the message


I took this picture last month, but I didn't have a post in mind.

Then I came across this post on Put This On, and it struck me because it put a finger what I've been finding amusing when I read menswear magazines, blogs etc:

"I’ve lamented to friends that people care too much about the authenticity of their clothes, but don’t demand the same authenticity in people. There are people who dress like international men of leisure, but they’ve never travelled outside of the country; people who dress like they come from elite universities, but aren’t terribly well read; people who dress like early 20th-century factory workers, but … live in 2011. "

Obviously, it's not that only a lumberjack can wear a plaid shirt, but personally, I hope that whenever I meet people, their clothes aren't mere costume. You want to know people who dress like they live - that's authentic, honest, confident, and inspiring.

There are different motivations behind people dressing the way they do - they dress like the person they dream of being, they dress to fit in, etc - but whatever it is, I think the ones we admire are those who have more than just the right props.

I think I am drawn to simple, non-statement clothing and styles, because I feel fake in anything else. Sure, I have my influences, but I don't feel like they show up in how I dress. And as much as possible, I never want to give anyone the impression I'm something that I'm not.

Thoughts on that Put This On post? And what do you want your clothes to say?

*EDIT: Thanks everyone who commented, from your comments I realise how judge-y I sounded and probably a little belittling as well, which was unintentional and should have been better explained. I'm not against aspirational and inspired dressing, just against the shallow pursuit of solely a "look". I think we have all come across extreme cases like that and that's what I find distasteful. But of course it's fine to wear a hunting jacket even if you don't hunt. I'd love a pair of riding boots, and I only ride bicycles.


Anonymous said…
Thanks for linking to that post, very interesting. It's funny, because one of the equivalents for women is attempting to dress like a parisienne when you've never left the country or been to france. Disconnects are always amusing.
Hehe. Guilty as charged.

I saw a picture of Kate Middleton wearing head to toe Alexander McQueen, yeah yeah she’s a pretty girl and all that but it makes me a little sad that this is going to the image of McQueen to people. What I loved about Alexander McQueen is he wasn’t a designer just about making women look pretty. His clothes were tough—violent. In his own words: “When you see a woman wearing McQueen, there’s a certain hardness to the clothes [that] makes her look powerful. It kind of fends people off.” No matter what I’m wearing, whether it is literally Alexander McQueen or a blazer and a striped shirt, I’m drawing a line in the sand.
Stacie said…
Great thoughts!

This year I have been working on making my wardrobe more casual because, yes, that is my life. I have a tendency to overdress and while I do want to be dressed well it is also important for me to be dressed appropriately for my life of kid activities, running errands and general mom-ness.

I will still put on a dress and tights but now I will also throw a hoodie over it. Something to add that element of casual which (hopefully) prevents me from looking like the mom who is trying too hard.
miss sophie said…
i think there's an effort to balance the expression of who i am, and who i am becoming/want to be in how i dress. there's something unconscious and instinctual about things that i really love and am drawn to, and i try to stay true to that.

i've never ridden a motorcycle, though i just got a pair of dreamy wishlist biker boots. oh well, they'll become part of my uniform soon enough anyway!
chic_e said…
Personal style is an evolving journey. It takes discipline and study to create a style that is your own and "you." I think experimenting with different styles until you find yours is about as essential as any education. I agree that those who intentionally dress a certain way to "fit in" or what-have-you are not fooling anyone. But I think its takes maturity and good judgement to be adaptable in both fashion and life. Plus, a little style trial and error is quite healthy in my book!
Joy said…
Interesting. I've always loved Put This On and I'm so glad you read it. Wonderful posts from both of you by the way. I guess I'm not too guilty considering that I dress like a college student and I am one...and even with my paltry budget I try to travel and read as much as I can. Authenticity in people of course is going to be a lot harder to find than the clothes, guaranteed of course. I never play pretend though (except for halloween).
Unknown said…
While I prefer to dress in a way that is authentic to myself, I have to say that I find the quote a little offensive. Who's to say what an "international man of leisure" or someone who comes from an "elite university" dresses like? Why should dressing a particular way be only appropriate for certain people? And the examples provided make me think that the author thinks that people without money shouldn't dress like people with money.

Love your blog, btw. You always have such interesting things to say.
Unknown said…
Ha. I guess I skimmed over the factory worker part, but my general comment remains the same.
Lindsay said…
I agree to a certain point. It's rather pointless if you dress in all designer labels if you're going broke to do it. However, I think style can also be aspirational. I often am "dressed up" for work because that's who I aspire to be. I want to look professional, yet feminine most days. I also came from a modest midwestern family, yet I live in NY now. I appeal to more of a modern look with minimalist tendencies. I think it's fine for people to have a costume. Otherwise, what's the fun in fashion? For some, it's an escape from the real world.
luka said…
how to define "authenticity", especially when it comes to people's inner world. it's hard to say fantasy and the desire to escape reality is anything short of authenticity. and if that is reflected in the way they dress, i find it intriguing.
luka said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
luka said…
okay, to add up, there's a fine line between "the desire built on vanity" and the "desire derived from genuine feeling/aspiration/inspiration. as long as people are not intending to be someone they are not, instead they express the desire/fantasy deeply from within(no matter how far that seems to be away from their reality), that's authentic in my eyes. i myself are not usually a "fantasy dresser", but i do appreciate people who are genuinely creative that they are able to build a visual fantasy with clothes. and its not so hard to tell between the gimmicky versus authentic.
if writes are only capable of writing about the places they've been to, the life they themselves have lead, the characters and personal traits they carry on themselves, etc, well, there's big danger in that. they can be very limited thus narrow in their perspectives. i personally don't think dressing is any form of creative art, but to someone else, it can be.
son said…
the first line i agree with, but the examples...they seem to just reinforce stereotypes without giving them much thought.
these days, am not sure why clothes we wear have to correlate with our lifestyles - in his case im sure it only refers to city life.

theres also the inverse snobbery - when someone who went to the good college etc wears the tweed jacket, college jumper etc etc just to make the point. thats as agitating in its own way.

what i find more disturbing is when stylistic choices make up for being vapid, uninteresting, myopic etc. surely ultimately the person behind the clothing is the final test.
basically your point about not just having the right props! nice post, as always.
lin said…
Anon (11.40): I don't think it's wrong to emulate a look, but it's depressing it only ends there. But I don't think you need to have been to Paris to dress like whatever Parisian chic is...

Pret a Porter: I have the same feeling everytime I see Kate Middleton in McQueen! If there wasn't a caption to tell me it's McQueen, I would have never guessed.

And I think really shot myself in the foot with this one - dressing like people who inspire us or in an aspirational way is great, I did not mean to sound like we should all dress according to some kind of "station" or category! I just meant that it can't be the shallow pursuit of just a look.

stacie: Whenever I feel like I "should" be wearing something, I stop myself and just wear the thing I actually really really want to wear. Personally, for me, the fantasy idea of how I'd like to dress always loses, haha.

miss sophie: I agree about instinct - and I think that always come across in people in the sense that they look confident, and not "pose-y".

Ooh, those boots, can't wait to see them. I have a biker-ish jacket and I can't ride a bike either....

chic_e: I agree, we have to try a look and idea to know whether it suits us. I think the examples in the Put This On pose are probably more extreme cases where people get a bit too caught up with having the right look, and cross a line into the "silly" zone.

joy: I think a bit of fantasy and pretend is part of getting dressed, even in the everyday sense, I just find it a bit much when it gets taken to a extreme level and it's solely about the look. I can't explain it but it depresses me.

Unknown: Your comment made me see the quote in a different light and I think you're right - it can seem judgmental and elitist, like it's putting down people's dreams. That's not what I intended at all though...I was imagining the poseurs I've met who work a look but in fact it's just a look to them and it just feels hollow and vain and ironically, even though they've painstakingly put it together, it's uninspiring. I

Lindsay: I agree with you. I wish I'd made myself clearer!

luka: ""the desire built on vanity" and the "desire derived from genuine feeling/aspiration/inspiration" -- you're right in that you can tell between the two, and it's the former I find so depressing.

son: About how we dress co-relating with our lifestyles, that's just a personal preference of mine, so I did not mean to impose that on people.

And you're right about inverse snobbery - I think it's like what Luka said about vanity; it's vanity versus authenticity and it;s the former I find distasteful.
Florina said…
This is precisely why at some point in my life I started giving up many of my garments and useless objects around the house and started being more minimalist. Not to be rude, I love many designer creations and they are often a sign of exquisite taste, but there's a certain travesty in dressing to cover the lack of substance. Also, you will rarely see valuable people will logos all over them, when you polish yourself as a person there is no need to distract from your true self.
Kate said…
I like practicality, but I think a little escapism is nice too. Since I started teacher training I spent many of my days dressed very crisply in a professional environment and I definitely fit the french wardrobe stereotypes when I'm at work. However, when I get home I want to wear crazy dresses and pixie boots like I used to for a bit of difference. I have lots of different interests and it's nice to express them all; now that I express my professional side through my career, I'm less interested in being smart in my own time.
Anonymous said…
Why is it that you think you can tell people how they have to dress?

You have chosen a simple, unassuming style? - that's completely fine with me and with the vast majority of people. But if you try to impose this simple unassuming (in my opinion - slightly "blah") style to everybody else, - that's another question.

Some people dress just to cover themselves and not to feel cold. Some try to express themselves through their clothes. Are you sure you know their personality well enough to tell them if they have expressed themselves "correctly" or not?
lin said…
Florina: I think everyone has different motivations for what they do, and I'm glad you found something that works for you.

Kate: My workplace is casual so my working and non working clothes have blurred together haha. I think I don't know how to dress for escapism, it's just not how I express myself but I think that ability switch around and still somehow stay yourself is pretty impressive.

Anon (5.49): I haven't at any point in my post told anyone how to dress, or imposed my style on other people. Maybe when you correct that impression we can have a real debate.
Anonymous said…
I know what you mean as coming across unauthentic and I will be the first to confess that when I see a lady carrying a birkin and taking the MRT, I would normally rationalise in my mind why she is not in a chauffeur-driven car. Its bad I!

I think there is a harmony and ease when our style and clothes reflect the lifestyle that we really lead. When I decluttered my wardrobe, the many things that left were clothes that were overly loud and fussy, items bearing too much logo, anything too formal and restrictive. I am after all working in a casual environment. Simple cotton dresses (plain or in quiet prints) work for me, flats work for me and they reflect the fact that I like simple clothes with a quirky or feminine touch.

But there was a time when I was more experimental with style and wore crazy things like leather,boots and fur in Singapore! I feel like a phony when I see old pics of myself!

Now, I clearly differentiate what's me and what's for fun. There are special days where I will want to have fun with fashion and try crazy stuff...haha.. and I'd be sure it shows up in what I wear. But most of the time, people will recognise me by the clothes I wear.

Like most people, I celebrate diversity and seriously feel that as long as they are comfortable, it really doesn't bother me too much. I'll just take it as eye candy!
Chuck said…
I think there is a difference between clothes and costume. Not that there isn't a place for costume but I hope that, on a daily basis, I wear clothes.
editor said…
My clothes come without any identity of their own really. Unidentifiable to others. I have my personal inspirations that guide what I am attracted to, but I don't think the end result is necessarily a reflection of those inspirations. I've had people sum up my "look" and what they see is not necessarily what I am intending to project. I find that interesting.
I do not mind when someone dresses in costume, head to toe, as anything they wish to. I don't think it's faux anything. They find this look or reference appealing and embrace it. It's a pleasure for me to enjoy that effort. If people want to create a narrative for themselves through clothing, I think that is wonderful. A Sid Vicious punk, an Amish woman, it's all good. Lynn Yaeger is infamous for pulling her inspiration from dolls and turn-of-the-century French orphans (talk about romanticing!), and clearly she is neither, yet no one would accuse her lacking individuality.
Oh, I just saw your edit and didn't think you were being judge-y at all. You were expressing an opinion and a preference and it made me think about the topic. I enjoyed this post.
lin said…
justeileen: I went through my own period of experimenting too, and it was what made me decide that I prefer things stripped down for my ordinary little life. I guess playing dress-up is a necessary period.

chuck: I agree with that philosophy, but as I said, to each their own.

editor: "'ve had people sum up my "look" and what they see is not necessarily what I am intending to project. I find that interesting." -- so do I.

I think what sets people like Lynn Yaeger apart or Daphne Guinness is their genuine interest behind the costumes they adopt, it feels like they are interested in more than a look. At least, that's the vibe I get from them.
Brittany said…
Hey Lin, would you mind telling me which jeans you are wearing in this post? I particularly like the wash.
lin said…
^They're from Diesel, from 2009. Not sure if they still have this wash..

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