you enjoy your passion--I do too!

    Harmonica--thanks. Blogging and online communities really are the new way of connecting with the world.

    JR, I agree with everything you said.

    Diana, agree that the science world is sometimes biased against fashiony types who can be pegged as less brainy. We are changing that view that you can be brainy and beautiful, right? :)

    Rae, very insightful. There are letters, then there are words, then there is poetry. There are garments, then there are outfits, and then there is fashion/style/art.

    LaFrancaise, high five fellow Dr. Fashionista! Glad to know there are more out there!

    MaryK, oooh, I wish I had the balls to put Fashionista on my resume! Own it!

    Helen, your post really resonated with me. I think I am happiest when I hear that my posts have helped on the mommy board, several moms said they were inspired by my transformation to join YLF and start dressing nicer themselves! I do volunteer at the community clinic but it's just more of the same day to day work for me, so it's not really "fun". However, I think am going to look into volunteering for Dress for Success like Claire. That way it'll combine my interest in fashion with my desire to help others out! I think it could be really fun if I can get the time to spare to do it! I will definitely look into it, thanks for the nudge!

    Fern, yes, art and joy shouldn't be considered bad things at all!

    Rachylou, you are a hoot!

    Lemonade, fashion can be a double edged sword. It can give people loads of negative self esteem issues, but on the other hand when it makes you feel good and comfortable in your own skin and confident (like YLF has helped me with), then it's all for good! I do agree that we tend to obsess about the same things at the same time when Angie posts about it--hopefully not always feeling pressure to buy new things though! I've learned now that I don't have to jump on every bandwagon, as fun as it is to watch and see on others!

    Meredith, I know I am open about this issue (maybe more than I should) and struggle with this a bit. My husband is actually very supportive of me overall. I think he's just scratching his head in puzzlement because he doesn't understand the attraction. We've previously always had shared hobbies and obsessions and so this is all a bit strange for him and something he's still trying to get used to especially since I've thrown myself into it with heedless abandon!

    Debbie, I agree, moms tend to feel very guilty about taking me time. I am trying to work this out and find a balance that works for me and my family!

    Thank you all so much for your words of wisdom and support! It means so much to me to be part of this wonderful community!

  • krishnidoux replied 7 years ago

    Natalie I count you as one of my friends too!

  • Echo replied 7 years ago

    Okay, I don't want to make this a sexist thing, but it is hard not to. On the one hand, a woman is held up in the media and in society as only worthwhile if she has sex appeal. Second place is that she at least cares about her appearance or had not "let herself go" (I hate that expression). But on the other hand, a woman who cares about her appearance is considered "high maintenance" or shallow, and it is assumed that she doesn't care or think about anything of substance. A woman is damned if she does and damned if she doesn't.

    Additionally, as far as hobbies go, a person rarely hears men criticize other men based on what they spent on golf or boating or shooting. They rarely whisper about the new set of clubs he bought. And for that matter, he rarely gets gossiped about or criticized for what he spent on his custom shoes or Italian briefcase or new Audi. Most men have a hobby that can be quite costly (even hunting can be VERY expenisve if a person wants all the newest toys), but that rarely generates judgement or contempt from women or from other men.

    My point in all of this is that fashion is as valid an interest and hobby as is anything else. Women are judged for far more - in every aspect of their lives - than are men. Own your interests and don't apologize. As for using up time thinking about what you are wearing, you spend far less time thinking about it when you have a wardobe full of things that you feel confident and great in. That way, you are never wasting time tugging on a garment or worrying about how you look while you are doing other things.

  • replied 7 years ago

    Yay, thanks for the shout out for DFS Natalie. You would be great at it and they will gladly accept whatever time you have to give. Angie still dresses women at her chapter once a week with a good friend, it's their weekly 'tea date', and she has got to be one of the busiest women on the planet.

    I read your post before going down to DFS to volunteer today. I left it up on my screen because I didn't have time to comment and I wanted to think about it. When I got home, I hit the refresh button and saw that you had created quite a discussion! I enjoyed reading all of the replies.

    I remember learning in college about Maslow's hierarchy of human needs. Bear with me, it was a long time ago and I don't remember exactly, but there was a pyramid of human needs. When the most basic were met, then it was human nature to expound to the point where beauty and art become important, something you might not care about if you were starving. Clothing is both a basic need and also it can evolve into a higher art form. I've always been interested in it even at it's most basic level.

    When we help the women at Dress for Success, we are giving them clothing that is a step above the "basic human needs" clothes that they've been in for a long time and it never ceases to amaze me what it does to give them hope--for their future and for turning their lives around. Time after time I see women stand up straight, look at themselves in the mirror, smile bashfully and say, "Wow! I look good!" All of the sudden, they own it, and there is no question that something as *frivolous* as fashion is going to help them be the person they need to be at their interview to get that desperately needed job.

    Whether or not you actually get to volunteer, you are already helping your friends and you will have influence on the next generation of girls (your daughter).

    Side note: There seems to be a running theme in fashion books (Parisian Chic, etc,) that I've read recently that while fashion is very important, appearing not to care about it is key for the Parisian a(or maybe chic women in general?). IDK. I wonder what that is all about? Maybe it has to do with spending a lot of time learning about it, and then pretending that it's all perfectly effortless, lol!

  • Aziraphale replied 7 years ago

    Everything in moderation. There's nothing inherently bad about an interest in fashion, and participating in this forum is fun (and often informative!) -- just as long as you don't let it take over your life. ;-)

  • Angie replied 7 years ago

    Natalie, you have fashion flair and it shows! You also REALLY enjoy wearing your purchases! Don't give up the fun if that's what fashion and style is for you. Life is too short to NOT have fun. And thanks for the sweet words :)

    @MaryK. YOU ROCK. Loved your comment.

    @Debbie. Your comment warmed my heart.

  • Zapotee replied 7 years ago

    I have read each and every response, which is rare for me. I am in awe of the eloquence of each one of you. I am rather simple, so I know I will fall short with my humble contribution.

    Natalie, I believe it comes a point in time, in each and every person's life, where you have to realize that asking the world for acceptance of one's choices is of no relevance whatsoever. The only goal in life should be that of self acceptance. It is liberating to accept yourself, flaws and all. It was not until I forgave and accepted myself, that I stopped treating myself as if I was some broken, imperfect being, in need of constant improvement. It's ok to be vain, shallow and selfish sometimes, not ALL of the time. It was then, when the continuos introspection FINALLY stopped. I was my worst critic. I am not saying this is your case, I'm just sharing my " life experience" overall. Lol.

    Also, I know this is such a canned response but life is so short to worry about what people think. Who cares if the world thinks you are vain? Opinions are like belly buttons, everyone has one. Further, I think that rationalizing each and every single action, choice or decision, is an exercise in futility and an agonizing task. Sometimes I do things "just because" and I'm ok with that.

    My thoughts on fashion: Well, it is a hobby no one should be ashamed of. Like any other hobby, it can only lead to positives, if it is carried out responsibly and without placing a financial or emotional burden on yourself or your loved ones.

    Don't worry about what people might think.

You need to be logged in to comment