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The Lipstick Page Forums Fashion Blog
Taking a work break...


Posted by Dain, Wednesday, August 24, 2005 3:55 PM (Eastern)

I'm editing a really horrible short work of fiction that some kid is going to publish for college-application larding. Nevermind the soullessness of the goal in mind (cute gambit, but not recommended for anyone less than a genius—stick to the humble essay, I say, it will not do you wrong), it just hurts my heart to read bad writing, and I mean it in the most ineffable sense of bad writing—not grammar, not style, which are but arbitrary and superficial trappings—but silly trash expressed in ever sillier ideas. You know the type. This one is particularly odd because it has a specially Asian brand of fantasy. Sometimes, fantasy expresses what we feel like we cannot express, and for a rigid and very polite people, sexual repression and modesty are expected. Hence, a lot of odd notions of romantic tension and boastfulness abound in this thing. Oof! It's very bad. It makes me very grumpy. The romantic tension wouldn't be so bad, because so many writers are guilty of it, but I wish he wouldn't write things like, "'I'm probably one the best ten in fire magic,' said _____ with a smile on her face."

So, I will take a break, to consider something, if perhaps more frivolous, wholly more enjoyable and interesting. Shopping. (Can you see me grinning?)

It is, in part, a response to Raphaëlle's post below. It is right, but it is wrong. At first, I suspected that my ambivalence was a sign of my hopeless elitism (something that makes me feel, not guilty exactly, but ashamed—ironically enough!), but I think there is a disagreement of fundamentals. In all honesty, such concepts as the "creative instinct" in fashion, and "there are no rules to style", are a tricky sorts of things to get involved with. At best, it's a bearing of distinction for someone who's great at composing outfits. At worst, it's PC fluff, particularly in the hands of, say, Glamour. Wonders! The great minds of Glamour respect our individuality and artistic potential (despite all pictoral evidence to the contrary)—we are not women tied down by our feminimity but women who express our feminimity! (Buy our stuff!)

...

What the hell does that mean? I'm not reading your frikkin' magazine for half-baked notions of fashion and life philosophy. While I do feel resentful of how fashion is dismissed as "superficial" and "women's stuff", it is nevertheless, not life. Fashion is not life. Fashion is not people. It is not like food, or like fertile discourse of the mind, clothes are ridiculous social constructs that we enjoy for their sake alone. Fashion has no greater end than pleasure. They are things we buy. Which is why I prefer Vogue, as long as we are in the vein of magazine-referencing. It's about clothes and fabulousness, but it cares not a whit about making you feel confident in your humanity. I don't need a magazine's approval of my humanity, I want to know more about clothes. Because... clothes are not about humanity. Clothes are just clothes. Clothes should be celebrated for their clothishness alone, because they sure as hell won't garner you a Noble Prize, bestow you with better lovers (though perhaps they might give you confidence...), or put meat on your bones. Fashion magazines are better when they make you feel bad, as drastically un-PC as it sounds. Sometimes I honestly think, that when people go on and on about what magazines do (which is different from going on and on about what people do, as that's more a knee-jerk aesthetic response, i.e. disgust) to deprive young women of healthy self-esteem... well, it's true, to some extent, but we are not that frail, we women. We're pretty well aware, the most of us, that we cannot ever look like that. I've noticed that girls who turn anorexic are those who are often wealthy and well-spoiled. Anyone who's dealt with a few hard knocks in the world knows there are harsher criticisms than cellulite. What's more anti-feminist? To mold us all into one image (not gonna happen in any case), or to presume we are so weak and stupid to become victims, one and all? Tricky question. This is why I prefer clothes, as clothes, viewed objectively.

Style is not a function of creativity, but of expression. Creativity is a nebulous notion, one of the greatest mysteries of the human soul, a philosophical concept. Buying clothes and wearing clothes is not quite on that level, my friends. Style is an extension of something, that is true, but it is an extension of taste, of perserverance, and of money. Unless you make the clothes yourself, you have no claims towards creativity, beyond putting outfits together (of course, as with anything, the boundary versus creativity and mere expression is nebulous). If indeed you create clothes, then by all means, jabber on about creativity. It's ridiculous, however, to make the affectation. Clothes do express your personality, they express how much money you have, they express your taste. But in no way does it create those things, the way that designing a couture gown would. The reason why one cannot talk about creativity when it comes to buying and wearing clothes (though obviously, again, there is some creativity involved with making outfits), is a fundamental problem. One should make allowances for all the variances of personal taste, but hey, it's not war and peace, it's clothing. Creativity, I think, is taking it too far.

This is why such ridiculous phenomena exist. Fashion is the opposite of dead serious, simply because (in theory, anyway), fashion is not a matter of life or death. How else could you have $40,000 handbags? Luxury items, we call them. When a plastic sack would do just as well. If we had to pay $40,000 for a cup of water, it would be morally wrong, because water is a matter of life and death. The wrongness of a $40,000 handbag, however, is quite different, an outrage not of a moral nature, but rather of politic judgement. It may be a wasteful method of spending money, but as it is not a necessity, per se, it is not evil, save perhaps through negligence. This is why, for example, I crave a red Paddington (a lipstick red, oh, that would be so fabulous against a backdrop of cool water tones and fancified neutrals, a spike of fire... I get carried away), which demands a cool $2000. Granted, you are paying for craftmanship, utility/durability, and taste (not mine, mind you, but Phoebe Philo's, hence, not even in taste can I accredit creativity to myself), but it's nevertheless one hell of a markup. I love it not because it is an extension of a deeper part of my soul or a necessity for life (clothes are just clothes), but because it is so utterly replete in its foolishness. Whatever humanity is in clothes, it is because it is in us.

I am reminded by a quote from Fight Club, which has always struck me as unnecessarily bitter, but apt: "I would flip catalogues, and wonder, 'What kind of dining set defines me as a person?'." This is meant to be a scathic critique of our ever total slavery to consumerism, but I think it exemplifies something even simpler (and far less soapbox-y): This is a deeply stupid question. And it is the nature of stupid things to draw judgement, just as it is the nature of wise things to judge us.

And that, I suppose, is the fundamental difference between creativity and expression. One judges, the other is judged. Delicacy of regard does not save us, "should be" does not save us, and if we start to believe that they can, we are guilty of intellectual cowardice. Fashion has rules because it is a social construct, because it is ridiculous, because it is not a wise or creative thing. The greater things, as love and hate, do not have rules, even if we experience it the same way over and over again. But the principles of openmindedness that apply to art, cannot be applied to the hanging of art, and so, while there is creativity is fashion design, it is not the same when it comes to wearing those designs.

Shopping is not (for me, anyway), about consumption, or social rightness. It seems to be about a display of the most exquisite taste I can muster. We are complex people, but through clothes, we channel one aspect or another. Choosing what someone else has already made, as a way to express ourselves, is just not creativity, but expression. Again, it is true that outfits require creativity, which is what I believe Raphaëlle means, but... it is not the same. It is comparable to a maker of short-story anthologies—you have not written them, but you have compiled them together as taste and discretion and availability and subject matter allow.

Cosmetics, I should note, are different. You make what it is, the clothes are already made. Putting on your face everyday would be the equivalent of stores selling you yarn and needles, and you knitting a sweater afresh every day.

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