Mags Versus Blogs

I read Lucky and InStyle every month. OK, “read” might be a bit strong. But I examine both ads and articles with a hungry eye, and usually two or three times over before relegating them to the bathroom, where Husband Mike can use them to educate himself on the latest trends in girliness. Like most normal humans, I am frequently annoyed by the stick-insect models, bizarre and useless focus on celebrity ballgowns (WHY?!??), and outrageous price tags on showcased merch. But I’ve learned to take what I need from these mags and discard the rest.

For instance:

As a connoisseur of fine words, I thoroughly enjoy the vocab lessons I get from style mags. I could never have added “d’Orsay heels,” “ombre,” and “Ikat prints” to my personal lexicon without the help of fashion writers far more knowledgeable than myself. Oh, and the pretty, pretty pictures help, too. It’s like fashion flashcards.

I also love to find out what’s hot and evaluate in terms of my OWN look. I pass more frequently than I indulge, because trendy items are so often bizarre, hideous, or laughably unflattering to anyone who doesn’t possess the bodily proportions of Angeline Jolie. But it feels good to be in-the-know, and to make informed choices about new styles.

When I DO see a trend or new pairing of items that intrigues me, I make a mental note to find an affordable way to procure it through my own channels. Again, like most normal humans, I have never actually bought an item as shown/promoted in a magazine. I’ve hunted down its likeness at JC Penny and loved it to pieces, instead.

You’ll note that I limit my reading to the semi-accessible style mags. Actual fashion magazines like Vogue make me feel simultaneously angry and inferior, and a recent essay from Independent Fashion Bloggers perfectly encapsulated why:


Vogue and Harper’s talk to me from on high … and about crap I don’t care about even if I COULD afford it. Yeah, sure, if I’d studied clothing design or art history, high fashion might be fascinating and meaningful. But my interest is in style, not in fashion. I am a medium-sized person with a medium-sized income, and I want to look and feel awesome every single day. I’ve never felt that Vogue could help me do that. So I’ve stuck to Lucky and InStyle, both of which have served me well. But now I find even more powerful tools at my disposal.

The “new way” referenced by the fab graphic above is to get your style guidance from fashion blogs. Information in a printed magazine must be researched months in advance, but blogging is instantaneous. If you want truly of-the-moment info, look no further than your ‘puter.

In addition to being timely, style blogs are comprehensive. No matter what you want to know, someone is blogging about it. You can get snapshots of regular people sporting fantastically creative looks via street style blogs, tips on where to land great gear for less via shopping blogs, and constructive guidance on how best to flatter your figure via advice blogs – ALL FOR FREE.

And, even better, you can get your fashion fix without the snobbery. A generalization, of course, as there are plenty of style blogs that will make you feel like a total outsider. But Frugal Fashionista and The Budget Babe will show you how to dress like a celeb on an admin’s budget. You Look Fab is an encyclopedia of figure flattery tips, and Gala Darling will tell you how to love yourself and love your life. And if you’re exhausted by obnoxious style mandates and absurd trends, Daddy Likey will crack you up with her wry take on fashion, both high and low.

I can’t imagine giving up my subscriptions. Style mags are cheap thrills, and it gives me inexplicable solace to leaf through them during weekend café visits with Husband Mike. But I’ve come to appreciate my daily dose of earthy, germane style tips from the ever-giving, ever-lovin’ Interwebs. And it encourages me to see that bloggers are working to change the tide: To create a media network that informs and educates women about style as a means of bolstering self-image.

Now that’s a trend I can get behind.

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Duly Noted.

These lovely black patent wedges from Dansko

are fabulous shoes overall. However, since it was quite dark and crowded at First Ave when Iron and Wine was playing last night – and since everyone was far too mesmerized by Sam Beam’s ethereal voice and impressive Grizzy Adams beard to notice my shoes – I could’ve worn some freakin’ flats like the rest of the world.

Ow.

Double ow, even. Funny how a pair of wedges that allows me to walk 47 miles without so much as a twinge destroys my knees when I stand in them for three and a half hours. And I don’t mean funny-haha …

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Clothes are Tools

When my dear friend Trinity visited a couple of months back, we cooked up a big, messy, Mexican casserole and ate ourselves silly whilst gabbing and laughing and catching up. After a couple of hours of letting Husband Mike in on the fun, we kicked him out of the room so we could jaw about girly stuff.

This blog came up, as did another style-related project I’ve been working on, and Trin said, “I never realized you thought about clothes so much!” She quickly amended this so it was clear she didn’t mean, “I never realized you thought about clothes so much, you vacuous bimbo!” It literally hadn’t occurred to her that matters of the wardrobe took up so much real estate in my brain.

And it’s true. I think about clothing and shoes and accessories for a sizable chunk of every single day. Writing my thoughts here fuels that fire, as does reading the fabulous ideas, comments, and questions that my fellow style bloggers launch into the blogosphere every day. But even before Already Pretty was just a twinkle in my eye, I allowed myself nearly limitless brainspace for clothing ruminations. And here’s why:

Looking good takes work.
Like so many smart girls, this took me a while to grasp. In high school and college, I hid my figure in loose, shapeless clothes and let my insane mane go prairie. I figured hey, if it didn’t come natural, it wasn’t gonna come; might as well focus on other stuff. But a few years and a steady personal income later, I see that it WILL come if you learn what flatters your personal self … and that it’s learning worth doing. In fact, it’s a mite lazy and passive to just throw on any old thing and expect it to work. No one can successfully and beautifully wear every available style, and we each must allot some energy to researching our own best looks. (OK, I suppose there are a few women out there who could wear swimfins and a tiara and look positively ravishing. But could and do are different things, and even the most naturally lovely of us typically puts effort into her looks. )

Most of us aren’t happy with our bodies.
I wish this weren’t true. Wish it with every fiber of my being. But it is, and I am reminded of it by practically every woman I chat with about matters of personal style. We focus on what we perceive to be our physical flaws, and ignore our natural assets. We work ourselves into fine froths trying to lose weight, alter our natural hair colors and textures, or drastically change our body proportions. We want to be shapes and conformations that we cannot easily or naturally be, and this makes us miserable.

And, possibly more significantly, it makes us feel out of control. Even the most intelligent, successful, otherwise put-together woman can be brought low if she focuses on some aspect of her physical self that she cannot accept and cannot change. We can change careers, change lovers, change locations, change nearly every important aspect of our lives with relative ease. But sometimes our bodies fight us and win, and we feel horribly, wretchedly powerless.

Looking good can help us feel good.
When we aren’t busily focusing on the negative – when we can momentarily ignore those body image demons – we often feel simply MARVELOUS. I’m not going all Fernando Lamas on you, promise. I just mean that a flattering, compliment-provoking outfit can do wonders for mood and mindset. And even though it’s tough to do, motivation-wise, putting some extra effort into looking gorgeous when you feel like a giant pile of ass can truly turn the tides on your frame of mind.

Clothes are powerful self-esteem tools.
Although keeping your body healthy and strong is a must, you can be “healthy and strong” and heavier, shorter, or differently-proportioned than you wish to be. Clothes that fit and flatter THE YOU THAT YOU ARE RIGHT NOW can help you find your happy place. Not permanently, of course; few of us are ready for nirvana. But perhaps long enough to start chipping away at any feelings of self-loathing or powerlessness that might be slowly crushing your glowy inner awesome. When a petite woman matches a short skirt with nude heels, and catches a glimpse of her mile-long legs in the mirror, she feels supermodelesque. When a curvy girl realizes that a pair of Spanx and a fitted blazer define her waist, she ditches the curve-concealing tunics and struts her stuff. When we learn which clothes emphasize our natural beauty, we feel powerful, in control, and utterly, undeniably beautiful. We may consider insane exercise regimens, scary surgeries, or chemical barrages to change ourselves … but a quick trip to TJ Maxx might have the same effects – for less money, with less pain, and in less time.

My own self-esteem ebbs and flows, and my body image shifts and changes like a friggin’ ghost in the water. And I have finally accepted that I will never get rid of my spare tire or my breeding hips. I will never have skinny arms or big boobs. But I have learned to buy clothes that will draw your eye to my tiny waist, my shapely shoulders, my delicate ankles. I have learned the wonders of a push-up bra, a pencil skirt, and a cinched belt. I have learned that I am a TOTAL HOTTIE even if I don’t look like a lingerie model. And learning to dress to my figure was the key to embracing my hottie-dom.

And that, my lovelies, is why I think about clothes all the damn time.

(Image courtesy thisoldhouse.com)

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