30 December 2010

Day 278: At Home

At Home: A Short History of Private Life.  ISBN: 9780767919388 (ARC - published October 5, 2010).

There is a whole section devoted to dress for the Dressing Room Chapter and how fashion has not only been ridiculous but lead to serious illnesses and even death.  My fiance does not get fashion.  He is not capable of snappy dressing on his own and is only just presentable when his mother and I help him dress up (some of this is due to inability to afford nice clothes/not enough effort put into thrift store shopping).  At one point I was talking to him about what care of dress expresses to potential employers and how a very outdated suit or dressing habits would send the wrong signals.  His response was to get flustered and say in a raised voice, "Well that's just stupid."

Well, yes.  It is stupid.  Fashion is a completely arbitrary set of rules, usually dictated by people of wealth or power, or at the very least publicity whoredom.  On the other hand, dressing allows us to express ourselves in a certain way.  Without fashion, that expression would actually have less meaning.  There are different fashions for different subsets of people, and by donning one over another we tell people, "I am more comfortable associating myself with this than with that."  Of course it also means that people will judge us positively or negatively based on how we are dressed and their associations of other people wearing those clothes.  For instance, I still have a very hard time taking anyone seriously who wears baggy jeans anywhere below their waist.  Also, low rise jeans are tacky, no one wants to see your ass crack/thong combo.

Basically, as ridiculous and unnecessary as fashion seems, it does have its place in our society.  And of course there are ways around the dictates of fashion by buying clothes that have classical lines.  If people are careful with their dress clothes purchases, they should be able to wear the same suit for at least 10 years before it needs replacing, and that's really only because in 10 years your body shape will change enough that at the very least the suit ought to be taken in for an alteration.  In the meantime, you may need to buy a new tie or dress shirt to keep up with current trends in collars/buttons/colors/decollete.

However, looking good is always in fashion, and if you and your friends think you look good in something, by all means keep wearing it.  And I do recommend getting the opinion of honest friends, because we all form attachments to clothes and just because you think it looks good, doesn't mean that your friends aren't going to gasp in shock and horror for wearing that terrible shoulder-padded sequined number to the New Year's Eve Party.

My review can be found on Goodreads.
LibsNote: This ARC was received from a publishers booth at ALA 2010.
EditorNote: Fashion is still stupid. :P


  1. I actually think you're conflating 'fashion' with 'style'. Everyone has a style, it's impossible not to. It's simply what you choose to wear, whether it's what's trendy, all black, or whatever you find on the street. There's a theme in there, whatever it is, and it makes you look like who you are.

    Fashion, on the other hand, is style as dictated by an external source, and that's what's stupid. Telling someone they have to wear certain colors or certain cuts of clothing in order to be able to do something is simply pandering to those who A) care about fashion, and B) can afford to always have the latest trends in clothing. If I make an effort to look good, it shouldn't matter if I look as good as someone in a $500 suit. What's important is the intent behind the clothing. But of course, our society is and will always be far too hung up on the exterior, so I guess I'll never get my way.

  2. It would be awesome if my editor had these insights, then I could better include writing against these arguments in the post itself. In any case I will attempt to do so here.

    Fashion in best practice is an expression of style on a wide scale. Meaning that ideally it ought to be more or less the average of what everyone is wearing within certain cultures, subcultures, etc. as a means of being able to identify what is "average" in said culture. Unfortunately fashion has become increasingly high jacked by people with ridiculous ideas of what is tasteful or even safe. But then, I should also have mentioned that I was not referring to High Fashion, which is a completely different and ridiculously tarted out animal. Rather I refer to fashion in the sense of, "A lot of average people seem to be wearing this right now and have or will do so for X amount of time."

  3. Yeah, High Fashion is definitely the worst offender in my mind, although often the results are humorous.

    I still say though, if I'm not an average person, why do I care about what average people wear? It's got no bearing on me. I guess it's the overtones of conformity that rankle me so, but what are you going to do, huh? You're hitting up against the "ten million people can't be wrong" argument at that point.

  4. Well, we automatically are more comfortable seeing something that is familiar. That's why odd or foreign fashions can be so jarring to us. For one it's a way of recognizing people in the same "tribe" and we are able to gather more information accurately from things we are familiar with. It's harder or impossible to know what kind of messages people are trying to send with their dress when you are unfamiliar with it, for instance by how they knot their tie or display their handkerchief. It's a small thing, but it does provide information to people who observe such things. Just because most of our generation communicates in this way through entirely unsubtle t-shirts and brandnames, does not mean we shouldn't at least be _aware_ of the possible messages we send to others with our professional wardrobe.

  5. I guess I need to accept the fact that I'm strange, then. Sameness, in its purest form anyway, frightens me. I'd much rather see someone trying to stand out or express themselves in a unique way. I've always been attracted by people with mohawks or colored hair, and I love seeing people whose clothing is anything but trendy. I guess I won't be changing anything, though.


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