I recently bought a scarf and some sunglasses: a rare spur-of-the-moment purchase after my epic Zen wardrobe cleanout ages ago. I was just charmed, I guess, maybe craving a bit of spring in the heart of winter. The lavender floral scarf incorporated itself well into my existing wardrobe — I’ve worn it nearly everyday since I got it — and the dark sunglasses nicely replaced a pair of Ray-Bans I smashed last summer on an impromptu weekend road trip. But I felt oddly tortured about the pink leopard print sunglasses! Don’t get me wrong, I love them — but there’s a voice inside that’s a bit like, “Oh my god, should I really be buying this kind of stuff?” I mean, shouldn’t I be more grown up and elegant and chic and all those things now? Shouldn’t I just know better?
I was thinking about something that I read recently in Vogue, in an editorial that featured very chic French actress Clemence Poesy. I read a fashion bulletin board forum devoted to Poesy’s style every now and then, and certain habitués love to complain that Ms. Poesy was so much more “effortlessly chic” a few years ago. I guess it’s true: there’s definitely something a bit more playful and experimental about Clemence’s style now, with slight hipsterisms here and there. She’s still well-dressed and a lovely woman, but her style is arguably a bit less pristine than it used to be. (I don’t think so, personally — I still love her.)
But something she said in Vogue threw a little light on her evolution. To paraphrase, she said the “good taste of Paris” can get in the way of having fun. I guess I’ve been thinking about that as well, in terms of everyday personal style and becoming more grown-up. I mean, you’d like to think that getting older style-wise means becoming a little more sophisticated, and it’s true, I do have a finer sense of craftsmanship, cut, proportion and textiles when it comes to clothes. I appreciate all those things much more, and I’m more apt to buy a quality garment these days than buying something random at Forever 21.
But sometimes “taste” is just so dry and boring and stultifying. Too much good taste = a lack of imagination? Individuality? Eccentricity? A slave to the bourgeois? I’ve always equated a certain level of taste as more about socioeconomic aspiration than anything else and maybe deep down I still do — taste gets decided by “arbiters” and that has never interested me. I feel like I should “know better” when I find myself enticed by certain things — like, uh, pink leopard print sunglasses — but then I also breathe a sigh of relief that there’s still some zest in terms of my fashion sense. There’s just something a bit fun and liberating about a little bad taste. Style that’s truly alive to me has the twist of the unexplainable, something that disrupts the hegemony of all that good taste — even if it’s just something as hidden as hot pink underwear, my other undying style peccadillo.
I don’t know how often I’ll wear these pink leopard print sunglasses. My little niece squealed with delight when she saw me wearing them, and so they’re worth it for that alone, and maybe one day I’ll pass them to her, being a good auntie. But even if I don’t wear them, I’ll probably keep them on my dressing table — as a reminder that fashion’s as much about mischief and hijinks and inspired whims as it is about taste and “chic.” And you know, screw arbiters of taste and chic! Stick it to the Fashion Industrial Complex!