With Love

Hi folks. As you can see, the blog is still up, the entire archive is available to read, and an archived post will still pop up on the homepage every day (and drop into your inbox, if you’ve subscribed via email). In light of current events, it felt absurd to keep posting about archived content on Facebook and elsewhere, so I stopped doing that months ago. However, if you need a break from the news, Already Pretty is still there for ya.

If you’re wondering why only archived posts are showing, here’s what I wrote back in 2017 about my decision to step back but keep the archive available. read more

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What Could You Accomplish?

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I know I’ve told this story before, but it has shaped my worldview so I’m gonna lay it on ya again:

A while back, a dear friend of mine told me something that stopped me cold. She said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Sally, do you know why I don’t run for political office myself? It’s because I could never handle the scrutiny and criticism I’d take for how I look. Women in politics and power are constantly under the microscope for their bodies, grooming, and style, and I just couldn’t take it.”

My friend – from what I can tell – is afraid of very little. She has told me that she truly enjoys conflict resolution and adores speaking in front of large crowds. I can quite easily imagine her fending off rabid wolves to protect her young daughter. She has also worked in politics for years and is incredibly informed about public policy and remarkably passionate about her beliefs. So I was shocked to hear her say that the prospect of dealing with press and public critiques of her looks has prevented her from campaigning.

We talked a bit more about it, and she pointed out that helping women feel confident in their looks removes barriers. We live in a world that frequently evaluates women based on our looks and, if those looks are found to be somehow lacking, dismisses us. We know this. And many of us hesitate to step up to positions of leadership, or speak out against actions we question, or put ourselves in the public eye for fear of censure and dismissal.

Another friend – a gifted musician – recently expressed similar hesitations. She has dabbled a bit in performance and stepped into the spotlight a few times, but she mainly keeps her music on the backburner. Because for every Adele there are 500 Katy Perrys, and if she were really to put her all into her dreams she, too, would risk a life under the microscope. Her style, her figure, her hair, her makeup would all be subject to examination and ridicule. And as talented as she is, the prospect of being constantly held up to prevailing beauty standard holds virtually no appeal.

And this is valid. Only a select few of us have the drive, ambition, and talent PLUS the thick skin necessary to deal with the deluge of comparison and judgment that comes part and parcel with positions of power and prominence. No one is required to pursue elected office, an executive position, a career in the arts, or any other avenue if the accompanying scrutiny would be too much to bear. No one should sign up for a life that means constant stress and misery. Really. No one at all.

But knowing that many of us have the drive, ambition, and talent but lack that essential thick skin is why I write about style as a tool for empowerment, self-awareness, and confidence. I don’t actually care one whit what any of us looks like. I just want to help women have one less thing to worry about as they chase their dreams, rise to power, or express their creativity. I want to help women see dressing as a creative, helpful, important means of showing self-respect. Because when you’re confident in how you look, some of the appearance-focused flak that comes at you from the media, from petty rivals, from jealous strangers can bounce right off. Your self-assuredness becomes your armor. You can move through the world with a little less weight on your shoulders. You can get on with the work of your life.

If it weren’t for the very real fear of judgment, many of us would spend more time at the beach, wear bright colors, indulge in trends. Many of us would start more conversations with people we find attractive, go to more parties, pose for more photos. And many of us would run for office, demand promotions, pursue careers in the arts, put ourselves in positions of prominence and rock the world. This isn’t a stumbling block for all, but it trips up more women than you might expect. And until the world sees bodily diversity as the gift that it truly is, I’ll do my best to provide knowledge, tools, and armor to everyone who comes here.

If we lived in a world that was body-blind, what could you accomplish?

Image by Nathan Rupert

Originally posted 2014-01-15 06:21:27.

Reader Request: Where Did You Get That?

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Reader AK e-mailed me this tough question:

I get a lot of compliments on my outfits at work, and I love my style. So what’s my problem? I get asked almost daily, “where did you get that [scarf, necklace, boots, sweater, bracelet, watch, purse]?” The questions are coming from my female colleagues, who are also friends. I have a really hard time answering this question depending on who’s asking. There are some people who ask simply as a conversation starter, and I don’t think they really intend to go out and copy me. There are others who immediately hop online to try to find the item, some going so far as to buy it. This bothers me because I spend a lot of time finding the perfect pair of black heeled wide-calf tall boots –I don’t want to see them on three other people in my office. Sometimes I lie and say “Marshalls!” knowing they won’t brave that store (which I love).

I know this goes back to my junior high years. I moved to MN from San Diego (!) and felt like a martian when I arrived. It was the early 80s and I was wearing off-the-shoulder shirts, studded double belts, parachute pants, etc. while everyone else was wearing “mom” jeans and appliqued sweatshirts. I was the only kid who traveled to Minneapolis (instead of St. Cloud or Duluth) to buy clothes, so my clothing was unique at my school. If someone asked where I got X, I would tell them, then face several other people wearing X the next week. I started lying or saying I bought the last X to avoid further copying. I also started shopping only in CA when I would go back to visit.

So, how can I deal with the “where did you get that” question? I don’t want to upset people, but I also don’t want to always say where I got something!

Oh, this hurts my heart, friends. Anytime someone compliments me on what I’m wearing, I offer up where it was purchased without prompting and usually encourage my complimentor to run out and get one for herself IMMEDIATELY. Because I really, truly love spreading the sartorial joy. But although I haven’t worked in an office environment for a couple of years now, even when I did, I never encountered outright copycatting among my peers. I mean, never. I never encountered it in college or high school either, and back in middle school we all wanted to dress like clones so it wasn’t an issue. In AK’s case, she is a person who takes great pride in her style and researches her purchases meticulously, only to have those purchases show up on her female colleagues. I think we can all agree that this is a cruddy situation. Because “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” is a lovely sentiment, but seeing your coworkers copy your very specific style choices will chafe.

I generally believe that honesty is the best policy, but in this case I’d probably lie. It’s one thing to have one friend or coworker occasionally ask for a source and then run out and buy an identical item. And it’s certainly a different matter if the person asks if you’d mind if she bought one for herself – at least then you have some warning, and the (albeit awkward) option to say, “No.” But in a case where multiple people with whom you work on a daily basis are blatantly copying your style and purchases, I feel like you can opt to protect your sources.

Unfortunately, this means outright lying. “I don’t remember” won’t fly if the item is obviously new, and “I’m not comfortable saying” will raise hackles. Citing places like Marshalls and TJ Maxx or even thrift or vintage stores can work, as can saying, “It was a gift” or “I snapped up the last one.” Share your sources when it feels right to do so, of course, and be honest whenever you can. But remember that sharing your shopping resources is a courtesy, and you aren’t required to do it. Especially if others are using you as a free personal shopping resource.

The grown-up option? Confrontation. If there’s one particular person who has purchased nearly every item you’ve sourced, it might be worth a sit-down talk. Say, “I’m really flattered that you like my style, but I spend a lot of time and energy researching my purchases and it makes me feel awkward to see loads of other people wearing identical items around the office.” I can’t imagine this being a fun or easy conversation, so it would be best to have some resources at hand. Point this person to websites you love and think would suit her, local shops she might not have heard of, and stores that offer personal shopper services. Always best to follow “Please stop doing this” with “try this instead.”

There is also the “suck it up” route. Each woman will style that pair of black, heeled, wide-calf boots differently, and in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter if four people in one office wear the same pair. Most observers won’t even notice. But for someone like AK who does research and takes pride in her unique style, it may feel like she’s being used. She pores over the options, compares products, tries out different garments, and makes decisions. Then folks swoop in behind her and basically use her as a free personal shopping service. There are far worse crimes to be sure, but watching someone else steal your ideas and utilize your hard work without permission only to take credit for tracking down an item that you used your own time and taste to locate? Definitely frustrating. Especially if it happens on the regular.

And that’s about all I’ve got, folks. It really does pain me to condone lying under any circumstances, but I know that if I were AK I’d be very reluctant to share my shopping resources with a pool of people who have proven that they’ll steal my style quickly, remorselessly, and without acknowledging that they’ve done so. What about you? Do you have any more honest solutions? Would you confront? Suck it up? Anyone else dealing with a similar situation?

Image courtesy ben dalton

Originally posted 2014-01-16 06:15:14.

The New Normal

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This is an image from the Debenhams High Summer Lookbook. And so are these:

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I love these images because they attempt to show diversity in different and boundary-pushing ways. Many retailers will throw in one standard size woman of color and call their ads a celebration of all womanhood. But the women in the ads shown above are tall and short and fat and thin and brown and black and differently abled. And, of course, it would be nice to see an older woman, someone with tattoos, anyone not dressed in extremely femme-reading garments, and many, many other overlooked groups. But it’s progress.

What I don’t like is this statement from the Debenhams blog:

Here at Debenhams we believe that anyone can look fabulous in our range—which is why we’ve decided to break with convention … By becoming the first high street retailer in the UK to promote its latest fashion collections by using models in a diverse variety of ages, sizes and looks—the imagery in our “High Summer Look Book” turns its back on the industry norm of young thin models. Featuring an amputee, three models over 40 (including one nearing 70), a Paralympian athlete and not forgetting our swimwear shot with a size 18 model to celebrate curvelicious women. read more

Originally posted 2014-01-29 06:25:40.