When I was in college, I got scolded by a guy for not caring enough about my clothes. He took it upon himself to tell me that I’d be so much prettier if I’d just put on a dress once in a while. He was an acquaintance, not a friend, and he felt it was important to let me know that my lack of interest in fashion was affecting his perception of me. And potentially the perceptions of others. I did not care enough about fashion.
The receptionist at my old job was an older gal and famously grumpy. She was one of those people whose compliments always felt backhanded and acidic. She made a point of commenting whenever I wore something she perceived to be new – items that, nine times out of ten, I’d had for years but not yet worn to the office. When I told her I was writing a book, she lit up. When I told her what it was about, she pulled a grimace. I cared too much about fashion.
Humanity disdains extremes in all, but especially in women. Be skinny, but not too skinny and in a very specific way. Be smart, but not too smart or you’re a show-off and extremely threatening to men. Be aware of pop culture, but not too aware or you’re a shallow ditz. Be sexy, but whatever you do don’t cross that invisible line into being too sexy. And, of course, care about fashion, but not too much.
If you don’t care enough about clothing, style, and fashion you’re considered to be out-of-touch or frumpy or an object of scorn. You may have “let yourself go” and be the cause of sidelong glances and whispers. And if you don’t show off your figure in exactly the right way, flattering it using means that are socially sanctioned and give you the figure that the majority views as desirable, you are failing.
If you care too much about clothing, style, and fashion you’re considered to be vain, materialistic, and vapid. People may shake their heads at the amount of money you spend on your wardrobe and the amount of time you spend reading about the latest trends. I mean, really, don’t you have anything more important to do with yourself? Fashion is frivolous and silly, and if you love it too much then so are you.
And, of course, this caring about fashion must align with certain expectations. If you adore fashion but from a menswear perspective and keep your hair in gorgeous shape but cropped short and adore shoes but stick to brogues and oxfords, that’s not quite right. If you adore fashion but embrace an untamed aesthetic with loads of asymmetric layers and jangly jewelry and bright colors, that’s not quite right, either. You must care about fashion just the right amount and in just the right, acceptably mainstream ways.
As you might have guessed, I am pointing out these expectations so that you can all feel free to shatter them. No one – absolutely NO ONE – gets to tell you how much to care about fashion. You can and should care about your wardrobe and style exactly as much as feels good to you – be that not at all, a little, more at certain times than others, or a great deal. Other people may feel uncomfortable or threatened by your choices, but it is not your responsibility to fix that. The world is a diverse and varied place, and you get to be yourself in it.
Something to remember, too, if you find yourself feeling a bit judgy about how much or little someone else cares about fashion: If you don’t want them nosing into your choices, try not to jump to conclusions about theirs.