October 25, 2011

Things Make the Woman

There is a woman I often see who wears nice things, always. Every time I see her, I comment, "Oh, that's a nice [thing]." She replies, "I got it at [a place where things cost a pretty penny]." Or sometimes, the thing is "vintage."

She is lovely and sweet, and she has a neat, stylish haircut. She seems daring for her age, what with her smart haircut and endless display of nice, unique, attention-getting things to wear.

When I think of this woman, I mostly think of the things that adorn her. Not anything about her, but just what she was wearing on separate occasions, occasions of which none stand out as noteworthy, other than the impression left by her items of clothing. In my mind, she is simply "that coat I saw once." And man, what a coat. The coat had a "unique" cut, which was balanced by the fact that it was rendered in tones of olive and army green. I don't often see a coat that looks exactly like it, because of it's slightly "unique" cut. Although, come to think of it, it does resemble plenty of other more popular, mainstream coats, that I do often see.

I digress.

In her remarkable and interesting garments, she never fails to look a bit extraordinary. She accumulated enough things over the years to present herself every day as a person of above-average "taste" in clothing. This last sentence is what I imagine she and the people who know her have come to believe, what is probably noted about her.

Now, before I go any further (because I'm about to ask some questions that might seem critical and be mistaken as insulting to this lovely woman -- which is not my intention at all), it must be said that I know very little about this woman personally. I know a few basic details of her family life and interests. I know her approximate age. I do not know her beliefs, dreams, hopes, hates, or desires. I do not know her deeply at all.

But her clothing tells me a few things. It tells me that she has money, first and foremost. And she enjoys spending that money on clothing. This is not unusual. But does her daily display of unique, interesting, attention-getting, well-fitting, layered, patterned, patchwork, designer-and-vintage-mixed clothing and up-to-date accessories and shoes mean anything about her person? Anything at all? Is she more intriguing? More beautiful? More appealing to other stylish women as a potential friend?

What does it mean to have achieved some current mandate of stylish dressing?

I don't know. I'm just asking.


Anna Galkina said...

Hi Susie,

wow this post really made my jaw drop... really eloquent!

I find it really hard to reconcile myself with my strong urge to wear nice clothes against feelings of 'why the hell should I bother?'

It's a really difficult thing to express. Perhaps the well-dressed woman you wrote of is not more beautiful as a result of what she wears, but more commented upon? Dress is one of the easiest ways to signify where and with whom you think you ought to belong...

anyway, great work!

Syed said...

I will forever think of women like these as using dress as a form of protection. Not saying it in a bad way, but by being able to draw your attention to her clothing, she draws attention away from her person.

It is a method of controlling perception - hopefully through a garment you feel says something intimate about you. I don't see it as hiding, but as them trying to tell you something more about them, whilst protecting them at the same time. They are ostensibly in control of the signs sent out (but then again dress is polysemic, so perhaps she, like us all, is doomed to being misread).

Bryce said...

I feel like your question is ... questioning the merits of fashion/dress as a form of expression/art. Maybe I can rephrase your query as: Is there truth in a persons external projection on society? What's being expressed? What's being hidden in that expression? Is the facade false and the hidden truth? Can both be true?

Obviously its not all that definitive and I feel the approach on the matter is sort of ambivalent.

This is essentially the ground I was exploring with my own work

blue roses said...

this is an incredibly fascinating meditation, and some great rhetorical questions. in grossly general terms, fashion and any manifestations of style tend to be viewed as the most superficial and vapid forms of artistic, creative expression. artists, who chose clothing and fashion as the medium, are rarely referred to as such.

frankly, to presume this woman has money and takes care, with diligence, of her appearance, has a certain level of pride in this, is most likely accurate. to presume further is near impossible.

the question, though, of whether this woman, with so ostentaciously obvious displays of style trends and particular labels, exudes superior, for lack of a better qualifier, personal style than another woman, who perhaps pairs together pieces old and new, high and low.


itsmidnight said...

Intersting post :) Is it possible that this is a woman you wouldn't be interested in knowing regardless of her dress? Or are you curious but find it diffcult to get beyond her personal style?

I imagine that she is known to others in a way that is not available to you(for whatever reason and maybe just not right now?), I imagine that she is loved and admired for the person she is by those close to her even if she is well-dressed.

I find that when someone sticks in my mind a certain way,there is always a reason. Usually it is more because of something in me rather than them.

For me this stood out: " More appealing to other stylish women as a potential friend?"
You yourself are a very stylish woman(I love it!!) ...maybe your style is different but that's okay!

Personal style is personal.....she may be presenting herself as she should within her own world. If you find yourself wondering, why not reach out and get to know her? I bet you'd both be the better for it.

Stephanie said...

Baby girl, I've been turning over some questions of a similar nature too. They're mostly centred around what would happen if I decided I didn't want to be "stylish," or explore the process of developing personal style, anymore. (Something that often crosses my mind.) Would my appearance still communicate anything about my personality? Does it communicate anything about me now?

Sometimes I think a stylish woman is just a stylish woman. Other times I'm sure that a playful detail here, an unexpected proportion there, must indicate something deeper. We might call it creativity.

But yeah, style tribes exist for a reason. Maybe you're intrigued by this woman because you think you might have some things in common, while still remaining unique individuals. Clothes don't make up our identity, I don't think...but they can make it easier to identify with one another.

The Jones said...

I think it can mean a lot of things...depending on the time, place, and person. Seriously. There are so many factors. I know I've felt misjudged by others because I'm so interested in style and find so much enjoyment piecing outfits together. I get labeled "narcissitic" or "spendthrift"--when really, I spend a sum total of 10 mins choosing my clothes in the morning, wear virtually no makeup, and buy all my clothes on the super clearance racks maybe twice a year! I've also been told that I'm "substandard" or "not up to par" style-wise because I don't have anything super brand name, don't wear makeup, and don't always wear what's super in style. So I guess I wouldn't judge a person based on their clothing--and yet, if someone obviously cares more about their appearance than anything? Maybe that does say something negative about them. They probably have a sad and unfulfilling life!

My thoughts...this was a very provoking post. I'm eager to read more. Stop by and introduce yourself, I'd love to see more of you :)

<3 Cambria

William said...

We all, naturally, are detectives, using visual clues about the people we've just met to figure out more about who they are.

But, other than the fact that this woman must have a good amount of money and an interest in beautiful products, there's not too much else about her that gets automatically defined by the fact that she dresses impressively.

Sad and boring individuals can dress well or poorly. Fulfilled and fascinating individuals, too, can dress well or poorly.

Who amongst us, readers of a fashion-focused blog like yours, wouldn't want to walk out of a room and have people say, "Wow - they have great style!" ???

Although, I would say most of us crave interesting shirts or expensive shoes not because we want to impact other people or their opinions of us, but because we just have a simple and pure appreciation of these items we covet. Their style or period or rarity or price make us feel good; feel that we are living a better or more exciting or more luxurious or more rebellious life because we own and wear these pieces. I trust the woman you're wondering about is the same. She's dressing well because she wants to - not because she wants to intimidate or isolate.

Walking punchline himself Tom Ford said "We can drink our water out of paper Dixie cups or we can drink them out of crystal glasses - so why wouldn't you choose to drink out of crystal?"

I actually love that quote and think that the issue or meaning or merit of style is just as simple as that. You have to drink out of something, you have to cloak your nakedness in something. Might as well be beautiful things that make you (and perhaps others) actually feel something!

Alice /// VESTIGIAL WINGS said...

I really enjoy all of your posts!

I used to dwell over this kind of question for the way a girl does her eyebrows- the ones who have it perfectly natural but perfectly groomed all the time. random, I know, but I've come to believe that everything we do really does represent a part of our personality.

Paulina said...

I've thought about this a lot.
As someone who worked in a store where things cost a very pretty penny, I have seen so many women come and go and purchase items so frivolously. I have been inspired by the beauty of the clothes and disgusted by the waste and the disparity in wealth.
Some women are interested in fashion because they want to express their creativity, while others simply want to indicate social hierarchy and attractiveness (and nothing deeper).
Certainly people can be pigeonholed by what they wear, but I always hope that they are both artistic/fashionable and that they have some critical higher order thinking going on. So I guess my conclusion is that this has to be determined on a case-by-case basis, balanced with other factors of the individual's personality.