I have been giving serious thought lately to the idea that I don’t think most women want workable wardrobes, even if they are lovers of fashion or claim they just want to get maximum use out of the clothes in their closet. In fact, I think those who enjoy fashion or call themselves fashionistas are often the biggest offenders of this. Despite their love of shopping, the drips of salivation that come from ogling a pair of shoes and their knowledge of every designer on the planet, I think that loving fashion and making fashion work are two totally different things. A love of fashion does not make you an expert on the topic, just like a love of food doesn’t make you a chef.
Let me explain this further.
I was once called the “Alton Brown of fashion” because I am about as nerdy with my knowledge of fashion as Alton Brown is about food. Having spent the past 20 years of my life working in this industry as a designer, a personal stylist, an author and a visible style expert, I have a ridiculous amount of knowledge to share. The whole goal of this blog, along with my style consulting business, has always been to answer the “whys” about fashion– “Why does one neckline work better than another?”, “Why do black and white prints drown me out?”, “Why can’t I get better use from the clothing I buy?” are just a few examples of the information I share with the belief that once we understand why something does or doesn’t fashionably work we can make smarter shopping, style and wardrobe choices.
Do women really want to make informed choices about fashion or have a workable wardrobe? I’m not always so sure that they do.
Fashion can be an escapist pastime
Fashion can serve as an emotional escape, a place where we are able to dream of a life that is far removed from our current reality. The idea of putting boundaries or restrictions on this form of escapism can make many feel agitated, limited and resentful that the fun part is being taken away. It’s not unlike food which can also be an emotional escape from dull reality.
The fashion industry knows women’s weaknesses for pretty things and plays them like a finely tuned fiddle –splashing fashion must-haves after must-haves in their faces, as if all will be lost in their lives if they don’t buy the latest looks. Retail has managed to speed up the cycle and get new merchandise into stores at such a rapid pace that it’s easy to go to a store and find something new practically every day, and we’ve come to associate certain brands, labels and looks with popular celebrities who we wish to emulate. Why more women don’t get pissed off over the fact that they’re being played by these tactics baffles the heck out of me. Yet, unless you have got your sense of self planted firmly, it’s very easy to get swept up by all of it.
In the end, few women have much to show for this escapist pastime. Fashion does a great job of putting tons of product out in an appealing manner. However, after they leave the store, women are left alone to figure out exactly what to do with their new purchases and many are left feeling overwhelmed and confused with how to use their closet full of clothes. It is in this moment that a woman puts her foot down and declares that drastic measures will be taken, like swearing off shopping, only shopping in her closet and committing to a streamlined closet of items that can be mixed and matched. Yet, this never works because the key part of the equation is that, for the most part, women have no idea what they are doing when it comes to shopping for clothes and, worse, many aren’t all that interested in really learning. So, you can have a small closet of clothes or a big closet of clothes, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is what’s in there, not the size. If you don’t know the right things to put in the closet in the first place, is it really relevant how big or small it is?
In these moments it is not uncommon for a woman to turn to an equally misinformed friend for advice, which is like the blind leading the blind. However, it’s also a way to feel justified. If everyone is suffering from the same problem, then there is no need to take responsibility for it. Plus, fashion advertising does a fine job of solidifying this mindset by portraying the idea that it’s totally cool and cute to be a fashionista who can’t get enough of all the great trends and deals out there, or that there really isn’t a problem in having too many shoes. Don’t believe me? Have you ever taken a few minutes to sit through a haul video on YouTube? These videos are like listening to nails on a chalkboard and a great example of how sad shopping has become. I can handle about 30 seconds of these videos, yet they get hundreds and thousands of hits every day.
Having a workable wardrobe means being realistic, restrictive and responsible
So, no, I don’t think most women want solutions to their fashion problems and most women don’t want workable wardrobes, because, in order to have the wardrobe of their dreams, it would mean having to be more restrictive, realistic and responsible…and being these things aren’t any fun.
You want to watch a grown woman stamp her feet and throw a tantrum? Tell her that a print that she is salivating over isn’t flattering on her or that she has no business buying 6″ platform stilettos with ankle straps that she can’t walk in and that make her calves look like elephant legs. Okay, I’m being a little dramatic, but, seriously, in an attempt to save a woman from herself I often feel like the Debbie Downer of fashion. And it is not even like I tell them they can’t purchase something that is unflattering on them, I would never be that restrictive, but try telling anyone who doesn’t want to hear something that it’s not a good idea and see the reaction that you get.
It may come as no surprise to you that most women who read my blog aren’t die-hard fashionistas and that my client base over the past eleven years is made up of women who want to look good but aren’t totally consumed by fashion. They understand the importance of looking good and they want a solution-oriented approach. This certainly does not mean that those who read my blog or who hire me to consult with them don’t enjoy staring at a pretty dress or a have a moment of weakness over a pair of shoes. Yet, what these readers and clients can do, which most emotional shoppers can’t, is separate the enjoyment of something fashionable from actually buying it.
There are enough blogs, shopping websites and advertisements out there designed to woo a woman into buying more, yet few resources out there to teach a woman what to do with it it once she gets it home. The second a woman decides she is done with the endless cycle of a ton of clothes and nothing to wear is when she finds me.