By Cassie, Already Pretty Contributor
I’ve been reading a lot of articles on supposed style lately, all written in the most ludicrously over the top language, and as a result I’ve got a real bee in my bonnet right now about the way so many people write about style and fashion as if it’s the end of the world. Seriously, most Dominants would feel embarrassed to boss people around as threateningly as style editors do. If I see one more article telling me what I must and must not wear I think I’m going to toss my laptop out a window.
10 Things Every Woman Must Own screams InStyle as if every woman has the same requirements; 100 Must Haves for Fashionable Women bellows Daily Mail, as if there is only one set list of things that make anyone fashionable; 11 Things You Should Never Wear on A Date commands WhoWhatWear.com as if all heterosexual men have completely identical taste in women’s fashion, and as if women choose their wardrobe for a date solely on the whims of their potential partner. Don’t wear shorts, no wait, now you MUST wear shorts, never wear more than two prints, except this season when more prints is better…around and around until it makes my head spin.
The language used in these articles is all so urgent, so alarming, that it gives a sense of world shattering importance, and terrible consequences should we disobey. Never, Need, Right Now, Must Have, Perfect. So many absolutes to use when talking about something as nebulous and unquantifiable as style. I’m sorry guys, but I’m going to have to break this to you right now: There IS no absolute “perfect” style, only the right style for you. What works for you might not work for anyone else in the whole world, but you also might look amazing in everything that’s on trend, all the time. This second instance is pretty unlikely, but sometimes it happens. Yet the idea that there is any fashion item that anyone truly “must have”? That there is a testable, quantifiable way to “be fashionable,” to “be attractive” that works for everyone? It’s a load of horse hooey.
The thing is, disingenuous hype in general doesn’t bother me so much, and I’m not sincerely suggesting that everyone only ever write about fashion or style in a totally quantifiable, factual way. Everyone wants to make whatever they’re talking about sound like the most awesome, important, groundbreaking thing in the world, regardless of how true any of these things are, and I can dig that. What bothers me is the underlying, nebulous threat that lurks under all these absolutes. The words used to describe fashion aren’t just words – they can have a very real impact on women’s style choices. Absolute language creates a sense of absolute panic over the absolutely false idea that there is a “right” and a “wrong” way to dress, and discourages women from taking chances that might make them much happier in the end than following the totally arbitrary rules that we’re “supposed” follow. A post over at Not Dead Yet recently about some adorable floral Doc Marten boots reminded me just how prevalent this fear is for many women, and just how annoyed I get at writers who encourage it. How many times have you looked at something – be it a dress or makeup or whatever – and thought, “I love that, but I couldn’t wear it.” How many times have you looked at someone with rainbow colours all through her hair, and sighed wistfully knowing you couldn’t be so “brave”? How many times have you pulled your hair back on a sweltering day and wished you “dared” to just cut it all off? What exactly is stopping you from doing any of these things?
Granted, this isn’t an everyday look. But is it really a “never” look?
Women who wear bright colours or unusual shapes or have brightly coloured hair are considered “daring,” “courageous,” and “brave.” Bravery, to me, seems to suggest that their actions could result in something scary or damaging happening, but that they choose to do that thing anyway. In most instances, there is no real danger involved in choosing to step outside your usual fashion routine. There are exceptions – take the recent example of Felicia Day losing hundreds of YouTube followers because she decided to cut her hair – but for the vast majority of us there aren’t actually any real world consequence for wearing blue eyeshadow to work. But the language used to talk about fashion makes us feel like there’s danger. Why would writers use such alarming words otherwise? It would be ridiculous to talk about something with such urgency if there’s no real consequence for not following their advice. But there isn’t, and it IS ridiculous.
Don’t you want this hair? *I* really want this hair.
So here’s my challenge to you: Go out this month and pick one thing that you really like the look of, but have never been “daring” enough to wear, and wear it. I don’t care if it’s blue eyeshadow (why does everyone freak out about that so much anyway? I LOVE blue eye shadow), a huge necklace, or a bikini. Just pick something, anything. Try it on. Try it out, and see if anything terrible happens.* I’m willing to bet you money it won’t. Then try another, and see what happens. Still not dead yet? Then try another!
Join me in refusing to listen to underhanded threats from style writers anymore. Screw the style police, let’s go shopping!
*Please note – I’m assuming you’re all going to use your good judgement and not wear a bikini to work at a law firm. I take no responsibility if you do decide to do this.
_ _ _ _ _
The author of Reluctant Femme, Cassie is a queer thirty something Australian who thinks too much, reads too much, talks too much, and has way too many pretty things. Her writing revolves around an exploration of femme concepts, beauty products, feminism, and how they intersect with being a queer, poly, cisgender woman with fantastic nails. You can catch up with her in shorter bursts on Twitter as @anwyn, and see endless pictures of her nails on Instagram as @anwynincognito. She lives for comments, so if you’re reading by all means speak up! Even if you think she’s full of crap, she always likes to hear feedback.