Have you ever tried out a new style a fashion magazine imperatively urges you to DO, only to emerge as a full-on, spectacular fashion DON'T? Join the club, I say...
I had a bit of a moment this morning. Leafing through a fashion magazine stumbling upon an image of how to sport larger than life film icon curls incited me to join the new wave(-iness) of hair styling myself. Might I start by saying that I have so much hair there probaby aren't enough rollers in the world to achieve curls the old-fashioned way, nor would there be enough space on my head. Curling tongs are awkward and take forever. My last option, having heard about it recently, was to use an anti-frizz curling aid product which I plumper for, as a result. And so I idled away, blow-drying and diligently following the given instructions, enveloped in fantasies of effortlessly cascading tresses a la Beyoncé when the shock finally kicked in - staring back in the mirror, I swear, was Pat Butcher's evil stuck in the 80s twin. I might have gone in thinking screen queen, but I came out with an amorphous amalgam of limpid frizz and deranged mess or, to put it bluntly, a veritable passé poodle-head!
Not that this was a one-off. Time and time again I have tried, oh boy have I tried, to emulate the effortless and seemingly straightforward gloss demonstrated in fashion magazines, preened feverishly to the bafflement - and annoyance - of those around me, all ultimately to no avail. As for the 80s treatment the last attempt left me with, my last resort would be to try and carry it off in Brick Lane, alongside all the vintage-addled hipsters, topped off with plastic beads and extra-large sunglasses, as a semi-ironic statement. Hey, if they can charge king's ransom for beaded evening dresses your granny would have thrown out once she hit "the change" in even cheaper-looking fabrics and more garish colours than the first time around, surely my new statement stands as good a chance of acceptance as any.
Still, keeping to the point, following my brief digression, I am not knocking fashion magazines, as I know they have a job to do - and it isn't social realism. It is easy to see the stereotypical auduience such publications are aimed at - a well-to-do professional with a fashion sample size figure and refined bone structure based in hub of consumerist city life - which readers, in turn, either identify with or dedicatedly aspire to. This is the depressing nub of the problem, of how long we can keep up the charade of emulation, and be as inspired as we are to see ourselves in the desired light, before the practical realities hit. It's not about wadintg through the mires of what is logistically possible - it's about what you wish to be - selling us a dream, because it's the dream part that sells the clothes, or the makeup, or arguably the site traffic in an ever-competitive, up-and-coming blogosphere. And who is the fashion industry to refute that when it is so blatantly in their best interests?
It is with assured sincerity that the magazines tell us how - and how not - to look, made even more obvious by the images of the stylistically majestic versus the cringeworthy - "do" this, "don't" go for this look. And for those still too sartorially off-key to see the difference, it is further explained in disparagingly facetious tones as to exactly why you'd want your bikini to fit like X, to mix colour Y with Z - and, god, sooo not A - and what was miss Wardrobe Disaster of 2012 thinking stepping out with that on show!? Inevitably your defence is to smile and nod with the most bovine of subservience like a pupil to a headstrong schoolmistress - yes, Miss, no, Miss, three bags full, Miss, and no, we're not referring to what the contents of our cleavage should look like! The irony - and chutzpah - being the notion that one should have a choice without the time, money, skill, stylists and makeup artists, products, strategic lighting and re-touching available to those who model the looks in question. Of course any stylist who outwardly encourages hemlines so high can one's backside even keep up? - oh, yah, work those dimples, honey - warrants sectioning, but let's be honest, that doesn't happen, not consciously, anyway. You only have to look at the what to wear versus what not to wear sections of these magazines to see that the amount of photos of members of the public sporting the faux pas is disproportionately higher to those who appear to have got it right - and it wasn't by accident.
Ah, yes, there's another fashion minefield - the great cheese-string connundrum of bikinis. Your ensemble could fit perfectly, leaving all indecent areas to the imagination, it still doesn't guarantee that it will be forced to regress by the high tide, thereby exposing more than was part of the plan. It's not as if the sizing up issue stops there . We the public are forever instructed as to what size we are supposed to be and prompted on what size to kid ourselves into buying. Yes the promise that you'll look good in those size XXS hotpants if you lose 10lbs in inspiring and alluring - failing to do so and wearing them anyway isn't. Fickle as the industry is, if it's not weoght it's something else. Sans personal shopper, you may stumble across a fabulous top or dress, and then some different yet equally sumptuous shoes - put them together and what have you got? A catastrophe! Far too clashy, don't you know - or mightn't you have thought in the deceptive lure of the changing room mirror?
It is true that boundaries have been pushed in terms of unattainable standards of beauty, and even parameters of good taste, thanks to so many sites to which their own audience contributes - Lookbook, WIWT and Asos Fashion finder to name but an obvious three. However, similar trends appear to manifest themselves in terms of members that reap the most exposure, through following and "hype" - namely those concerning the tall, the slender and the conventionally photogenic. There's no conspiracy theory to it either. We inherently look for variety, excitement and entertainment, to please our senses as much as we endeavour to stimulate them. To be aesthetically satisfied as much as we are challenged. To seek out visual and emotional pleasure as much as we do novelty. In order to attract our attention, something needs to surpass us in wit, beauty or talent, and yet, with the degree of intimacy with which we follow our heroes, it is so easy to confound the elite with the everyday in terms of attainability. What we see in the mirror is not airbrushed by artists or enveloped with an intimidating journalese-soaked back story, yet we almost see a conceivable part of us embodied in so many of those we look up to. It is a curious paradox of identification and aspiration that we experience, and we need to question, tease out the various fibres of both beings to appreciate what is really being comunicated and what, realistically to live up to.
Thank you for reading, this exercise in sartorial philosophy has left me with just one question - playsuits and denim jackets with knee-high socks? Come on, I know I can wing this one. Urban rebellion is who I am!