Friday, September 5, 2008

Second, Third, and then Just Too Many: More Thoughts About Style

Blogging is an interesting activity, having some of the spontaneity and fluidity of an oral conversation but with the fixity of writing. If I were trying to write an essay on my reservations about fashion-blogging, my earlier two posts would probably have been drafts that few readers would have seen. Through them, I would have tested my ideas, scratching out and replacing whole sections. I would have had to anticipate objections without reader feedback, arguably pushing myself harder to build a solid, defensible argument. But my blog is much more composed-on-the-fly. If I waited until I were sure, here, I'd wait forever as other writing tasks took precedence. Instead, I try out ideas, see where your responses to them take me, and then, perhaps try again.

After my second, and then third, thoughts tentatively laid out last week, I'm now considering my misgivings from another angle. As much as my concern might be triggered by fears of alienating readers by any appearance that I'm overly focussed on style (and how does one define "overly"), I wonder if what I'm tiptoeing around is my own fear that fellow style-focused bloggers might turn their backs on me if I am revealed not to care enough (a term as equally indefinable as "overly") or if I care about the "wrong" things -- like a shoe or pant or skirt style that others read as too trendy or too young or too . . .

So far, though, I'm beginning to realize, the blogging community that I feel part of is a supportive one, and it also seems to be one that can tolerate a healthy amount of disagreement. And I remember that I began blogging at least partly as an exercise in "writing to find out what I think" AND that another of my goals is to add more diversity to the representation of women over 50, especially those of us who do care about style and fashion. This morning, then, instead of quietly backing away from a discussion over at The Thoughtful Dresser, I added a dissenting voice on the topic of pegleg trousers -- not that I'm necessarily in favour of them, but I'm willing to try them on first before voting no, and because I don't see them as part of a coercive retailing force but rather as another option. I could write a whole post on that topic, but in favour of focus, I won't digress more. Instead, I want to commit to being a bit (a wee bit) bolder in taking a stand or even in explaining why I don't think it's worth taking a stand. Rather than pretending to agree that I think a new fashion trend is worthy of indignation, I'll say why I like it, if not for myself, at least on young women or tall ones or . . .

I worry a bit that my approach is often too balanced (or too wishy-washy, to use a hokey but useful word) to contribute anything as interesting as The Thoughtful Dresser's, Une Femme's or Duchesse's clear, sharp posts and that I may find I'm always reactive rather than original (if originality is even possible!). I'm also doubtful I'll manage the thought-provoking heights of Editor's great questions about style, fashion, and identity. But I'm at least going to explore the ground where I find myself moving away from my fellow style-attentive bloggers, and see where that leads me. And maybe you'll let me know what you think as we go along.


  1. But you are original. You talk about so many different things, and do it will, on this blog, rather than being only about style/fashion/shoes. And you think critically about what you want your presence to be as an individual, surely the opposite of only being reactive.

    If you are balanced, perhaps it is because you are wise and gracious enough to be capable of seeing and appreciating other POV. This can't be a bad thing.

    I don't follow style-only blogs much, expect the Sartorialist, and yet I greatly enjoy this portion of your blog, because your comments are thoughtful and go beyond the surface of trends.

    Interestingly, my brief time in NY had me thinking alot about style. Funny how just being in a different place can bring necessary contrast to your "normal" everyday and help to see it in a new light. I wasn't anti-fashion, but I would have said I was anti-trend. And I realized this only in NY, consciously, and that the reason is that I don't see nearly as much true individual style in LA. My impression is that LA is much more trend focused, and for me this is a much different thing that style. If anything, it is the opposite of style. Anyone with a pocketbook to bear it can be a lemming and look the current fashion. But where's the personal statement? How is that any fun? How is that worthwhile?

    Sorry. Possibly my longest comment evah. Hope it adds something :)

  2. Jillian: First, thanks so much for the kind words about me and my blog. I feel the same way about yours, which goes beyond knitting and reveals you to be a thoughtful, caring, witty, practical person with a great deal of flair. I feel sure that if our real-life physical/material paths crossed, we'd become friends as I think we are virtually, at least (and if you're ever up this way, a yarnshop tour will be arranged!)

    Second, I think you raise a really interesting point about the difference that place makes to our style or perhaps to how we live our style in that place. For me, going back and forth between a small-to-medium-sized city like Vancouver and the 80,000+ one near my island home (island pop, about 350) makes this clear regularly. I've also lived in a town of 18,000 where we were an hour and a half drive from the next town (no bigger) and an hour and a half flight to any decent-sized city.

    I like that while you're paying attention to the different styles manifest(or the different ways style manifests itself) in New York and Los Angeles, you're thinking more about how that difference influences you to dress. Fun to speculate about how you might dress differently if you lived in New York -- might you embrace trends you've strongly resisted in L.A.? (still can't imagine you as a trend-follower, though, although we both follow some of 'em knitting-wise from time to time -- at least, I've got a Clapotis of my own, don't you?)

    I sometimes hit a point while shopping where the whole enterprise seems so shallow and selfish and wasteful, and I hate being part of it and end up leaving. I suspect if I lived in a city where I had to confront this too regularly (rather than walking my mud roads all winter and staring out at the ocean), I might go the sackcloth or Value Village (a chain of secondhand stores -- do you have these in the States?) route, never mind go anti-trend.

    Anyway, you got me thinking with your "longest comment evah" Keep them coming!

  3. There is always a danger in focusing too closely on what you say, to the point that you don't say anything at all. I say, write as you will and let the universe sort it out.

    Because you could take this to the extreme, and only write in the manner and on the topics that have generated the most comments, and ignore those that have none. Not only would this be silly, it would be misguided - people commenting and people reading are two different acts. And if you followed this you'd bankrupt yourself with competitions.

  4. Lord, what a dull and dreary world it would be if we all liked the exact same things! And then there would be no point in blogging at all. :-)

    There's an old Genesis song from the "Duke" album that tells the story of a performer who at first performs from the heart and is a crowd-pleaser. But then she starts trying to please the crowd and loses them. You have your own unique and wonderful voice to add to the mix. Some posts/topics will resonate more with more people, but that's the nature of it. What makes your blog interesting is you, your unique perspective. We're big girls and can take a little disagreement without crumpling. I for one, welcome some fresh perspective, and some challenge to my preconceived notions.

  5. Thomas: I admire and hope to emulate a certain degree of forthrightness but saying what you will and let the universe sort it out? I've seen the results of that and it's not always pretty!
    You're right that pandering to controversy is not always productive. I hope I can tread a middle ground yet keep it interesting.
    Love your recent series of comic strips, btw

    Pseu: Thanks for the encouragement. I don't think I was so much tempted to play to the crowd as deciding to avoid some subjects in favour of others. But maybe I'm realizing that's too much the same thing.

    It's the new forum of the blog, the thinking-on-the-spot in written form that I'm still getting used to -- it's fun, no?

  6. One of the things I appreciate is the openness of your approach to style and fashion, and that you are willing to try things, or at least consider that they might be appealing to someone. And I also appreciate the thoughtful way you address these issues. I don't think that considering that there are different ways of looking at a thing is an indication of being wishy-washy, or uninteresting. I think it is perhaps good to remind ourselves that we often get all wrapped up in our own preconceived notions. I myself find it sometimes hard to review styles as I can so often see a particular style on someone, even if it is not myself, and I always enjoy your perspective.

    I see that I am getting into a rather wishy-washy comment here as my thoughts are randomly orbiting around my head and not coalescing into anything coherent, so I shall stop and spare you further punishment. But keep on. It is precisely your rather thoughtful posts that are so interesting.

  7. I am back, having suffered from that condition where I suddenly remembered, too late, whatever it was that I had intended to write.

    I noted your comment above about shopping and that Point where "the whole enterprise seems so shallow and selfish and wasteful, and I hate being part of it and end up leaving". That really struck me because it is a feeling that has struck me so many times, especially when I am in some city somewhere shopping, and I feel like I need to go home, or go to bed.

    The comments by both you and Jillian on place and style and trends really hits home with me right now, as I live in a rather country suburban setting about 100 miles north of NYC but until recently went frequently to "the city" and had separate wardrobes for that life. And now, I see no point in maintaining the divide. So yes, fashion and style can be about where you live, but more interestingly it can be about who you are and how you think. I think the later may be influenced by place, but only slightly and that is what makes your blog so interesting.

  8. Mardel: I think the random's coalescing very nicely between your two comments, actually, and I'm glad to see you stop by. I really like what you say about finally getting to the point where the divide between your two wardrobes is vanishing. Mine is softening drastically as well -- I'm more "city" than most of my small island, and even my big island, peers and neighbours -- and my city style is influenced by the islander in me -- I'm not quite as willing to buy in as I might otherwise be.
    I also like that you're willing to share your own reservations or misgivings about the consumerist aspect of our style -- I'm still trying to figure out how to reconcile mine so knowing others are wrestling with the same issues is helpful.

  9. I've thought so much about this lately that it is beginning to make me more confused than ever. Posts like yours help me clarify and expand my thoughts.
    Don't compare yourself to other people, you are brilliant and unique as YOU.

  10. Does one write for the approval of others or for ones' own reasons (intellectual exercise, creative outlet, self-expression, personal growth)? Answered that question (for me) when I noticed that thought I put a counter on my blog, I haven't looked at the stats for many months.

  11. thanks, cybill, I'm pretty confused as well! Together, perhaps we'll sort out the world, one pair of shoes at a time;-)
    Duchesse: I'm a stat-checker, but it's not because I'm writing for the approval of others. I just think it's fun and it's one more outlet for my mild case of OCD (having deleted all forms of Solitaire from my computer!). I think there are as many reasons to write as there are bloggers, and I suspect that caring about others' approval in various areas of life is an aspect of personality that will doesn't necessarily help one triumph over. Your own self-confidence gives your blog a clarity that makes it very appealing -- I admire it tremendously!

  12. As someone who appreciates the clarity of other peoples blogs, I often despair at the muddled meanderings of mine. I do not understand how stats work so as far as I am aware only people who comment ever register on my radar. (Yet I know this is not the case) Bizarrely, I write this blog for me, It was originally meant as a sort of online scrapbook, but has actually become a much more positive, life afirming forum. It has taught me to see the good in myself, and my life, and to appreciate what I have, and I am lucky enough to be able to do.
    I am curious as to the direction you will take your blog, and look forward as always to reading it.

  13. Alison: I love your blog -- and your meanderings are inspiring and interesting and not at all muddled. I feel the same as you -- writing my blog has let me see how rich my life is and how fortunate I am.


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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