The Point of All This

If you’d asked me to list off the types of writing projects I wanted to do, I’m pretty sure ‘Fashion and Beauty Blog’ would never make the list. And yet, here I am, filled with opinions and experience and hoping that makes up for my complete lack of expertise.

So basically, I’m approaching this project the same way I approach every job interview I’ve ever been to. Whether or not that’s a promising thing, I’ll leave for my readers to decide.

In the way of qualifications, I have worn clothes on many previous occasions, and I’ve watched The Devil Wears Prada an embarrassing number of times. Stanley Tucci has a good point in that movie when he says that fashion is the greatest form of art, because we live our lives in it. And yet, I spent the first 25 years of my life avoiding the world of fashion and mostly looking like a homeless backpacker, partly out of necessity – growing up poor means you don’t generally get to ‘pick’ your clothes, so much as you get to ‘be thankful someone gave you clothes’ – but then in college I went through this period of rebellion where I was convinced that looking feminine somehow meant I was shallow, vain, and wasting my time on a bunch of pointless crap. I was so very, very sure that if I just continued wearing nothing but cargos and shelf-bra tank tops, eventually I would figure out how to be seen as someone smart and capable and educated whilst also looking like I’d just climbed out of a redwood.

What actually happened wasn’t that my homeless-backpacker-chic trend set me back in life. No, it was more that my rebellious attitude toward work-appropriate clothing just shined through in everything I did. I wasn’t buying work clothes that made me happy, because I didn’t think I should have to wear certain clothes to work in an office and talk to customers every day. So every time I showed up to my job as a receptionist or other office-monkey, I would invariably give off this vibe that I hated how I looked, which sort of translated to a general negative attitude that I’m sure contributed to all those bouts of unemployment I had in the first few years after college. Pro tip: if you’ve got a job during the worst recession the country has seen since that notable one in the 1930’s, you’re not the one in charge of that situation, and you don’t get to make the rules. Feel free to pour yourself some nice vodka to help you wash that down; I know it’s a damned unpleasant bite of reality.

Paradoxically enough, I started getting more interested in how I looked after my life got more stable. I’d found an industry I liked working in, and I felt like I fit in there, and only then did I really start wanting to play around with my clothing choices and see how those choices affected other people’s view of me. It definitely helped that my bills were paid to the point that I wasn’t constantly doing head-math to figure out if I could afford to grab a beer with friends that night. Having just a little spending cash that you don’t feel guilty about using for clothes, opens up a whole world of options.

So now that I’ve spent some time and effort on my clothes, and on my skin care and hair, I’ve come to some realizations about fashion, specifically about how to sort out a fashion and beauty situation that actually works to a person’s benefit, rather than feeling like just another chore on the to-do list.

Good fashion needs to have four basic qualities to pass the Fashion Bird Acceptability Test (FBAT):

Affordable – Your look should match your budget. You don’t have four hundred dollars to spend on a pair of shoes? Well, thank God for that, because neither do I, so you’ve definitely found the right blog. Whatever your bank account looks like, be realistic and spend wisely on your clothing. A lot of the industry makes fashion out to be frivolous, but to get the most value out of your clothes, it needs to be the opposite of that and be useful and long-lasting.

Appropriate – I’m not talking about modesty here, I mean your clothing needs to be appropriate for the places you intend to wear said clothing. Do you live in a cold, rainy climate? Maybe not so much with the short-shorts and tank tops, unless you’re doing some cool layering there. Do you walk to work? Maybe opt for flats instead of stilettos, so you don’t fall on your face. Do you work with children? Maybe dress more conservatively than if you worked for an ad agency, and wear stuff that’s machine-washable. In short, look at your life and the places you wear clothes to, and buy pieces that work at those places. You’ll feel a lot more comfortable if you’re dressed for the occasion.

Comfortable – Let’s face it, if you buy clothing that itches or pinches or that you have to keep adjusting all the time, you’re not going to wear it, no matter how good it looks. If it drives you crazy to feel a cool breeze on your legs, that adorable mini skirt is not going to leave the closet more than once or twice, and on those occasions you’re going to spend the whole outing trying to scrunch it down to cover more of your poor, vulnerable legs. Why do that to yourself? More importantly, why waste money on something you don’t like wearing? You’re the grownup now, which means you get to decide what you wear. Even within the limitations of most work dress codes, you’ve got a lot of choices.

Beneficial – At the end of day, your clothing should benefit YOU, not the other way around. You don’t owe your clothing, or the clothing industry, or a specific store, a single, solitary thing. But you do owe it to yourself to walk out the door feeling comfortable, confident, and whatever else you want to feel about yourself that day. I’ve learned that there’s a lot of power to be had in taking charge of your wardrobe. Dressing with purpose and wearing things that make you feel like you’re killing it that day can improve your mood tremendously, and who doesn’t need that confidence boost on a regular basis? Make the choice to wear clothes that you like, and you will feel like you’re in charge of things.

I haven’t decided how often I’m going to update this thing, but I know I do want to focus on fashion with an eye toward meeting those four criteria. If you want to make your fashion work for you and not against you, there are ways to make that happen that don’t leave you feeling like you’re wearing someone else’s skin. If I, the Homeless Backpacker, could figure it out, so can you, and now I’m here to help. You got this, my Fashion Fledglings.

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