Reader aurelia.donka left the following comment on my recent post about jazzing up twinsets.
What, exactly, is wrong with dull clothes? It seems to me this falls into “I’m not here to decorate your world” territory. An unadorned twinset and black trousers constitutes a put-together, simple, un-fussy, functional, casual, comfortable outfit.
Where’s the line between dull and elegantly simple?
I had never heard that phrase before reading this comment, and it struck me as downright combative. I mean, I’d imagine that this response might be given when one is directly insulted; Told she dresses sloppily, poorly, dully, or hit by some snarky/inappropriate comment about ratty shoes or an outdated hairdo.
But I’m not sure that’s the implication here. Seems like aurelia.donka isn’t referring to a one-shot deal, but to a philosophy of dressing. And to feel that way on a daily basis, as if the world is offering some critique of your appearance for being too plain or unfashionable? That must be positively exhausting. I spent years of my young life feeling ashamed and embarrassed of my physical appearance and personal style, but I never felt defensive about it. And I hope none of you do, either. Though you certainly may …
I definitely believe that decisions about style are influenced by outside opinions, but none of us dresses exclusively to entertain or thrill others. Women who enjoy personal style, fashion, accessorization, and shopping generally draw pleasure from these activities and topics for multiple reasons. But I’d wager that a nearly universal reason is simple personal reward. We dress well to make ourselves feel good. We shop when we’ve gotten promotions or achieved goals. We flip through our fashion mags to relax after a long day. We do it for ourselves, to reward ourselves.
But we do dress for others to a certain extent. If I lived in a cave 500 miles from civilization, my ample wardrobe would be wasted. I enjoy dressing well because of how it makes me feel, but I also enjoy the positive feedback that I receive. I see it as a symbiotic relationship: I get pleasure from praise, and the observer gets pleasure and/or inspiration from whatever ensemble I’ve thrown together that day. So even if I AM decorating someone else’s world, to some extent, we both benefit. Win-win.
As for the line between dull and elegantly simple? I think Bekster nailed it in her comment response:
” …’dull’ deflects attention, but ‘elegant’ attracts it. Just think about what actresses wear on the red carpet. Their dresses may be both simple and elegant, but people still say ‘wow’ when they see them.”
What’s wrong with dull clothes? Nothing. If you want to wear things that even YOU consider to be dull, go for it. Again, style is deeply personal and no one – not me, not Tim Gunn, not your mom – can make you wear anything you don’t want to. And especially if you’re in a spot where you have no money, time, or energy to invest in your appearance, or if attracting attention to yourself is stressful, then cloak yourself in plain, quiet, easy clothes.
But don’t get stuck there forever. And, even more importantly, don’t go thinking that if you shift gears and suddenly want to wear gorgeous jewelry and sassy shoes that you’re “selling out” or pandering to some faceless, opinionated audience. If you’re feeling “not here to decorate your world”-level defensive, even when no one is actively antagonizing you about your appearance, give some thought to why you feel so negatively about dressing artfully. What is causing that painful disconnect between looking good and feeling good?
Have you ever hit a stretch where you wanted to dress dully on purpose? Where do you see the line between “dull” and “elegant” as being drawn? Ever been insulted about your appearance to your face? Heard the phrase, “I’m not here to decorate your world” before? What was the context? Does it mean something different to you?
Image courtesy Laura Mary.