3.05.2014

Stupid Fashion Lovers!

Superficial, conceited, selfish, simple, air-head, vain, narcissistic, frivolous, brainless...stupid.

These are just some of the words that are often associated with persons who have a great love for fashion and the industry. As a person who has dedicated most of her life to the art of dressing well, and the fashion industry as a whole, I find these stereotyped labels annoying. 

My Alma mater: FIDM Los Angeles

When I was a bright-eyed teenager, adults would often ask about my educational goals, I would inform them of my plans to study Marketing/Merchandising and Visual Presentation from a fashion prospective. Some would give me a curious grin that would often follow with this type of statement, "And what are you going to study after that?" 'After that,' I thought to myself, 'Why must I have a second choice?' As time went on, I began to realize that many in society associate persons with an interest in fashion with the words in my opening statement. The love and study of fashion was somehow deemed stupid. I recall, in recent years, sharing with a trusted woman my great love of style and dressing well. Her response to me was shocking. She turned to me and said, "Perhaps there is something missing from your life that you feel the need to fill it with such things." I wondered why this woman came to the conclusion that my chosen trade and interest was flawed. Would she have viewed another person who spent a great deal of time honing their craft in this manner?


I eagerly anticipated the movie, the Devil Wears Prada. I'll be the first to say that I loved the movie, and since it's original release years ago, I have watched it many more times. The movie represents what I am writing about today. It is where two worlds collide - the World of Fashion vs. Everyone Else. In the movie, Andy is a young woman fresh out of college who eagerly wants to be a writer. When she is first introduced to us on screen, she represents a woman who doesn't care much about her appearance...she is, after all, an intellectual. Then on the other end of the spectrum, we meet the movers and the shakers of the fictitious Runway magazine. Well dressed, ruthless and vain. As the story goes, Andy finds her world intersecting when she begins to understand the importance of maintaining dignity, appearance and reaching personal goals. Ironically, it was Andy's experience at Runway, and lessons learned that provided her with the opening into her career of choice.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Recently I read an interesting essay in Elle magazine (March 2014) by a Nigerian born writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, that is titled, Why Can't a Smart Woman Love Fashion. The essay is about Ms. Adichie, an intellectual and aspiring writer, who grew up under the careful guidance of her mother in the Nigerian culture where care for ones appearance ranks high in value. Like fictitious Andy, both women have the desire to write, however in Ms. Adichie's world, fashion and good grooming is considered a must. Adichie moved to America to attend university and immediately discovered the difference in how the two cultures clashed. As she tries to excel in her career as a writer, she was often told she was over-dressed, and if she wanted to be taken seriously, she had to do without the idea of being fashionable. Now at 36 Adichie has become free to proclaim her great affinity for fashion, and concludes the essay by saying, "My mother made history as the first woman to be registrar of the University of Nigeria at Nsukka; her speeches at senate meetings were famous for their eloquence and brilliance. Now, at 70, she still loves clothes. Our tastes, though, are very different. She wishes I were more conventional. She would like to see me wearing jewelry that matches and long hair weaves. Still, 
I am my mother’s daughter, and I invest in appearance."

First Lady Michelle Obama: An intellect and lover of fashion

After my education in Marketing/Merchandising and Visual Presentation, I went on to become a retail manager; a published writer; and then launched a successful community cancer service. Throughout my life, I have met and have been made aware of many women and men who love fashion and are intelligent and possess other admirable qualities. So I ask this question, "Why does some cultures view the love of dressing well with being less than intelligent?" Perhaps the answer lies with lack of understanding. After all, isn't it just easier to shun or ridicule something that you know nothing about? Is it too difficult to give a mature response and confess a lack of knowledge in the subject? Or, maybe I'm just being stupid.

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20 comments:

  1. I say it's ignorance when people don't understand or choose not to is just that!

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  2. I find it somewhat baffling. I was going to say that perhaps because fashion is considered a "soft" subject and concerns mostly women (a sexist attitude). Confusing is the fact that until recently, many of the designers and garmentos were men (with a few stellar exceptions).

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    1. That would have to be an American sexist attitude Anne. Since over time, European men. In specific royalty and nobleman dressed in finery and fabrications and thread were a keep determiner of your status in life. Wouldn't you agree that perhaps it is an American attitude?

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  3. I equate knowing how to dress well and understanding style with musical or artistic talent. Neither are easy to come by and not always completely understood. I used to work for the fashion magazine W and I can tell you that people that worked there were anything but frivolous!

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    1. Hi Connie, unfortunately the perception is that the work of the industry isn't important. Perception is the key word.

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  4. First of all, The Devil Wears Prada is also one of my favorite movies, and I liked the book as well :-D And as for people assuming well dressed people are less intelligent, well that is just utter bee ess... I think it's mostly people who can't be bothered with the way they look who feel that way. I think they use that (totally unfair) assumption to justify the fact that they don't make the effort.

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    1. Remember in the Devil Wears Prada how Andy's friends began to turn their backs on her when she chose to delve into her job at Runway? Would they had done the same if she was a teacher, or doctor. Probably not.

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    2. Oh definitely not. I mean, even I experience this. When I tell people I'm a beauty blogger they go like: 'Aha... okay. Do you do anything else? Anything REAL?' This is real, you idiots, don't judge just because I'm into make-up.

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  5. I can't even begin to tell you how much I love this post! When people find out I have a blog they ask how I make a living from it then when I say that I do Marketing for a living they usually reply with those don't fit together. Or the "you're a mother your child should be your priority" to which my response is my family always come first but just because I am a mother does not mean I have to "let myself go". You are incredibly intelligent and passionate about fashion, the epitome of what most of us are but are not perceived as.

    xx Cara
    www.carascliche.com

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    1. Apparently Cara, we're not suppose to spend time on things that don't bring in some type of income. If it doesn't then it is a waste of time. I believe that our children, and of course our spouses admire us for taking good care of ourselves. I had a beautiful mother who was gorgeous, and fit. I spent hours in her room as a little girl playing dress-up. I never looked at a woman who was frumpy and said, "When I grow up, I want to look just like her."

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  6. Great post Glenda and I second every single word you said! Like you I think it's fear of the unknown, ignorance. If you are blonde you are stupid, if you love fashion you are stupid and superficial, if you love beauty you're conceited. If you chose to have a career you are a monster. OK I stop it here. Again great post Glenda!!!!
    hugs
    Lenya

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    1. Yes, Lenya, isn't it so sad how society labels you...no matter what you do. I guess we're all suppose to be robots and live our lives the same way.

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    2. Maybe we should do just that Glenda. Imagine how annoyed they would be, nothing they could hold against us, we would be no longer stupid, superficial whatsoever. I just don't get it but I suppose it will never stop. Some people just can't help it.

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  7. Excellent post, as always, Glenda, and an issue that's close to my heart and in my head a lot. And the more I consider this, I wonder if I'm just imagining it is getting better. I'm a decade and some older than you, and still experienced some of the intellectual snobbery you describe. As an avowed feminist, I don't mind critiquing some of the unintended difficulties caused by the early feminism of the mid-twentieth century. There was an urge to be viewed as "serious" in an era when the arts were again flourishing in the post-war economic boom. Any career in the arts was valued less highly than the "professions" and you suffered a lot of the results of that. Me too. Additionally, fashion and clothing generally were viewed as part of "just women's interests." That had to change, but didn't reflect change fast enough.
    We don't pay enough out as a society to support the arts like many other western cultures do, but we've also learned a great deal about why the arts are, indeed, important. The importance of personal presentation has become valued by men and women alike in the corporate cultures, and that has made the study and interest in it all a little more acceptable. That's good. But, there's still that academic snobbery that exists ... we still need to support our young women and men in all the arts, and include the "fashion" arts among the higher disciplines within. I love it that you included Ms. Obama as a champion ... what she's done to elevate contemporary design can't be diminished by even her harshest critics.
    Again, love this post. It's thoughtful women like you that keeps me coming back to read! Thank you so much. You just rock. All the time!

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    1. Jan, how does one gain wisdom if one has the fear to ask or invite conversation. I am so thankful to have written this post. After reading your response and Anne's I have a much better understanding to why lovers of fashion are the brunt of such jokes and negative remarks. In my earlier years, I was more surrounded by more of the corporate setting. Now, being middle-aged and have produced two off-spring that love the arts, my social circle has changed. Fortunately the people I now surround myself with tend to be more accepting of fashion as an art form.

      Thank you for your wisdom. I really appreciate it!

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  8. Glenda, I am glad you address, this. There is a tendency for women to be judged harshly for her appearance: if you don't look good you are judged, and if you spend time, money and effort on your appearance, that, too, is judged. The expectation is that all women be not only beautiful, or attractive, but effortlessly so. And to talk discuss fashion as the art it is, is also reduced to "chatter". ERgh!
    Like any other topic, style and fashion can be endowed with great intellect, creativity, and nuance.
    Now, we also have girls in their twenties, who are working endless hours, making more money than men in many fields, and are still burdened with these expectations about appearance.
    Being truly stylish is hard work, but an entertaining vocation for those with a passion for it.
    Hats off to starting the conversation.
    XX, Elle
    http://mydailycostume.com/

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    1. Elle, it is interesting that you referred to the vocation as entertaining. Do you see it as a form of entertainment, or a career that also comes with hard work and dedication?

      I think about Cleopatra, once the most powerful woman there was, who spent hours bathing in milk and fragrant oils. Yet she was feared and respected. If we are to have a woman as our president, how would the public react if we knew she indulged in bathing rituals?

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  9. I liked that Elle article too. I think that in part, the idea that fashion is frivolous, stupid and not for intellectuals to bother with, is a form of repressing something that is seen as very female. Women who want to compete in a man's world think they must deny and denounce anything fashion related in order to be taken seriously.
    Did you see the documentary The September Issue? I really enjoyed that for a good understanding of the hard work and the creativity that goes into an issue of Vogue. The dynamic between Grace Coddington and Anna Wintour was interesting.

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    1. Yes, I did see the September Issue. It was a great film. I wonder if Anna Wintour ever raises her voice, or is just her presence intimidating enough?

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Thank you for taking the time to comment, it really means a great deal for me to connect with my So What to Twenty friends. I hope you subscribed via email or by social media - I wouldn't want you to miss anything on our True Style journey. Stay True, Glenda