Sunday, February 26, 2012

Fashion Week for the Underemployed

Fashion.  If you are not its servant, then you are its victim.  There is no escape.

Every spring and fall, we are presented with future trends for the following season.  And a choice of the following reactions:
  1. Start updating, now (servant);
  2. Ignoring it completely (victim).
I will start with choice #2, just to get it out of the way.

There are many people in our society who ignore fashion altogether.  These people fall into one or more of the following categories:
  1. People who feel that fashion is for frivolous fools who have nothing better to do with their time or their money.  These people tend to be very brilliant, very wealthy, very old, or retired;
  2. People who work and/or live in fashion-proof environments.  These include laboratories, hospitals, warehouses, coal mines, and the suburbs;
  3. People whose only criteria for clothing is comfort.  These people tend to be single, or to be married for more than one decade and have young children.  As the children get older, it is a good idea to pay some attention to fashion, so that they will allow you to meet their friends;
  4. Men.
What makes these people fashion victims?  They are victims because they can't/won't acknowledge (or haven't noticed) that what they look like has any bearing on their quality of life. 
The underemployed don't have this luxury.  Well, they do, but it almost guarantees that they will remain underemployed.

Simply put:  Society is kinder to people who look nice and who give the impression that they are aware of what century they live in.  And when I say "kinder" I mean that society is more likely to give them a job.

Or to vote for them.  Newt Gingrich is losing ground because his wife has scary hair, Mitt Romney looks like a mean executive who will fire you, Ron Paul looks like your crazy old uncle who has a lot of guns, and Rick Santorum would be a shoo-in if he would just lose the sweater vest.  Listen up, Republicans, President Obama is going to win if for no other reason than he dresses better than you do.  Take a lesson from Sarah Palin.  The Democrats fully understood that $150,00 shopping spree.

Fashion servitude isn't always voluntary.

But here's the rub.  Underemployed people don't have any money.  And they need to look current with fashion if they want to find a job that doesn't involve french fries.  Which requires money.  It's a vicious circle.  One that needs to be broken, because the first impression one gives on a job interview is visual.  And it doesn't help if that vision declares that you haven't been out of the house in two years.

So - in the long run - it pays, literally, to stay on top of fashion.  That doesn't mean that you have to run out and buy everything "new" that's showing on a runway.  In fact, if you dressed like someone on a runway, you would immediately be labelled as a lunatic.

No, the trick is to do just enough to show that you're paying attention, but not so much that you look like you're trying too hard.  Actually, that's one trick.  The other trick is to pull this off without spending a lot of money.

Some yays! and nays! for the underemployed from Fashion Week:

Yay!  Longer skirt and dress lengths.  This is especially important if you are underemployed and over forty.  What Botox will hide, your knees will give away.

Nay!  One shoulder tops.  You can't wear them to work, which means you can't afford them.  Even if you could, I've got two words for you:  Wilma Flintstone.

Yay!  Cable sweaters.  Beautiful and warm.  Just stay away from the crewnecks, unless you're a swan.

Nay!  Another season of hooker-high heels.  Can we just lose these, please?

Yay!  Bright colors.  Which means you can buy a scarf or a tie and be totally hip.

Nay!  Socks with sandals.  Seriously.  How bi-polar is this?  We've got toe cleavage in January and we're wearing socks with sandals.  Give it up, already, and dress weather-appropriate.  Sane is the new green.

The rest of the stuff just looks sort of recycled, which is good if you're talking about a peplum, bad if you're trying to do a flapper dress with breast implants.

Just one word of advice:  leave the sleeveless jackets and the diaper-cover shorts on the runway.  Sometimes what you don't wear is just as important as what you do.


the nyanzi report said...

well observed.

sacramento said...

You are brilliant.
As you know by now, I am the master of my own fashion.
Doesn´t it sound pompous, LOL.
You look like my mother???Explain please.
Besos siempre.

Mary Lynn said...

Have you ever noticed that moms with all boys tend to be much more of fashion victims than those with teenage daughters. No one to say, "mom, that lipstick is the wrong shade for your toenail polish" (do they think I am going to suck my toes in public???) Fashion victim Fathers on the other hand seem to be victims in general - regardless of the sex of their children.

Hope Adela Pasztor said...

Fantastic advice! I always like to make trends my own, or even better, start them! ;)

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Joyce Hanson said...

"It pays, literally, to stay on top of fashion."

So sad yet true. As a writer for pay, I've spent much of my working life underemployed. In New York City. Not a good combination.

Here are some of my tricks to keep up with fashion on a budget:
--Adopt an 'as if' attitude, meaning that you do your best to dress as if you're keeping up with fashion.
--Page through fashion magazines for free that you find in your doctor's office or that people leave behind on the subway or at your friends' apartment when they're busy doing something else.
--Go for looking womanly, and by that I mean cleavage and skirts and dresses that fit well.
--Wear black tights 8 months of the year and get your legs waxed below the knee for 4 (full leg is better, of course, but more expensive).
--Buy clothes off the rack at cheap places like H&M or Century 21 or De Janeiro or Banana Republic on sale or god forgive me Strawberry, and make sure they're made of natural fabrics and look stylish yet not of the moment, which will look so last Tuesday in a heartbeat (hello, Wilma Flintstone).
--And finally, remember what Diana Vreeland famously said: "A new dress doesn't get you anywhere; it's the life you're living in the dress, and the sort of life you had lived before, and what you will do in it later."

Joyce Hanson said...

Hi again! Well you've inspired me to write a blog post about underemployment, Fashion Week and Diana Vreeland. Check it out:

Anonymous said...

Um, I think you have the wrong idea of what it means to be a fashion victim. A fashion victim is one who tries tirelessly to remain fashionably relevant to today's trends and styles. The person you define as the fashion servant is really the victim.