Thursday, January 09, 2014

Notes on Looking Good, part 4

Part 3.

This part is about adornment, or fashion.

Fashion serves at least three purposes, and I will go over each one of them in turn.

The first is obviously to enhance one's physical attractiveness.  There have been tomes written on what clothing, pattern, color, style, works on which kind of body.  It would be presumptuous of me to try and summarize the theory of fashion in a couple of paragraphs.  Just the very fact that one is paying attention to what one is wearing goes a long way.  There are enough affordable options and manuals of style now available that any middle-class person can, over the course of a year or two, build a respectable wardrobe.

Fashion magazines mostly serve to sell advertisements and brands.  They do offer good advice, but only occasionally.  The photography in fashion magazines is professionally done, and in real life the clothes (as worn) rarely look that good.  I find that the best thing fashion magazines teach is what a good "fit" looks like.

Making sure the clothes fit well is the single most important consideration.  Most people these days buy ready-made clothes.  One should learn to identify and wear clothes which are comfortable but which use just enough fabric to go with the contours of the body.  Too loose clothing gives the impression of sloppiness and lack of energy.

Choosing the right color, texture, pattern, layers, wearing the right kind of shoes/belt/glasses/socks, are matters of training and experimentation.  The earlier one starts the process, the earlier one will conclude become proficient at dressing well.

Fashion does take a little effort, and if for philosophical reasons one considers any effort paid to one's appearance an exercise in shallowness, then it is imperative that one genuinely look within and see whether one appreciates well-dressed people or not.  If one does, then the philosophical objections might have to do with laziness or with feelings of inferiority.

I also believe that one should aim to dress in the top two percent of one's current demographic.  Anything beyond that and one will attract not admiration, but curiosity and amusement.  Of course, if one lives in Manhattan or Newport Beach, being even in the top 10% percent might not be that easy to achieve.  The point is to not dress too well but to dress really well.

For reasons that are not hard to fathom, looking good is more important for women than for men.  Women are taught about dressing well more extensively, and at an earlier age than men.  Women's range of fashion accessories (in terms of make-up and jewelry and suchlike) is also far wider than that of men.  And women, in general, also can be considered to have a somewhat finer sense of aesthetic.  In almost every society, therefore, women pay more attention to their looks, and look more "put together" than men.

Secondly, fashion serves the aim of "expressing" oneself.  Two equally well-dressed people can convey a distinct impression of their inner persona.  How much skin one is showing, what kind of colors one has chosen, how "formal" one looks, whether one is wearing something archaic ("hipsters"), whether one is looking somber or flashy, etc.  In manuals of style, it is recommended to choose a few modes of expression that jive with one's natural personality and not try to become too incongruous between one's inner self and how one is usually dressed.  A man who is of a disciplined nature might not find it natural to wear a flashy belt buckle.  A gentle and religious woman will find it hard to wear a dress which shows too much.

The third aim of fashion is to convey status.  It is quite easy to deduce one's status from the way one is adorned or dressed.  It can be quite expensive to dress as a wealthy person.  Even if one is able to buy replicas and whatnot, the wealthy classes have a quite elaborate scheme of what one wears at what occasion.  Keeping up with the Joneses is effort enough, but keeping up with the Rockefellers is obviously much, much harder.  Having a large, well-curated wardrobe which can suit multiple occasions is not for the faint of heart.

(to be continued)

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