Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Significance of Style

Shutterstock/Cierra Miller

When I first began blogging, I have to admit that I did not click "Publish" on my first post without some initial hesitation. Presenting yourself to others in general is daunting, and presenting yourself to others through writing and photographs even more-so. So many questions raced through my mind as I read and reread my first couple of posts--what if my tone didn't come across very relatable, or no one found my content interesting? The doubts spanned far and wide, but the biggest had to do with the subject matter of my blog. I feared I would come across as shallow and vapid for starting a site that revolves primarily around myself and what I wear. Of all the topics in the world, the pressing issues and existential quandaries, I chose to write about cute boots and fall sweaters. Would others judge me as ignorant for considering these things worthy of discussion in a time plagued by more serious topics?

As I settled into the rhythm of blogging, these doubts began to subside and I was reminded of why I began this project in the first place--my love of fashion.

The past decade has bore witness to more excess than ever before. The kind of lavish lives that once existed only in the pages of The Great Gatsby are now typified by the everyday realities of millions of Youtube celebrities and Instagram models that saturate everyone's feeds. For this reason, fashion has seemed increasingly void of any substance and significance--it's seen as frivolity, and associated with a narcissistic concentration on appearance and looks alone.

At its root, however, clothing plays a significant role in human culture. For centuries, it has been one of the most fascinating and telling ways a society can share its mores, customs, and traditions with the world. When you think of Ancient Rome, you probably call to mind citizens dressed in draped togas. Recall the Civil War and you probably picture soldiers in slate blue button-down uniforms.

Even in fictitious worlds, fashion has an important place at the table. Movie directors pay close attention to how they costume their characters, and authors often provide details of how their protagonist dresses. Even a painter's brushstrokes can change the perceived personality and backstory of her figures.

Memory, the Heart, Frida Kahlo/
The consequences of fashion are pervasive--at every point in time, people wore clothes, and these clothes offer a serious commentary on the zeitgeist of the culture. It is for a good reason that many of these historical and cultural vestiges are now housed in museums as artifacts worthy of public viewing.

Last summer, I had the pleasure of visiting the Met Museum's exhibit Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. As a fashion enthusiast and a Theology major, I was captivated by the costumes, which the Met aptly described as "a dialogue between fashion and medieval examine fashion's ongoing engagement with the devotional practices and traditions of Catholicism." As I perused the exhibit, I was struck by the powerful implications of fashion and the ways in which it pervades important conversations relating to religion, history, economics, sociology, etc. The gratuitousness associated with fashion today is hardly reflective of its deeper significance.

What I share on TLE is usually pretty simple--a snapshot of what I'm wearing, some of my favorite articles of clothing, maybe a sale or two I've been shopping. While I find joy in sharing my favorite outfits with the world and enjoy keeping my content easy-to-digest, I fear that sometimes these quick social media posts can contribute to the oversimplification of fashion and perpetuate the cycle that it's one-dimensional and superficial.

In reality, and what I hope I conveyed in this post, is that fashion is nuanced and complex, a living testament to the past, present, and future. It is for this reason that I started my blog, and I hope that in some albeit small way, my work can stand as a testament to the significance of style.

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