Why Should I Hate Fashion?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010



I am sure by now, you have read dozens of responses to Tanya Gold's recent essay in the Guardian entitled "Why I hate fashion." She opens with these titillating words: "A confession – it's been stalking me for years now, this crawling ­disdain for fashion; the certainty that it is not an ally but an enemy. The older I am, the more disenchanted I am with what is meant to make us beautiful... I believe it is one of the ultimate evils in the universe... Simply put, I hate fashion."

Gold then cites what she believes to be a casualty of fashion: the tragic death of a sixteen year old girl who suddenly slid to her demise in very high heels under a moving train. A poor choice of footwear on an icy day, yes, but to argue that the accident carries the symbolic significance of a literary heroine's suicide is a bit melodramatic, to say the least.

Her other arguments carry more merit, albeit in less original ways: fashion, Gold argues, is for the impossibly rich and skinny, most women who try to adhere to those impossible standards find themselves miserable and even those who live in that rare world (the models who pose for the photos, who are then stretched beyond recognition through photoshop for our general consumption) are miserable creatures, too.

Reading Gold's essay is a bit like reading someone's breakup letter to an ex... somewhat disjointed and exaggerated. She tries to make it sound like she has moved on, that she has found a happier place where she can simply block out the memories she once shared with fashion but the wounds are still there, still fresh. "Can't you ignore it, you may ask? Can't you squeeze yourself into a ­library and have an inner life instead? Ha!" she writes.

You may be surprised to hear that I can relate to Gold's sentiments, however raw and shocking as they may seem to those of you who have always had a strong love affair with fashion. Fashion and I have always had a complicated relationship- you might say we were on again, off again lovers, and there was a prolonged period a few years ago, when I made the bold pronouncement: "Fashion, we are through, for real this time."

At the time, I was pursuing fiction writing, and had very little disposable income to spend on the "frivolities" of fashion. I felt myself superior to friends who would put their designer goods on display while I locked myself in my room for hours reading "serious" fiction and writing (in retrospect) rather dreary and self-important stories about rather dreary and self-important people. Fashion, I felt then, had only a utilitarian place in my life-- something to wear to stay warm or cool, but given little thought. And I took pleasure in wearing a pair of jeans with a simple tee or a cozy fleece jacket with the ugliest logo I could find. Yes, I was fighting fashion hard, the best way I knew how.

But then something shifted. I stopped wearing sloppy things and surprisingly, I felt better about myself. I realized how much I missed the creative act of assembling an outfit. I re-learned the significance that fashion plays in the way we communicate with one another-- how fashion is a set of unspoken symbols with which we express our inner selves. And then, when I started writing about fashion, I started to fall in love with it again, with the marvelous act of creation, almost a contact high with those who live and breathe the creative impulses behind fashion. And yes, how fashion may be part conspicuous consumption and for many, out of reach (who among us can say that we will ever be able to afford couture in our lifetime)... But how dull our lives would be without the beauty of fashion in it!

Fashion deserves its place in the world alongside other arts such as music, fine arts, film, literature. And while the arts are not necessarily essential to our physical survival, they transform our inner lives in the richest possible way, and in the case of many exciting, intellectual designers, challenge our notion of what it means to be a mere piece of clothing. Fashion CAN be art. And as cheesy as this may sound, Gold's essay reminded me a bit of an exchange from the movie, Devil Wears Prada. While Gold may scoff at the role fashion plays in her life, she is, like it or not, still a participant in the cycle. And in simple response to her essay, I offer these words: cerulean blue.

What is your relationship with fashion? What did you think of Gold's essay?

47 comments:

Alani Catleya said...

I myself have not yet read the article, but I cant help agreeing with you in that some of the points... make a point. But the thing is, I like fashion not becuase I want to be 'in', but becuase its like wearing a picasso. Its art.

This must be filled with spellimg errors... I really need to sleep. But I have an essay to finish, unfortunately.

MizzJ said...

A thoughtful and thought provoking post! I whole heartedly agree with you. There is too much stock put into who we are wearing and how much we weigh instead of in the creative joy of fashion. One shouldn't blame the art form, but the self-hatred that uses fashion to express itself.

Grace Like Kelly said...

I love this post, you are so right and until I started blogging and had so much exposure to how creative an outlet fashion is, I thought I was materialistic. Finding people that feel the same way or view beautiful pieces and colors, accessories, bold pieces inspires me so much. We all have a complex relationship with fashion I think, sometimes it can consumes, it builds self esteem, it brightens a day...it ruins a day...lol, its fashion.

Audrey Allure said...

i haven't read it yet, but it sounds intriguing!

Vinda Sonata said...

very interesting and thoughtful post. i really enjoyed considering both sides of fashion's POV. positive ones including "one's expression and a form of art", negative ones including "self-hatred and over-photoshopped". i agree to both points, but they should be taken really differently. as for me, although i won't lie that i know how mean fashion world could be, i'd love to take fashion as a form of self-expression and art.

quoting from YSL: dressing is a way of life :)

modediktat said...

Great posting, Deanne!
I didn't read the essay of Tanya Gold yet but I will do so later today. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

Of course you're right and fashion is a way to express ourself and to communicate with others in a different way.

But sometimes it is only one of the big carrots we are hunting in life. I knew some women who are so very focussed on fashion, on brands, that there was almost nothing else in their life.

Fashion is obviously a great thing. But it shouldn't dictate life. It's the same for fashion like with everything else - keep it in the right balance.

My relationship with fashion? Relaxed. In the end you find out what works best on you - and to quote a famous film "the simple flight is the perfect flight" - I never felt better and never received more compliments than in a plain white shirt and a good pair of jeans.

Mergirl said...

I love the clip
&
I love this line:

" But then something shifted. I stopped wearing sloppy things and surprisingly, I felt better about myself."

so important in the human existence to do what we can to feel good about ourselves.

I have not read the original essay and don't think I will. It sounds too negative for me but I like your positive post that came out of it.

Thank you!

ANA said...

It's great to read someone else's response to the article - yours actually reminds me a lot of my own feelings about it. I wrote a rant about it myself a couple of days ago.

- Ana
http://www.ToilTroubleStyle.com

Cafe Fashionista said...

"Reading Gold's essay is a bit like reading someone's breakup letter to an ex... somewhat disjointed and exaggerated." This is the exact thought that ran through my mind when I read the essay - I love you for putting it into words!

Personally, I'm like you...I was a tomboy for the entirety of adolescence - I only began wearing makeup a couple of years ago, in fact. I feel that I didn't really identify myself as human even until I embraced fashion and found my own style. It has boosted my confidence in more ways than I ever could have imagined. And that is precisely why I LOVE fashion!! :)

Princess Poochie said...

I had written a response as well. All interesting perspectives - http://shoedaydreams.blogspot.com/2010/01/fashion-influences.html

Couture Carrie said...

I love your synopsis of this essay and your considered reaction to it. I totally agree with you!

xoxox,
CC

WendyB said...

I love this clip. Good response!

Sheena said...

This is a wonderful post! I have also had a bit of an off and on love affair with fashion in the past and there are some days when I am totally off of being fashionable. Some days when I wear my Ugg boots (yup, I own Uggs) in complete defiance of everything else. Plus, I always feel like it's difficult, because I can't afford to buy what I deem to be fashion from what I deem true artists such as Chalayan or Margiela or Demeulemeester. I know the clothing that I buy know pales in comparison, but it's what I can afford. Even so, when I feel I'm at my most fashionable, I feel like I'm at my best.

Looking Fab in your forties said...

I don't believe that fashion is just for the rich and skinny or the young, well I wouldn't would I, because I don't fit into any of those categories unyet I still love it as do people with no money who make their own clothes or buy from Thrift Stores. We can all take something from it and enjoy fashion without making ourselves miserable in the process.

Diana said...

This is a great post. I went ahead and read the article on a side tab and then read your comparison, and it just seems to me like her take on fashion was forced and she didn't really get a chance to express herself. Her take on fashion seems more what the masses like, as opposed to what I believe fashion is- expressing yourself. She may be an expert, but if you dive into anything and are constantly surrounding yourself with it, I think I would go crazy, too.

Leah said...

I'm with you on your thoughts. I also have a love-hate relationship with fashion. As I grow older, fashion serves as an inspiration but I don't normally follow the trends. I know that my age and my body won't look good in all those trendy pieces anymore.

vagabond sister said...

great post... i usually don't have the patience to read big blocks of text but this one caught my attention.

i think we should use fashion in our advantage, but not let it rule us. every fashion trend should pass through our own personal filters and get mold to our personality. this is a thing that especially teenagers should learn ... in their quest to match beauty magazines...

fashion should be fun! to be used to enhance your natural beauty ...

Denise @ Swelle said...

Compelling retort! I read the article as well and felt prompted to write a piece but your piece may have satisfied my urge! I wondered if she would feel the same had she not gained the weight which she feels has put her outside of fashion.

I love your 'ex' analogy. There seems to be some deep wounds here. And the poor girl slipping to her death, well that reference was just ridiculous and quite insensitive to her family and friends. It was also raining that night and others at the station told of how it was very slippery. I saw someone lose their dog between the gap once. It's not outside of the realm of possibility to have an accident. And she certainly didn't deserve to die because she got dressed up that night. Ms. Gold might want to think about that the next time she spends more than a minute in front of the mirror.

The video won't play for us outside the U.S. - what is it?? I'm very curious!

Scientific Housewife said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog! If you go to the girl scout website, they let you enter your zip code and find out where they are selling them near you :)

Rachee said...

Fantastic post! "Fashion is a set of unspoken symbols with which we express our inner selves." <--- Best.line.ever.

Dream Sequins said...

For those of you outside the US-- I'm sorry for the silly block. It is a clip of the Devil Wears Prada scene where Meryl Streep's character talks about the fashion cycle with Anne Hathaway... I thought it kind of wrapped a pop-culture bow around my essay. :)

thefatandskinnyonfashion said...

i understand where she was coming from but the whole lets relate my story to the girl who fell between a train thing was a little weird

Denise said...

I too have a love/hate relationship with fashion, but at the end of the day, it's a fantasy that we can use to escape the monotone beat of the everyday corporate life (not that I even have a corporate job in a cubicle anyway but I'm just saying, in general) I remember I even had an argument about fashion with an old classmate. I said, "don't you know that what you're wearing and how you present yourself is your first statement to the world and your peers??" her response was, "i don't care what people even think of me, fashion is irrelevant" I was so pissed I just told her she should just walk around naked if she didn't care about fashion and clothes, then. And you're right, Tanya's essay sounds like she's trying to recover from a bitter breakup, in which she got dumped.

Fashion isn't even just for "the skinny and the rich". Back when I was working at Maxmara on a retail level, the sizes we sold out of most were 6's, 8's and 10's. We always 2's leftover. Even as I chatted with my friends who worked at D&G, Gucci and Benetton, they said they never carry that many 36 or 38 sizes, as most of the customers are size 40 and above (Italian sizing).

Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, D!!

emma said...

Fashion should be about expressing youre self and thats what I love about it. And you're right, when I dress nice I feel better but I can see where Gold is coming from. When we start getting farther and farther away from what is it that we want to wear and are only trying to impress others then it does become burdensome.

CRHEE said...

such a beautiful and thoughtful post!

39th and Broadway said...

Excellent post! This may be my favorite post of yours, so well said. I think most women have a love/hate relationship with fashion that ebbs and flows throughout their life.

I have a particularly tenuous relationship with fashion from working in the industry that I think comes out it many of my posts. But as important as I think fashion is (especially as a manufacturing industry that employs thousands) it can not take the blame for all the worlds ills as Tanya may like.

Mish Dish said...

Fashion is art, like it or not. We all have a choice how we wish to present ourselves in the world. I myself take pride in the way I dress my body that god has given me. I love the creative process of styling a look. I am grateful to have fashion in my life. I also have the best job in the world...designer. xo Mish

www.themishdish.blogspot.com

Cindy Whitehead said...

I love this post. and I agree, fashion is art and dressing well (or at least in some way that I like) makes me feel good. Fashion is not all about luxury goods or labels its how you put things together and express yourself.

Thumbelina Fashionista said...

I think a lot of so-called "fashionable" people have a love-hate relationship with it. Personally I can relate to this sentiment. I wish I could not care, that beautiful things did not thrill me and lighten my wallet. And yet, I can't leave it for long.

You're right about how it is art. It degenerates into a trend when you lose the creative part of it and simply copy what you perceive to be "chic" without thinking of one's individuality.

vitaMinn style said...

I think my view of fashion has matured with age. I now have a great deal of respect for myself, my body and my bank account!

Great write-up!!

r u s s said...

I always thought that fashion was and should be an extension of yourself. There are times that you could tell that a girl is not going through good times, just by how she dresses and of course, there are gazillion instances that we could all talk about.
••
Great post you got here, I will most likely be back. I'm hopping from Sher's blog ♥

Anonymous said...

I read your words thoroughly and felt compelled to read the editor's original article afterward. I must admit - as a fashion stylist myself who has worked for several major magazines and with some of the best names in fashion photography - that I understand where the journalist is coming from. To call her 'jealous' or a victim is too simple. Her article hits many important points; mainly that in fashion we are TRAINED (not simply 'taught'), to consume. To consume, and then also, to think that we must buy things in order to fix our various imperfections. Geez - I'm 24 and I'm already hitting points with the industry where I'm like, 'ENOUGH ALREADY!' The industry hurls creams at us, 'It' bags at us, uncomfortable & impractical shoes at us and more... The things that I have heard my fellow fashionistas say sometimes BLOW my mind. I love beauty; I'm not going to lie. I make my living chasing beauty and making beautiful outfits and beautiful images with a whole team of other 'aesthetic-oriented' artists, but you must admit, that this journalist's article IS accurate in nailing the industry. There is life after surface beauty. Fashion is best without artifice. It is is best with innovation, true originality, authenticity and inspiration. It should not ever make you feel inadequate, i.e.) too fat, too short, too ugly etc. It was refreshing to finally read an article by a fashion journalist who is willing to FACE THE FIRE, and tell the truth, that so many women (gee, likely MEN too) can relate to - that the world of fashion can be oh-so-tiresome sometimes that even people who work in the industry just wanna crawl into a cave and sleep the day away.

E said...

Ugggh, fashion is art! How many times does that have to be reiterated! Why is it always classified as this frivolous thing just because one wears it??? I can't imagine a world where I "break up" with fashion. I think it might break my heart beyond repair :-(

Dirty Hair Halo said...

I'm disappointed to hear her say fashion is reserved for the impossibly rich and skinny. Maybe high fashion... but street fashion is the best, and that's sure as hell NOT rich.

You make some really good points, especially that it's an art. I appreciate that.

www.SeekingDirtyHairHalo.blogspot.com

Denise said...

fashion people are definitely not shallow. These are the most brilliant people ive know.

Fashion is a a beauty and to be enjoyed by everyone who understand it to the bones. Though i can't speak for those who can't fathom it.

But still we're all connected by fashion.

I am Denise Katipunera

Livie said...

Thx for writing this very personal post on your views on fashion. We are all sure glad you came back around!

Sher said...

What a wonderfully well-written post from you! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your views. I believe there should be a balance in everything, no point flying off the handle to the other extreme of hating fashion and putting all the blame solely on fashion. I personally love fashion but I'm also careful enough to not let my life be only all about fashion.

Diane said...

Hy, thanks a lot for visiting my blog!

I love your essay here for the last 2 words! Because whenever I hear someone like Gold or anyone else speaking like this about fashion I remember that scene in The Devil Wears Prada which was brilliant!

I've also read a great response post on Tavi's blog !

I'll be following you!

Have a fun day

kiss

Alice said...

I can understand the love hate relationship with fashion. Fashion is very complex and it affects our lives from so many different angles that I don't think it makes sense to focus on one aspect of it and declare it the enemy. Sometimes I see a beautiful piece and I want to cry, and sometime I am disgusted at how fashion makes us mass consumers.

And perhaps, when you were wearing your jeans and tops, you made a fashion statement of your own as well - I am above fashion, therefore my outfit is minimalistic.

Sar. said...

What a great response to Tanya Gold's article! Fashion can be a difficult companion at times and I find it important, as most others commenting before me, that it doesn't change the way you are but the other way round. There is a great book on fashion for those who like to spin the thoughts further called "Fashion. A Philosophy."(forgot author, something Swedish)..Funnily enough the way you have worn clothes long ago and others may, too, will have contributed to a few fashions developing, so noone is ever really free of fashion though they may believe it...x

misslikey said...

you totally get the point. no matter how one fights against it, still is in the cycle and that is true. sometimes when people hear I work in fashion they put on ---what? you give advice what to wear or something? like its something shallow. we all know its much more than that
great post darling!!
xoxo

Elizabeth Marie said...

Wonderfully put, D. Your response is one of the most mature and well written I've read.

I had no words to defend my choice to attend fashion school, and to work in the fashion and beauty industries ever since when I was recently attacked for being a "fashion blogger"-I wish I had this post to show them! :)

Hanako66 said...

I agree with you 100%. Fashion for me, is a method of self expression...the same way that others use art or the written word!

Susan said...

I totally agree with you- great response!
have a sweet day, xoxo

alexkeller said...

i agree with your description of her rant being like a breakup letter to an ex - disjointed and exaggerated. i suspect her weight gain is at least partly responsible for her hating fashion. *gasp* can i say that? yes.
i'm only 5'2" tall and weighed nearly 200 pounds when 9+ months pregnant. it doesn't matter why i or Tanya gained the weight, although i find it curious why she doesn't elaborate. perhaps she did in another post?
anyway, it took a long time to lose the weight. as i lost the weight, and cared more about what i put on my body, what i put on my face, with what i accessorized, and what i ate, not to mention what i did in my free time, i felt better about myself. it's all related, my friends. i call it self respect.

Alexandra said...

Thanks for this! I wanted you to know that I posted about your thoughtful response here:
thinkingfashion.blogspot.com.

Jasleen Gupta said...

That is such a well-written and insightful piece. I couldn't agree more with these thoughts. My business partner and I have a blog together and we aim to educate people on how fashion is fun and not necessarily unaffordable. Do check it out when you have time. www.fashionbombay.blogspot.com

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