An Open Letter to a Fashionable Friend

Annie, let me say first: I admire the way you curate quality, interesting pieces and how your purchases connect you directly to women around the world. I would love to be the beneficiary of one of your closet purges. You have a taste for and an interest in beautiful clothing and an appreciation for the workmanship of artisans. You are the kind of person I would choose to buy my clothes and choose my outfits for me. I want your panache and your grace. (The problem is, I think I can get those things by wearing your clothes. Not your clothes, exactly, but clothes like yours. Or shoes (oh my, the fabulous SHOES you have!) Or necklaces.)

What springs to mind first as I attempt to respond to your valid thoughts is that there should be a gap between “fashionable” and “well-dressed.” In that case, one could be “well-dressed” without wearing clothes that are fashionable. I have found in my personal experience that this is not the case in our affluent culture.

I do not have a particularly strong sense of what is fashionable nor do I spend a great deal of time obtaining fashionable clothing. I have no taste. The only fashion flavor I have a taste for is envy. I see someone else wearing something and I see how nice it looks on her, how many compliments it draws, how confident she looks and I want all of it. I wish I would have thought of it first. I think it is about the necklace or the hem line or the shoes. It is, to be sure, a reflection of my own insecurity.

Nonetheless, I maintain that fashion is frivolous. I intended to use the word fashion to mean:

arbitrary standards regarding color, style, length, fit, etc. that change seasonally (literally FOUR TIMES A YEAR!) in order to encourage (shame?) women to continually replace the (structurally sound and perfectly practical) items in their closet in order to gain the admiration/envy/good opinion of other women and in order to look as if they are “in the know” (not embarrassingly out-of-touch.)

This is, I suppose, a cynic’s view of fashion. I am a fashion outsider and have often felt less interesting, less desirable, less appreciated because I do not dress well. (My weird fascination with fashion shows that even the poorly dressed can be haunted by fashion as much as the shopaholic hoarders!)

I want it to be possible to be noticed more for who I am than for what I wear. I want it to be possible to admired, interesting, appreciated, and valued for things that can’t be seen (1 Peter 3:3-5). I want you to tell me, my dear fashionable friend, that I can still be beautiful in yesterday’s shoes and a dress that I’ve been wearing since high school.

I want to widen the gap between well-dressed and fashionable so that I can stop treating my clothes like they are disposable and still feel beautiful.

I’m looking forward to your reaction, my thoughtful, gracious friend. I hope I’ve been as gracious in this letter as you’ve been in your responses!



2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to a Fashionable Friend

  1. I appreciate your generous words in your first paragraph and kind of want to wave them as a banner above my head for everyone I went to high school or college with and say “see, someone thinks I’m fashionable- ha!” I am flattered and also a bit nervous that your post will provoke laughter from those I grew up with. I have never been considered fashionable in my home stomping ground, especially with 3 Texas sisters.

    In fact, I am pretty sure that the reason I have a relatively large clothing collection (besides a serious predilection for hoarding) is that I am not very picky. For years I have happily accepted hand-me-downs from my sisters, sister-in-law, mother, and my seriously fashionable friends. After my grandmother died and later after Jeremy’s grandmother died, I was the only one who wanted most of their clothes. Again, this is because I am not very picky. (This probably suggests that I am NOT in fact very fashionable). And lest anyone be tempted to covet, a survey of my closet reveals that 90% of my clothes (and jewelry and shoes) were free (to me). If I paid for it, it was from Target, Old Navy, Goodwill, or an estate sale. One of my favorite parts of getting dressed for the day is making a mental inventory of who my outfit is connected to (earrings I made, ring from my grandmother, shoes from my sister, pants from my friend Kate, top from a clothes swap, scarf handmade by a widow in Guatemala). While I do hoard (working on that), and I do possibly enjoy clothes more than I should, I would not consider myself a shopaholic.

    Most of my life I wanted to look fashionable. And most of my life I had serious insecurities that I ever accomplished that goal. And I know for a fact that I wasted so much precious time wishing for something shallow and silly and worrying about my appearance, feeling awkward, and being vain. Though I wanted to look cute, I never in a million years would have admitted that I cared about fashion b/c I didn’t want anyone to laugh at me.

    My working fashion theory through college and after was to wear vintage duds because if I was in the wrong decade I wouldn’t have to worry about being “last season.”

    It is only within the last year that I feel comfortable admitting out loud that I enjoy fashion. I enjoy noticing trending shapes and colors (even if I’m not going to buy them), experimenting with color combinations, and I thoroughly enjoy incorporating vintage details.

    Ok, that’s my long-winded disclaimer/defense. I’ll be back tomorrow for what I agree and disagree with. I better go feed some kidlets. Thanks so much for helping me think through all of this. Your words are good for my brain and my heart.

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