Fancy. What a word. It’s regularly applied to canned tuna, mixed nuts … and, of course, pants. As in “fancy pants,” a term I’ve used around these parts quite a bit to describe expensive, frilly, or otherwise out-of-the-ordinary items, styles, or garments that I’ve worn. I use the term with deepest affection, of course, but realize that it carries some vaguely negative implications. And, lately, I’ve been pondering the dual meanings that “fancy” seems to encompass.*
Fancy can mean beautifully designed, upscale, intricate. Fancy can mean high quality or above average. A fancy dress can make you feel stunning, a fancy necklace can make you feel glamourous, a fancy hairstyle can make you feel regal. Fancy things and fancy looks are special, and often reserved for special occasions, so they often carry significant emotional weight.
Fancy can mean ostentatious, overly complex, conspicuously expensive. Fancy can be hurled out as an accusation, too. The observation, “Well, aren’t you fancy?” is hardly ever uttered without a hint of judgment, and can really wound its recipient. The bad kind of fancy tweaks some of my least favorite concepts, including the notion of “shouldn’t wear that” and the idea that certain items are just too precious for everyday wear.
While I certainly understand that ballgowns make awkward office wear and tiaras might attract a lot of attention if worn to the multiplex, the idea that people are discouraged from wearing showy, fun, outrageous, glamorous, or eye-catching items saddens me. I believe that we should strive to wear everything that we own and love, carefully but joyously, and I see no reason why those who attempt to do so should be targeted and ridiculed. Using “fancy” as a put-down shames people, polices them, quells their potential creativity. It enforces the idea that there should be a homogenous dressing norm, and that non-conformists are rocking the boat. Dangerously. But what’s threatening about a tulle skirt or or bright eyeshadow? What harm could come from someone wearing enormous platform sandals or a dramatic dress? Aside from startling observers, what’s bad about looking, dressing, or being fancy?
Fancy isn’t for everyone. But even if it’s not for you, consider how important it might be to others before using it to put them in their place.
Image via Craftster.
*In the U.S., that is. I know that “fancy” as a verb and an adjective has other meanings in other countries. As in, “Susan, I fancy you.” (Vid contains a swear word.)