Not Here to Decorate Your World


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insulted; Told she dresses sloppily, poorly, dully, or hit by some snarky/inappropriate comment about ratty shoes or an outdated hairdo.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.

  • kay

    Okay I'm weighing in here for the first time simply because this issue is so important to me.

    I dress in a style that the world may find dull, but it fits my tastes perfectly.

    I am much happier tracking down the -perfect- fitting cardigan (in a grey, cream, brown or black, please!) than a bold jacket, for example, or something I'd consider flashy, like patent shoes.

    And I'm okay with that. I accessorize a bit here and there, but to be honest, my favorite earrings and bracelet hardly leave my ears and wrists.

    It's simple clothing, but what takes the "dullness" out of it for me is the fact that it fits well and is cut from interesting fabrics or textures. That's what makes it elegant.

    Yes, I've been mocked for my choices more than once. Co-workers have commented on my lack of a colorful wardrobe. I work with lots of younger gals in a creative environment, so my particular lack of flair can stand out. I've added new pieces, but lots of them feel inauthentic so they're ditched. (Yeah, that bright sweater made me feel like a traffic cone. Not pretty, even though it might be dashing on the next girl.)
    Bu scarves? Yes please. Boots? Sure. Both, I found, elevated that simple twinset and slacks without much fuss. That's my thing.

    -kaaylynn

  • Diana

    I don't know that there has even been a time when I intentionally wanted to be dull, but there were times when I tried to play down my appearance because I was depressed and I didn't really want to be noticed. That was a long time ago.

  • miamichaela

    I study in Prague where I live in a rather shitty apartment plus my studying (Graphic Design) requires me to sit in front of a computer all the time..so in Prague I dress dully because I choose to do so. No need for looking awesome, I am there to study and…study. :)
    Back home, however, with all my friends and my boyfriend I do the opposite and I dress up nice because I have people here that can appreciate it and I live more of a "life" here at home than in Prague where I'm solely for the purpose of my studies.

    And simple elegance VS dullness…well, I think simple elegance requires the wearer to have a superb sense of fashion, proportions & etc because generally it's easier to pile on stuff and look put together than to pick up few perfect items and make them work.

    DKNY, Jil Sander and Stella McCartney are the simple elegance queens for me. :)

  • Lisa

    I may not be here to "decorate YOUR world" but I do like mine to be pretty and far from dull! Dressing nice with fun accessories makes me feel good about ME..and if other people like what I wear, that's an added benefit. I often admire others style and steal ideas when I see things I admire. Unfortunatley people do judge you on your appearance first and even after they get to know you, your appearance is going to play a part in how people view you. In my office we have one woman who dressed very dowdy, in ill-fitting clothes, none purchased in the past decade. And that's how she is known in the organization…the frumpy lady.

  • Anonymous

    Nothing is wrong with being plain, although I don't know why that person is even reading this blog. . .Accessories, however, can express your personality. This is important in my field, teaching, and any job where face to face communication is involved.

  • Rachel

    I dress to decorate MY world. Yes I love the attention some of my wackier outfits get and I love the compliments (or bizarre looks!) I sometimes get but on the whole I am happy with myself when I am "decorated" (for want of a better world). I think it is something inherent in me, as I have dressed up to the nines since I was a very little girl (fairy wings to Sunday School anyone?) and I am lucky in that I have always had the confidence to do so (not to mention parents who turned a blind eye!). I dress up to sit at home and watch TV sometimes (see my NYE post this year!), and when I used to work from home I always got dressed as though I was going to the office. It makes my day feel… right and happy.

    That said I believe we should all dress how we want, and not everyone wants to draw attention to themselves. But I will say this, to those that like to dress in a more conservative manner – get yourself some hot pink underwear and smile to yourselves every day you wear it :D

  • Meli22

    I think elegant and dull, in dressing and fashion, is the following:

    Dull= what you see on the majority of the population. Simple, unadorned, poor to average fit, doing nothing for the wearer.

    Simple Elegance= Simple, unadorned, Solid colors, neutral colors, but amazing fit and flattering to the wearer, not worn-out.

    A woman can wear head-to-toe black (or grey, white, navy, etc) and look AMAZING if it's tailored to HER shape and body, and flatters her best points and skims over the worst.

    And a woman can wear head-to-toe black (or other color) and look terrible because it calls attention to all the wrong places.

  • bunny

    I don't think anyone should be dressing in a style that they themselves consider dull, on purpose. After all, like kay has demonstrated, it is possible to dress in a way that the world finds dull, but that you're perfectly happy with. I mean, don't people dress so that they feel better about themselves?

    Personally, I am not an interesting dresser. My college-going clothes tend to consist of t-shirts and jeans and sports shoes. However, I do make sure that the t-shirts I wear fit flatteringly; likewise for the jeans, and that both are in colors that suit me. Aiming to be elegant does not mean you are drab. To me, you could dress up in a complicated outfit and still be boring, like following cookie-cutter trends mindlessly. Elegance is something different. Elegance is achieving maximum impact with minimum fuss, not an attempt to hide away from people.

  • Erin

    I agree, I'm not exactly one to accessorize up the hoozah, I tend to be classic, and I like clean lines, simple, architectural… but I would never say my style is boring.
    I'd say "elegantly simple" is a great way to put it, Calvin Klein springs to mind as a great inspiration for this kind of style that isn't ostentatious or full of flair but instead its all about the materials, the cut and the drape of the clothing.
    and of course with style, it's all personal opinion :)

  • Christina Lee

    Ok I love that phrase (never heard it before) and I can see it being used in different contexts–LOL!! there are times I feel most comfortable fading into the background as long as what I am wearing fits and suits me well…

  • Emm

    To add to some of the previous commenters' posts about fit and texture adding to elegance: if you google pics of Audrey Hepburn, sure to turn up are ones of her in a black sweater, pants, and ballet flats. But the sweater fits just so, as do the cigarette pants, which are the perfect length for the ballet flats, which have little jewels on the vamp embellishing them. Plus her hair looks cute and overall she looks, yes, simple and elegant.

    Or for a different look, see Katharine Hepburn, who wore white men's-style shirts and pants, but the pants fit precisely and she'd do something interesting to the shirt, like pop the collar or button it all the way up.

    For a more modern example, I think Jennifer Aniston would do. She tends to look great in what are usually very basic dresses and trousers in neutral colors, but there's usually some interesting and subtle tailoring to the outfit. Although the Go Fug Yourself girls think she's dull, so there is that eye-of-the beholder thing again. ;-)

  • ranksubjugation

    To me, dull outfits convey inattention/carelessness, while simple outfits tend to convey very tactful editing.

    That said, the only thing wrong with dull clothes is when and if they make YOU feel dull — or when you choose them because you feel unworthy of attention and care.

  • childfreelife

    I did have a stage where I had a painful disorder, and I felt reminded of it whenever any men hit on me at all (like normal flirtatiousness in a not work environment). I put extra effort into dressing androgynous, it didn't really work. I guess I can't really cover up who I am, unless I wore a huge sheet over my whole self and didn't talk, but then the mystery might get to people.

  • budget chic

    Great post, I could not have said it better myself!!

    Some people will never be happy!

    If she is not here to "decorate anybody world" that's cool, but I don't think I need to know that! Just do you and keep it moving!

    If you had to comment on the fact that you like to wear basic, functional clothing (i.e. put something on so you're not naked) you don't have to explain or justify that to anybody, and especially not on someone's blog. Just continue to be who you are….I don't believe anybody ever questioned this person about her style of dressing.

    I read that blog post because I was interested in comments on HOW someone would be creative with "styling" a twinset. I'm reading for creative solutions, but I guess she didn't get that part… sometimes negative thinking breeds defensiveness.

  • angie

    You needn’t dress in a bold, edgy and dramatic way to have style. An understated and classic sense of dress can be very stylish. Especially when it fits the way you feel inside. Not everyone is out to get attention with the way that they dress and that’s okay. The problem arises when you’re unhappy looking understated and want to change it up but you don’t know how, so you’d rather give up then try.

    Insults are interesting and it’s all in how you take them. When someone says to you: “you look nice today”. Does that mean that you didn’t look nice on other days? This comment always makes me chuckle.

  • Sarah R

    I went through a period of time in my mid 20s when I didn't care what I looked like. I wore nothing but jeans and tee shirts. My son was diagnosed with autism, my marriage was faltering, and I was stuck waitressing midnight shifts because I couldn't put my son in daycare. I didn't wear make up, I barely brushed my hair, and I put on a lot of weight. At that time, I wasn't into decorating anyone's world either. I was just trying to survive.
    I would consider a phrase like "decorate your world" a defense mechanism. Had anyone told me what a wreck I was back then, I would have bit their heads off. But I *was* a wreck…I just didn't care.

  • Denise

    I would argue that by virtue of being human we are, in fact, decoration in each other's worlds! Think of all the people you see in one day. And how some of them stand out, for better or worse, and some of them fade into the background. We're all part of a big fabric, aren't we? And some parts are louder, zanier, crazier, quieter, softer, duller, than others. We decorate each other's world whether we want to or not. It's our choice how we want to do it, that's all.

  • CompassRose

    This reminds me of the endless fight I was in with my mother from … well, about as soon as I started dressing myself, until I moved out. And sometimes a little beyond that.

    My mother dresses in a way that is purely functional. She might not say, "I'm not here to decorate your world," but I think it expresses her philosophy pretty well – and she does consider unnecessary expense and elaboration in clothing to be a waste of time, money and energy.

    I'm not really sure she isn't right, from a certain perspective. I don't think her deliberately stolid, comfortable clothes are "wrong," or that there is truly any need for her – or anyone – to strive for elegance or style or anything else – whether one lives in a cave or not.

    I like dressing. I love clothes. I like putting energy into my style choices. But maybe I could just as well put that into art, or writing, or something else.

    But I don't think my mother's choice to be strictly functional is a "painful disconnect". In fact, the older I get, the more I admire her, for presenting such a strong "warts and all" powerfully rooted sense of self, which has nothing to do with her appearance or other essentially surface stuff.

  • Jingle Bella

    Hmmmm. I quite like the phrase 'I'm not here to decorate your world' – I read it entirely at face value (this is a bad habit of mathematicians) – whatever it is I am here for, it is not, in particular, to make your world prettier. That may be a side-effect (or it may not), but that's not my primary purpose.

    I'm not sure it's necessarily a defensive thing to say, or a sign that you think that the world is constantly out to judge you. Sort of more: 'I am perfectly satisfied with what I am wearing, it is put-together, functional, and perfectly appropriate for what I need to do today. I am personally not worried about whether you might think it needs a bit more pizzaz / an extra brooch / some funky shoes. If and when *I* start thinking it needs a little 'something extra', *then* I will consider it, and not before.'

    And I think there's no problem with that. If you're claiming that people should wear what they *want* to wear, that should include people who come up with an outfit that doesn't make them scream with joy or feel all warm and fuzzy, but instead they are merely perfectly content with.

    We all fall on some spectrum from 'completely not interested in clothes (but of course I have to wear something)' to 'LOVES clothes and fashion' and people who are interested enough in clothes to want to make sure they look quite nice, but actually aren't passionate about clothing … well, there's room for us too, right?

    I think this might be at the heart of the matter – the difference between someone who is moderately interested in what they wear, and someone who is extremely interested in what they wear – and neither of those points of view is superior over the other.

    I'd place myself in the former category – although I don't think that what I wear would be considered dull, because I happen to like wearing bright teal and purple, and very large necklaces – but that doesn't mean I think about my clothes any more or less than someone who wants to wear unadorned twinsets and black trousers.

    I am probably rather less interested in personal style and fashion than many of your readers. In fact, one thought I've just had is 'I don't always want to look amazing' – some days I do, and that's great and I'll make an effort and enjoy it, and some days I want to just pull on something I know I look fine in, and go get on with life – studying / meeting friends / reading / whatever – and I really won't think about clothes at all. I am genuinely not interested in looking fabulous all the time. I'd quite like to know how to look fabulous when I feel like it and I'm interested in experimenting toward that end … but at times when I don't feel like 'making the effort', I want to pull on something that looks okay and go and do something.

    In terms of wanting to look dull, there are certainly times when I'll wear something that is not particularly put together – either for a day with bad PMS, or for a day when I have a huge amount of studying/academic work to do and I know I'll be stuck at my desk in my room with cups of tea all day.

    Wearing things that are a bit scruffy on such occasions says to myself 'it's okay to just take some time out and be comfortable' / 'work is the only priority today'. And in the latter case, I get more done dressed like that – I know there are people who feel more productive if they dress up, and that's great for them, but I honestly don't – if I dress up I'm more likely to go 'Oh, I should just go to the shop and buy some more milk, it's only 15 mins walk …' or 'I should just pop round to a friend's room and say hello' etc, and waste time.

    In summary, I suppose, 'different strokes for different folks'!

  • Sal

    CompassRose: I’m not saying that there’s anything "wrong" with a style that is plain, functional, or comfortable. I’m talking about attitude, here. Your mom has an established style and it’s what she wants for herself, end of story. Someone who is defensive about how they dress, feels pressure to dress differently or "better" and is made uncomfortable by that pressure, is dealing with internal struggles and an ongoing feeling of persecution. Your mom has made her peace with her stolid wardrobe, no? Even if the two of you still butt heads over it …

    The "painful disconnect" I’m referring to is between looking good and feeling good. Someone who is dressing dully on purpose and defensive about it isn’t where your mom is at, emotionally. Based on what you wrote, I’d wager her feel-good techniques aren’t appearance-based, for the most part.

    Also, who says you can’t put energy into dressing well AND art, writing, or something else?

  • J.

    Simple isn't necessarily dull. Fit and color affect the look to. With those actresses, those simple looks are generally picked to accent the best features of them and are tailored to their bodies.

    Yes, at first glance, a twinset sounds "dull" to me – but I can see where it could be really elegant, just by making sure it's a gorgeous color and pairing it with a good-fitting black pencil skirt or gray slacks.

    In fact, I'm doing a no-jewelry look today. What's keeping this outfit still my style is the color present in it. Even though I'm wearing a gray top, the undershirt is this bright turquoise, and my shorts (yes, California is a lovely 70 degrees) are purplish-blue.

  • Sal

    Jingle Bella: Well said! If someone has an attitude of, "I am perfectly satisfied with what I am wearing, regardless of outside input," more power to her. We should each be exactly as dressed up, elegant, pulled-together, and fashion-y as WE feel comfortable being. No more, no less.

    The phrase just implies a defensiveness to me, which is why it struck me as so odd. It doesn't SOUND like the mantra of a person who is content and happy with her personal style … but as you've eloquently pointed out, that's all in the interpretation.

  • futurelint

    I have certainly never dressed dully… as a child, teen, and now well into my '20s. I've never heard that phrase before, but I agree with the people who dress to decorate their own world… my condo is full of art and bright pillows and lovely little things, and I'm constantly making new things and re-arranging… I feel the same way about my wardrobe. I get bored. I want to try something new. I'll never be "classic" and only occasionally "elegant" but I'll never be "dull"

  • Toby Wollin

    Sal – I'm with you there. When I was thinking about this, all I could think of was that everyone who we see or pass by or encounter in any way 'decorates our world'. In order for that not to happen, I think, we'd have to stay home with the doors locked and the windows covered and no internet, tv, etc. On the other hand, my dressing experience shows me that there are things that when I wear them, don't do scratch for me until I put a pair of shoulder pads in them. I'm short and rather round-shouldered so I need that angularity to make things pop sometimes.

  • WendyB

    " 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." — people say wow because they're beautiful actresses and the camera is gazing upon them lovingly. I have very nice LBDs that I like but those don't make me or anyone else look as elegant as Audrey Hepburn… Audrey Hepburn looked amazing because she was Audrey Hepburn. On anyone else, the dresses are pretty but wallflower-worthy, especially in NYC where everyone else is wearing an LBD and having her Audrey delusion too.

    Basically there are times when it's good to be presentable and plain and times when you want to stand out. Actresses always stand out because of who they are. Civilians need to try harder.

  • Laura

    What came to mind for me when I read the commenter's words is the fact that some people, both men and women but often usually men, feel that women are supposed to be pretty. That women, particularly young women, have an *obligation* to look pretty, cute, or what-have-you, and they are actually insulted when a woman acts like she has other priorities in life.
    As you've noted before, Sal, no one dresses exclusively for themselves; outside perception does play a part in the clothes we choose. And there have been times in the past when I've felt resentful of the obligation I felt from some people in my life to look cute and societally appropriate.
    I don't think any of us owes anyone else anything with our dress, except perhaps to be clean and covered enough not to be distracting. And the endless expectation that women should always be as aesthetically pleasing as possible can be wearying.
    I'm not suggesting that you, Sal, are expecting that, but some things in the fashion and advertising world do have that vibe.
    There have certainly been times in my life when I've been intentionally dull in my dress, but more often there have been times that I've been sick of feeling like I was dressing to someone else's standards, and that I think might be what she was getting at.

  • spacegeek

    Here's a recent example. Monday I had an impromptu (for me) meeting with the head of my company. I was wearing grey and white polka dot tights with a black dress. Oops! Not a good choice, as I was the only under-55 woman in the room of 10 men.
    Today I went the other way. Blush pink square-necked top and navy blue trousers. Statement necklace and small garnet earrings. I was going for elegant and understated.

    I wish I'd had the foresight to reverse the days–today's outfit would have been just fine for Monday's meeting and Monday's outfit works for my every day environment. I'd have liked to have been "dull" on Monday clothing-wise and been noticed just for my thoughts in that "august" group.

  • Eve

    Some of the defensiveness of "not here to decorate your world" may refer to the concept of the "male gaze." It's a scholarly concept from feminist philosophy, and there is a helpful FAQ here: http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/08/26/faq-what-is-the-%E2%80%9Cmale-gaze%E2%80%9D/

    Some people have a natural eye for design, color, fit and proportion. Some people find it a fun, creative outlet to organize a wardrobe and put together outfits. I'm certainly not here to judge other people's interests. But I don't have an eye for it, and I find it excruciating — moreso when depressed, but dress and grooming are still not fun activities for me even when I feel great about myself, simply because I'm not good at fashion, and still don't "get" it despite trying to be openminded and learn. Isn't it a sign of *good* self-esteem to choose to spend our time doing more of the things we're good at and enjoy doing, and less of the things we don't?

    Of course there are some things in life that we have to do, even if we're not good at them, and even if we don't enjoy them. I do sometimes get feedback from the world telling me I look dull and frumpy, and I'm trying to change. On the other hand, even when I try to look better, my efforts have sometimes been treated as pathetic and laughable, because I really don't have a good eye for what would looks "good" on me, as defined by current styles. By the time I finally "get it," styles have changed and I'm outdated.

    I wish I could afford a stylist to lay out my outfits for me and do my hair and makeup for me, because the "getting ready" part of my day would be over quicker and I could do more of what I find fun — hanging out with friends and family, working at a fulfilling job, and participating in the hobbies I enjoy (which include blog commenting!).

    As it is, I'm looking for the minimum, the very basics, in terms of time and money, that I have to spend on clothes shopping, tailoring, wardrobe organizing, outfit picking, makeup buying, makeup applying, hair styling, and so on to keep up a socially acceptable appearance. Attempts to ratchet up the socially acceptable minimum, or implications that I "should" be doing more than the minimum and not just do it but *enjoy* it, yes, on a bad day, that can make me defensive. If it's fun for you, great. It's not fun for me. http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/2009/12/why-is-it-hard-to-know-what-you-find-fun.html

    Thank you for the service you provide, Sal, in that your blog has helped me be more fashionable in less time while spending less money.

  • Sal

    Eve: I can definitely imagine the response "I'm not here to decorate your world" being given to a fellow woman. But dang, thanks for the link to the Male Gaze explanation … not a concept I'd ever heard about before.

    And it's true, style should not be an obligation. I feel weird saying that, as someone who writes a style blog, but if you just don't enjoy dealing with clothing and makeup and accessories and shoes, then finding a clean, simple look that suits you makes perfect sense. I'd still argue against purposely dull, but getting dressed shouldn't be like pulling teeth every day.

    I strongly believe that there’s a link between looking good and feeling good – from personal and anecdotal experience – but again, you’re the only one who gets to decide what you wear, how you look, and how much time, money, and effort you put into matters of personal style.

    I'm so sorry to hear that your personal stylistic journey has been so FRUSTRATING! If you want to drop me a note, maybe I can help you one-on-one. (I know that's not what you were getting at with your comment, but I'd still love to help, if I can.)

  • kathel

    If I, say, dressed up one morning in my perfect minimalist-Audrey twinset and black trousers, sailed into work feeling smashing, fired up my favorite fashion blog while sipping coffee and saw my outfit described as a lazy fallback option, I might feel compelled to draw the elegant/dull distinction and express it a little vehemently. You go on to specify that well-chosen accessories make the outfit acceptable to you, but the wearer's dressing for herself (as we all agree she should), so…

    Variants on the phrase "I'm not here to decorate your world" are common in feminism. I generally see it used in the context of a random man ordering a woman to smile (or join a gym, or lay off the cupcakes, or whatever such a man might believe he has the right to express). Here, I think the writer is raising the question more broadly: To what extent does a woman, as a woman, owe the world something pretty to look at? You've talked about this before from a personal standpoint, but there's a thought-provoking social/cultural aspect of it too.

    Personally I fall on Jingle Bella's part of the spectrum. Sometimes I want to pull on something that looks OK and go out and do something. I read fashion blogs for the other times.

  • kathel

    …aaand two people expressed my feelings much better while I was writing my comment. Carry on then!

  • Anonymous

    I work in a corporate office in San Francisco and am in my early forties. I am interested in fashion and I love wearing beautiful well-made garments, so consequently I am one of the more dressed-up people in the office. I would describe my style aspirations as elegant and classic with interesting shoes. Not trendy.

    However, there is a cohort of "slacker" generation coworkers here who are very, very anti about dressing up. They generally wear the bare minimum required to conform to the corporate dress code, and complain about even doing that much.

    One of my friends who falls into the slacker group was teasing me once, and he described my style of dress as "kooky."

    I was a little insulted at first, but I have come to really think it's funny, and now I find myself referring to my own style as kooky. (Which, it's really not. I'm not even sure how he came up with that term.)

  • Anonymous

    Wow! what a great thread. I especially like Eve's perspective on how difficult this can be for someone who struggles with style.

    With her thoughts in mind, I think part of the original post …"due to my experience seeing women use them as a lazy fallback option. Many women appear to view twinsets as no-brainer, ready-made outfits. In that context, they are just plain dull." may come across as harsh and could make someone defensive.

    That said, I love your blog Sal. It is consistently positive and supportive. I look forward to reading it everyday.

  • storiteller

    I actually love the idea of dressing to "decorate the world" (although not necessarily any particular person's) because I tend to feel selfish when I purchase clothing or spend much time thinking about it. And I know you have to do a certain number of "selfish" things, but I like not being the sole benefactor of those activities. For example, I'm a writer. I write to please myself, but I post it online because I hope it can also bring some joy or comfort or entertainment to someone else. Thinking about dressing that way is actually rather encouraging. And this is from a person who has been criticized for her dull/all-black wardrobe!

  • Nadine

    You've totally hit the point – again. I love how you always write such intelligent entries about something that is considered to be superficial.

  • storiteller

    "Insults are interesting and it’s all in how you take them. … Does that mean that you didn’t look nice on other days? This comment always makes me chuckle."

    Or the much ruder version, "You clean up so nicely!" What did you think of me before I put a dress on? Mostly said in jest, but still, argh.

  • Audi

    Wow, I'm curious as to why she's looking at a style blog if she's *that* uninterested in dressing well. I personally can't imagine a worse fate than wearing something that would be described by anybody as dull. To me, style is a creative outlet and a way of expressing myself, so if I dress dull than I AM dull.

    I'm not saying I'd get all judgy and assume that anyone who throws on an unaccessorized twinset is a boring person, but I'd think it a sad shame that they didn't put more effort into it and show a bit of personality. I mean geez, if you really don't give a crap what you look like, then wear your Snuggie and a pair of Uggs and go for total comfort for chrissakes.

  • Make Do Style

    Dullness/elegance it is all a matter of perspective. I'm sure I use the word dull (in my head) when I see many any outfit that someone has gone to great lengths to create. Elaborate or decoration is not always a good look but then does the combination of garments/the person and the setting create elegance or interest.

    I do think if one wears a white shirt and great pair of trousers then this is simple but the look requires a touch be it red lipstick or a watch or a single piece of jewellery – otherwise it will be plain dull.

  • Anonymous

    I think "dull" is in the eye of the beholder. And while personal comments about one's style may be well-intentioned, I generally think it is not anyone else's business how I dress. There are exceptions, of course. For example if I've failed to meet a proscribed dress code, or if a colleague lets me know about something I need to fix such as a torn hem or protruding tag, or, in extreme cases where someone very close to me is worried about my frame of mind.

    I mention the last because I have, throughout my life suffered from bouts of severe depression, and during those times my low energy and lower self-esteem have conspired against my dressing in the way my non-depressed self would prefer. I was not only dressed "dully" from my perspective, but also shabbily and in ill-fitting clothes.

    That apart, there may very well be reasons why a person would want to dress in a way they think of as "dull", for example to avoid drawing notice to oneself in a strange environment or to avoid offense in places where women are expected to dress very modestly.

  • Sal

    kathel: Just wanted to point out that I was responding to a reader request in that post, and she asked me for advice on how to make her twinsets more stylish and interesting. Adding accessories constituted a part of my advice, so yes, that's how twinsets were "made acceptable to me." I never said it was the best or only way, and as both you and I have said here, it's down to personal taste. I wasn't telling anyone to dress against their own taste, merely offering suggestions that align with mine.

  • cwhf

    Great discussion.

    I actually did go through a period of life where I dressed dully, specifically to attract no notice, from high school until I was in my late 20s to early 30s. This was because of many factors—poor self esteem, a history of unwanted sometimes very aggressive sexual advances by men when I was very young (and my figure too filled out for my taste), sheer laziness/not caring, and the fact that life was simpler when I didn't have to actually interact with anyone, and dressing to be invisible practically guarantees you won't have to.

    Things have changed. I no longer dress dully. I may not be the most innovative, jaw dropping fashionista, but I dress to make myself feel good, and if I get compliments from others, it's nice but not essential. I love my cardigans but I never wear sweater sets (I did wear them through out my 20s, matched completely no accessories). Now, I combine my cardigan with a pretty cami and a necklace—not thrilling fashion, but more creative and makes me feel good, which is what counts.

    I have never heard "I'm not here to decorate your world." I suppose as my former self, I could perhaps fathom some of the sentiment, but it is a very aggressive combative statement. Honestly, it makes one wonder if one is hypersensitive. As a person dressing dully to attract no attention (hide in plain sight if you will), this kind of thought would never have even occurred to me, as my hope was you weren't even noticing me in your world, and I was in a world all my own.

  • Eve

    Thanks for the offer, Sal. I may take you up on it sometime.

    I agree that there's a correlation between looking good and feeling good. I guess for me the disconnect is that (hypothetical example) I really do think I look good in my Guadalajara poncho, and leave the house feeling good wearing it, and then discover that much of the rest of the world thinks I look like Ugly Betty, and then I don't feel as good.

    If I were intentionally dressing to please only myself and knew that I was bucking the trend, that would be one thing. But it can be kind of embarrassing when I think I'm stylish and appropriate and a friend takes me aside to give me pointers, or when I discover that what I thought was tastefully simple most people see as dull. As you've said, even if we're not primarily dressing for others, their reactions affect how we feel.

    That said, I've come to accept that most people think the amount of time they spend on dress and grooming is "normal," and whoever spends more time is appearance-obsessed, while whoever spends less time is lazy. So, when I read a style blog, I pretty much expect to find my style referred to as lazy, even though I actually do put effort into it — more than may appear. There's generally less of that kind of judgment at Already Pretty, which is one reason I come here to learn the basics.

    I wonder if your advice requestor was thinking of taking her twinsets from good-to-great, and she may have been disappointed that you saw it as more of a bad-to-good scenario, where "bad" is shorthand for "lazy" and "dull."

  • Sal

    Eve: Another interesting point about level of investment! There are very few folks I consider to be truly "appearance obsessed," but I'd wager you're right overall. We make ourselves the norm/standard by default.

    Oh, and the person who left the comment about "not here to decorate your world" wasn't the original person who asked about twinsets. Two different women.

  • kathel

    Sal — no, I know you weren't taking shots and I don't think you were out of line. I was trying to say what Eve, once again, says better: "it can be kind of embarrassing when I think I'm stylish and appropriate and … I discover that what I thought was tastefully simple most people see as dull." It's a reason why someone might feel defensive — not because they're trying to judge your sense of style, but because they see theirs as being under judgment.

  • Jingle Bella

    Audi said:

    "I'm not saying I'd get all judgy and assume that anyone who throws on an unaccessorized twinset is a boring person, but I'd think it a sad shame that they didn't put more effort into it and show a bit of personality. I mean geez, if you really don't give a crap what you look like, then wear your Snuggie and a pair of Uggs and go for total comfort for chrissakes."

    First up, I'd like to say that I read your (Audi's) blog and I think you look absolutely STUNNING and amazing and I really admire your style and think you own some of the most incredible pieces of clothing and wear them with such flair it's fantastic. So in general I think you're amazing. But this comment really struck me the wrong way – and it probably wasn't meant this way, but I think this might be again the sort of attitude that the original commenter might have been talking about.

    I'd be really quite offended if I was having a boring day, and wearing something that wasn't particularly interesting and maybe was a bit matchy, but I was clean / presentable / etc, and someone told me they thought my outfit was 'a sad shame' and I should show more personality.

    If they thought that I had missed an opportunity to show personality and was dressed in a fairly dull way, then that's absolutely fine because I'd agree with them.

    But I do not owe it to the world to dress amazingly. I do not owe it to the world to show my personality through how I dress. If I choose to do so, then that's great. But nobody has the right to tell me that it is a shame I am wearing what I am wearing (unless it is grossly inappropriate). You can have the right to say to yourself 'if only she'd worn such-and-such an accessory, that outfit would have had so much more life in it', but that is a different intrinsic attitude from 'that outfit is so boring, how sad'.

    And there is a huge difference between not caring how you look at all, and only caring that you look okay enough that you don't draw too much attention to yourself and can function in society without hassle, and I don't think it's fair to conflate the two.

  • lisa

    Interesting. I remember reading this comment on your previous post and I found it to be a very provocative confrontational statement as well.

  • Sal

    kathel: Gotcha. And, believe it or not, I can completely relate to that feeling. Of wearing something you think is the cat’s pajamas, and then getting shot down by someone who thinks it’s utter lunacy. So I can empathize with feeling chic and minimalistic, and getting a shock when someone calls you out for being "dull." (I err on the lunatic side, personally.)

    I must say that I was surprised by how many women spoke up on behalf of the unadorned twinset, specifically, as a wardrobe staple. I didn’t expect it to touch such a nerve! And I’m glad to hear that, overall, I didn’t sound unbearably judgmental. I honestly don’t like twinsets much myself, and was excited to be asked to present some ways to jazz them up. But, while I reserve the right to express my tastes and opinions – and while I aim to push women who are interested in style and figure flattery to dress their best – I really, REALLY don’t want anyone to come here and feel like I’m saying, "You there, in the twinset. FAIL."

    Style, for me, is the antidote to my relentlessly low self-esteem. I learned to dress when I finally figured out that, no matter how much weight I lost or how fit I became, I’d always have a tummy and a butt … so I might as well learn to dress like a person with a tummy and a butt and stop feeling like shit because I wasn’t shaped to fit whatever was on-trend. And I write about it because my world was TRANSFORMED when I found out I could look good as-is, and I want EVERYONE to look good as-is! Because it feels good to know that you look good. Generally, the folks who’ve spoken up around these parts have felt similarly and had similar experiences, but I guess it’s naïve to think that style can be everyone’s antidote. Or that learning about it and exploring it will make it second nature to everyone, even those who have struggled hard with it.

    This got long. [She says, pointing out the painfully obvious.] Bottom line: Dishing out advice about anything can get tricky, and while I do my best to be even-handed and sensitive, I know I’ll step on some feelings at times. And I know I’ll stir the pot sometimes, and raise hackles, and sound bossy. Here’s hoping that you all know that I express my opinions in full awareness that they’re mine, offer advice based on my tastes and experiences, and respect yours 100%. Even when they differ.

  • E and O

    I have to admit that the reader's message greatly confuses me. I can't fathom why anyone who wanted to "dress dull" would be even remotely interested in a fashion site. Or even fashion in general. Dull by definition is the complete opposite of "style." So why put in the energy to pursue style at all?

    That's not meant as a critical statement in anyway, I'm merely pointing out the inherent discrepancy there. Perhaps this is an opportunity for aurelia.donka (or anyone seeking "dull") to re-evaluate her true goals when it comes to clothing. Or maybe she (or others) just needs some validation that she doesn't have to be Lady GaGa.

    The "I'm not here to decorate your world" statement does indeed sound combative and defensive. Which leads me to wonder if perhaps there's good reason she feels defensive. Maybe she's felt pressured to be a cutting-edge style icon, when in reality her interests in clothing only extend as far as "fits well, is comfortable." And that's ok. :)

    Not to get too personal, but I also wonder if wanting to be "dull" actually translates to "I feel uncomfortable or unsafe with attention so I want to be as bland as possible." I know some women put on excess weight or eschew fashion entirely as some kind of defense, intentionally trying to make themselves look "unattractive" so they can try to avoid comments from men. It makes them feel safer. That may not be the case here, but I felt it was worth mentioning.

    I'm not going to presume to know aurelia.donka or her motivations behind her desire to be "dull." I'm really just having a mental exercise on the general subject here. :)

    Style is a reflection of our personality. And of course, what makes this world interesting is that we all have different personalities. :) Some people have a flamboyant or highly trendy style that reflects their personality. Others are more private or traditional, so their style is much more subdued or classic. There is no right or wrong answer there, as long as you're being true to yourself.

  • E and O

    oh, and to get back to the crux of the issue:

    "Where's the line between dull and elegantly simple?"

    I find this a very challenging question to answer because it gets to the very heart of excellent design. Of how one defines art. I think it's like the definition of porn: "you know it when you see it." ;)

    Why does a generic Sears cardigan make you look dowdy, while a designer cardigan that appears similar makes you look fresh and attractive? It's all in the lines of the design, as well as the nuances of color and the quality of materials. And those subtleties can be difficult to clearly identify to definitively say "yes, THIS is elegant, but THAT is dull."

    This is why one person can wear a white t-shirt and jeans and look like a dated, sloppy soccer mom; while another person can look like a put-together, contemporary, off-duty model.
    Both are executing a very simple look, one might even say dull. ;) However, the difference between cringe-worthy and wow is all in the cut of the basic tee and jeans. Even minimal accessorizing can also be a turning point for something so simple.

    As a final thought, I don't think we should confuse casual with dull.
    There are times when we legitimately have reason to throw on whatever is comfortable and not worry about whether it's stylish or not. We're sick, we're super busy, we're students on a deadline, we have bigger issues to worry about like finances or family problems. But as Sal touched upon in a past post about "not caring" what we look like, choosing not to pursue style on those days is a conscious decision. It's not a desire to be dull, it's acknowledging that our energies need to be places elsewhere for the time.

  • kathel

    All day reading this thread I've been thinking of a quotation I read once in an article about Isabella Blow (http://nymag.com/news/features/34732/). It's kind of beautiful, and kind of scary:

    “People think that fashion is all frivolity and done by people who can’t do proper jobs,” says the writer Adrian Gill, “but Issie understood that it is very, very serious business in terms of civilization and culture. It’s the one piece of culture that every single person in the world participates in. Not everybody reads poetry or listens to music, but every single person in the world gets up in the morning and puts on something, and whether you like it or not, that’s a statement about who you are.”

  • Sabrina

    Wow, what a great conversation. I see both sides of this debate loud and clear. Like Sally, for many years I hid myself in men's cargo pants, big baggy hooded zip up sweatshirts, and shapeless political t-shirts. I fronted like I was the cat's pajamas, thinking I was so feminist and transgressive, and scorned my girlfriends in college that encouraged me to wear colors, tighter, fitted clothing and jeans that showed off my figure. It wasn't because I had low body confidence, but rather I was deeply uncomfortable with attention from men. With an older brother, a stint in the military, and close male friends, I knew how men talked about women whom they found attracted and so I de-sexed myself as much as possible. I was still funny, smart and easy to get along with though, and I had no problem getting dates (I was "political" and "sassy", but it was well-discussed among my friends that I had terrible clothes). Fashion and style seemed oppressive and boring. I was formenting revolutions, far too busy for the frivolty of the conventionally feminine.
    In graduate school, starting in my mid 20s, I met Europeans who were sassy, political, funny, AND stylish. And their style was different than sorority girls and the like that I mocked in college. They were funky, they mixed textures, they were daring, they were fun, they were figure flattering but broke rules. And they looked great, but not fussy or oppressive or annoying. Style and appearance was about self respect and creativity, not conforming to some outdated mold that we had to be sex objects or vixens.
    As for elegance and dull, I think ultimately, it's a beholder thing. I still don't do many accessories or too many colors (I try to adopt the "pop of color" encouraged by the academichic girls and often fail). Some women can wear simple, neutral, loose fitting clothes and look elegant and others need more tailoring and closer fits. It's probably in attitude, body shape, and a gestalt element.
    I agree that there's nothing wrong with being dull or simple or unadorned. But if one wants to go beyond that, it's great that Sally is able to show us how to jazz up a simple basic. Thanks again!

  • Denise

    "I know I’ll stir the pot sometimes, and raise hackles, and sound bossy." Yay! That's what blogs are for! And that's why we choose to read (or not) the blogs we do! It seems to me an awful lot of people are giving you some awesome power I'll bet you didn't even know you had. I'm also puzzled why those who are defending dull are reading a style and fashion blog in the first place, but hey, it's a free internet.

  • Iris

    Now, I agree that nobody should feel under any obligation to dress prettily for others, but I actually agree with storiteller that dressing to decorate the world sounds like a beautiful concept. I would be extremely happy if the way I clothe myself would actually contribute to make the world a little bit brighter, or someone's day a little prettier. I personally love seeing someone who is dressed in an interesting way – whether that means a kooky, fun style or simply pulling off a simple, classic look really well, and I feel like my day is made a little bit brighter by such people. And knowing that I could give such a lovely, little piece of happiness to someone with the way I look? To me, that's not something negative, but rather extremely appealing.

    Obviously, I wouldn't make an effort to dress nicely if it didn't make me feel happy and comfortable – but if the way I dressed wasn't seen and noticed by others? No, I wouldn't bother. That doesn't mean I'll follow a specific style or avoid wearing a certain thing because it will please someone else – but it means I will hone the style I do want to wear and be very happy when my effort is rewarded with a compliment or even just a look. And while dressing to decorate someone's world sounds appealing to me, it's not something I'd force anyone else to do. :)

  • Malvina

    I agree with the thought that perhaps the statement wasn't meant to be defensive. I think of a loved one (granted, not a fashion guru by any means) who wore nothing but blue jeans and gray and/or blue sweaters for years. The clothes fit, they were durable, and not having to choose clothing liberated his mind to think of other things. Perhaps that person who's "not here to decorate your world" IS here to organize the CRAP out of our world, cure cancer, doctor your loved one, or some other really important thing for which they need every last ounce of their brain.

    And the comments about the "male gaze" remind me of the number of times I've been wandering along & frowning as I think intensely about some puzzle and I've been instructed to "smile!" (by both men and women incidentally, but mostly men) Good grief. Is it my job to make sure that I always had a pleasant expression on my face? Is it a person's social duty to be attractively dressed at all times?

    My coworkers and friends can all attest to the fact that I love love love playing with fashion. But there are some days when I'm dog-tired or stressed out that simple, functional is a comforting relief. I have a few go-to outfits for these days; some are fashionable as well as being forgiving, others are basic.

    Some days I'm out to decorate your world. Other days, well, I've got other business to attend to.

  • Laura

    Great discussion, all. I couldn't agree more with Jingle Bella's latter comment – that was exactly what I was trying to say with my earlier comment, but she did so much more clearly. I don't think we owe anyone else *anything* with the way we dress, except arguably being clean and covered. And the expectation that we do has been toxic to a lot of women.

    The ways that fashion ties into aesthetics and body image as well as societal expectations of women can make it very tricky to make artistic statements that aren't also judgments on someone's character. I think, as thoughtful people, we need to be careful not to connect people's interest in or lack of interest in fashion as saying something about who they are as people.

    Sal, you said: "Also, who says you can’t put energy into dressing well AND art, writing, or something else?" Well, you can, of course, but each of us has a finite amount of time, money, and mental energy, and sometimes fashion isn't in our top 3.

    Yet despite that we still have to figure out a way to dress in a way that other people will find appropriate and not affect our lives negatively. And that's probably why those of us who aren't so naturally 'fashiony' read this blog.

  • Audi

    Jingle Bella said…

    "If they thought that I had missed an opportunity to show personality and was dressed in a fairly dull way, then that's absolutely fine because I'd agree with them."

    That's a much more elegant way to express what I was trying to say. My initial comment was more a response to someone who would intentionally dress in a dull way as a sort of combative statement to the world, which obviously gets under my skin. Of course no one owes it to anyone else to dress in a particular way, but to choose dullness as a reaction to an imagined obligation is just silly.

    Certainly didn't mean to offend — I think there's a big distinction between someone who throws on something easy and simple, perhaps lacking in personalization but nevertheless neat and put-together, versus someone who does it as an "I don't care what you think" statement.

  • nifer

    I LOVE the phrase "I'm not here to decorate your world"! I've never heard it before reading this post, but I love it. I think it's a great statement, and I think it fits well into what you preach, Sal: you dress the way you dress for YOU, not for someone else (at least in an ideal situation). You're here to decorate your world, no one else's. I think this is an empowering statement.

    That said, I think there is a fine line between dull and elegant. I'd like to think my personal style is of the simple, elegant quality, but I have fallen into dull. I think elegant and simple becomes dull when there is NO accessorizing or you do NOTHING with your hair or make-up. You can definitely be simple and clean without dullness. A matched twinset goes from dull to elegant with a short strand of pearls a la Jackie Onassis Kennedy. Black trousers become elegant with a more formal, polished belt and some quality pumps or boots.

    Twinsets are cool… no matter how you wear them, just own them. If they don't make you feel fabulous, it's dull.

  • Hammie

    I'm here for more than decoration – but like a Macbook, an Alessi toaster or even a Brabantia rubbish bin (or an iPhone??) making the everyday beautiful brings beauty into your everyday.
    So why shouldn't YOU be that beauty?
    xx

  • n

    I like the phrase. And I like clothing. But since all I ever see of myself are arms, legs and feet, thats what I care about most. Its for me,like decorating the outside of my house for Christmas. Ultimately, it may be pretty, I may enjoy doing it but I don't see it, my neighbors do.
    A lot of people tell me I could be a lot prettier if I wore dresses, let my hair down etc.. But I don't really care if people find me pretty. I care if I am comfortable, presentable, appropriate and sometimes elegant and professional. Sometimes at home I get dressed up for myself, because at home I have enough mirrors to see myself and enjoy what I am wearing. At work or out, I never see myself. I don't see that necklace or those earrings, don't see the makeup.

    Rather than find it ugly or defensive, I think its a pretty reasonable statement. Why do I not spend a lot of time and money to make myself extra pretty and sparkly on a daily basis? Because Im not here to decorate anyone's world.If I were able to see and enjoy the clothing and accessories, it would be worth it. But I cant and I don't have a significant need to spend a lot of effort being pretty for others to enjoy. And there is absolutely no sense of malice, anger or resentment in that statement.

  • aurelia.donka

    Anon. on Jan 6 said:

    "With her thoughts in mind, I think part of the original post …"due to my experience seeing women use them as a lazy fallback option. Many women appear to view twinsets as no-brainer, ready-made outfits. In that context, they are just plain dull." may come across as harsh and could make someone defensive."

    This is exactly what I was reacting to. I have no beef with anyone offering advice when it is requested. This just seemed like a gratuitous slam aimed at women you work with Sal.

    I was frankly surprised you had never heard the phrase "I'm not here to decorate your world." It is a fairly standard catchphrase and encapsulation of feminist thought and I have always seen a feminist viewpoint on this blog.

    Other commenters have already gone into more in-depth explanations of the meaning.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with intentionally dressing so as not to attract attention to yourself or not distract others from what you have to say. A twinset and neutral trousers do this admirably.

    For the record, and I'm certain some will see this as defensive, I do care about clothes and style and dress quite flamboyantly most of the time.

    Walking out the door in full 1940s dress, hair and makeup as I do nearly every day in my small town in Iowa is a fairly transgressive act, drawing stares and comments, often negative. Positive comments come most often from rather elderly women and men.

    The point is, I dress in a way that pleases me, I don't offer commentary to others about how boring their wardrobe is, nor do I gossip with others about same. They are not here to decorate my world just as I'm not here to decorate your world.

    Your "lazy fallback" comment struck me as rather malicious gossip about women you work with who may well read your blog and be hurt by this sentiment.

    Other commenters seemed to regard me as a troll, which is why I didn't comment further on that post. I didn't intend to be trollish, I was just annoyed and am rarely able to remain quiet when I'm annoyed.

    I'm glad to see I've provoked a deeper discussion and extended some people's understanding of feminist discourse.

  • Sal

    aurelia.donka: If you have read this blog for any length of time, as I assume you have since you say you’ve always sensed a feminist viewpoint around these parts, I would assume you know that I would never publish anything “malicious,” “gossipy,” or that could be construed as a “gratuitous slam.” As someone who gives style advice – and in this case, was asked for style advice from someone who wanted, specifically, to make the garment in question less boring to herself – I am entitled to express my opinion, even when it means telling a portion of my readership that I feel they could put in more effort. And while I agree that your comment and the ensuing discussion have made for some tremendously interesting and enlightening reading, I resent the implication that I wrote this to intentionally hurt my readership. I mean seriously, how many of my posts have you read? And did you catch the part of that post where I said, “Twinsets aren't a no-no at all! It's all down to personal taste, and I am just not a fan myself…”?

    When I write for this blog, my goal is to encourage women to learn about their bodies and personal styles so that they may come to accept and love themselves more fully. And I do my utmost to offer advice gently and without judgment. As far as judgment goes, calling a twinset a “lazy fallback option” is pretty mild, if you ask me. Especially when the entirety of the post was dedicated offering what I considered to be more adventurous and stylish ways to make a twinset work.

    In your original comment you said, “An unadorned twinset and black trousers constitutes a put-together, simple, un-fussy, functional, casual, comfortable outfit.” And I simply disagree. To me, this is the equivalent of putting on black pants and a long-sleeved solid-colored tee: It divides the wearer exactly in half, which can be quite unflattering on many body types. Black can suck the life out of many colors, and is not always the best choice for pairing with color. And an unadorned twinset, even one with cables or other woven elements, is, to me, more of a canvas than a finished product.

    Finally, as I have said, ad nauseum, what I publish on my blog is my opinion and every woman who reads should reject whatever she feels doesn’t apply to her own style. Please see: http://www.alreadypretty.com/2009/11/few-words-about-style-rules.html

    I always appreciate commenters who speak up when they feel I’ve said something hurtful, weird, or out-of-line. I’m glad that you felt like you could do so in this case, and hope you will continue to. But I must say that I think pushing my readers to work harder when they don their twinsets – even if I use words like “dull” and “lazy” in an effort to do so – is pretty far from being a the malicious, gossipy, nasty act that you’ve assigned to me.

  • Tessa Zeng

    Hello Sal! I'm well aware that this is a belated comment, but I only recently found your blog & found this post through your greatest hits page. Ironically I just published a post today myself called "When Your Personal Style Isn't Unicorn Vomit" about nearly the same issue. This is a subject I struggle with myself, because my personal style tends to be extremely inventive and colorful and even -gasp- decorative, and I'm often disconcerted by how often the majority of the population dresses in a subdued style. That said, I do feel "defensive," as you say, at times because I don't feel like I'm living up to my PERSONAL standards and dressed too plainly. This is a problem I addressed in my article.

    Because when it comes down to it, it's all about personal authenticity, and I think you've addressed that beautifully. I really want to quote you (especially that 2nd to last paragraph!) for a possible e-book in the works about liberating your personal style. In fact, I think I'm going to edit my latest post to include a link to this one.

    Lastly- "I'm not here to decorate your universe" – haha, for some reason that statement really makes me laugh. I'm guessing it's a defiant way of saying that "I don't have to look good for anyone else"…? To be totally honest, I think it's kind of sad. Because if you're angry that other people are seemingly holding you to some kind of standard, it's still your own assumption. And then you waste lots of energy feeling rebellious and wanting to look "non-decorative" that could have been spent on lovelier things, like figuring out how best to decorate (or not, if that's your preference) your OWN world! :D

    Thanks for the dose of inspiration. Your blog is wonderful!

  • Melinda

    I’m with you, Sal…I’m not sure what sparked the defensive reaction. The comment seems a bit snarky and it DOES sound defensive, especially because you never made personal attacks on anyone in the first place. :(

    Some people prefer fun/jazzy/bold clothing and accessories. Others prefer to blend into the background, either with dull/plain clothing or very simple minimalist looks. Nothing is wrong with either one.

    I believe that the commenter misunderstood your words. And I wonder…if a person finds fashion or pretty clothes to be frivolous, then why bother spending time on a fashion and body image blog?

    As to twinsets…I have nothing against them. They can look very sophisticated when paired with other attractive items. I’ve owned a few twinsets in feminine colors like pale pink, blue, burgundy and cream. They can look nice with a simple pearl necklace or tiny diamond studs. Pants in chocolate brown, navy blue, and deep plum can finish the look. Some ballet flats with an animal print pattern (snake or leopard) can be an occasional switch from the typical black ones.

    I wear blue jeans on a daily basis because it is more practical…but I have nothing against colorful clothing. And I find it a bit sad that someone would have this attitude of “I’m not here to decorate your world” on a blog that encourages positivity and inspires women to be at their best.

  • Anne

    Hi Sally, First let me say that I so enjoy your blog. Thank you for being more than just of scrapbook of what you wore when. I wanted to respond to this posting even though it is well past it’s “Buy before” date.

    I am an unabashed girly girl; love my clothes shoes and accessories, never miss an occasion to dress up. I mentally redress people on the street sometimes. I have noticed though, that sometimes my zeal for being well dressed turns into judgment of those who chose not to. I have noticed that my “gee, she would feel so much better if she would clean herself up” has somehow shifted into, “Geez, why can’t she just pull herself together.” It has been a very slow and uncomfortable realization. The desire to look presentable and express oneself through clothing in my case often turns into some self imposed obligation. Even though I love my wardrobe and it is extensive to say the least, there are days when even I just want to opt out. I think we have to allow others to do so as well. For some folks, clean, free of holes and somewhat appropriate to the occasion is as good as it will get. Suggesting that they up their sartorial game just adds to their already considerable list of things to do. Aurelia might not have been put here to decorate our world and that’s okay. We’ll decorate it instead and let Aurelia make her contribution to the world in her own way.

  • Lavode

    (I’ll take Anne’s post, which I agree with, as an excuse to chip in even later after the OP’s sell-by date.)

    Dressing could be considered an art form, since it’s a form of self-expression – it’s just not everyone’s preferred way to express themselves. If somebody prefers to express themselves through painting or poetry, it’s a bit harsh to tell them they should work hard to become a great singer as well. I’m a jeans-and-T-shirt person (although I try to make sure my clothes fit well), but I admire people who dress creatively and have a strong sense of style. Like a singer might admire a painter – it’s great, I’m glad it exists, but it isn’t my thing.

    Thanks for decorating my world, and I mean that sincerely!