Thursday, December 4, 2008

When Imitation Is Not Flattering

Evan Rachel Ward - Before and After she began dating Marilyn Manson.

When we are young our mothers dress us. Choosing outfits to reflect their own tastes, morals or aspirations. As we grow up we venture into that scary territory of choosing our wardrobes for ourselves. Generally beginning by emulating the fashion pack at school, choosing our labels to belong and be recognised as a valid member of the group. We graduate to fashion experimentation, finding our niche in sub cultures, or the simple pleasure of displeasing the parents who are so old fashioned. But from there, were do we go? What happens when the high school preppy no longer frequents the same social circle, or the goth is tired of black?

For most the choice is to lazily follow in the fashion footsteps of the masses, but for those who seek something more the transition can be a difficult one fraught with pitfalls. One of the most dangerous is imitation.

What was it that made the world sit up and take notice of Audrey Hepburn? Was it just the black Givenchy and the dark glasses? While undoubtedly chic, these props did not make Ms Hepburn the entrancing individual who has become legend. It was her unique combination of style, personality, flair, sincerity and altruism. She was herself in a way no other could, or will, ever be. Like a knock off Chanel handbag, imitation may bring a degree of recognition or a sense of improved social currency; but the feeling is a rather hollow one. You may be the only one who knows it, but that lack of authenticity can leave you feeling more exposed than you felt to begin with.

It is one thing to be inspired by someones style, but altogether another to attempt a personal reinvention through complex imitation. Very time consuming and draining in my opinion. Rather than taking a style journey by copying your look head to toe from your favorite personality, consider a more enriching option. Become a better version of yourself. Take an inventory of your style, (such as it is) and focus on all those idiosyncrasies that make you you. It may be your love of sparkly shoes, your penchant for oversized 80's earrings or your secret desire to break out the Farrah flick you had in high school. Once you have embraced the quirks that make you an individual, feel free to add inspirations from your favorites. You'll discover that as you pop on those huge dark glasses, the look becomes an altogether different one when paired with your unique flair. And thus you become a true student of fashion. An innovator, not an imitator.


Anonymous said...

It's so hard to 'break away' from the 'fashion pack' but it's really worth it. Individuality is so hard to find these days, acceptance of individuality is even harder to get.
I wore a tutu skirt I designed the other day to the city and recieved countless weird looks.
Being 14 I don't exactly know my personal style but, I have a pretty good idea.
Thanks on a great post! You're so inspirational!

docwitch said...

Good post.
And ERW is looking very Dita Von Teese isn't she?

Hopefully she'll emerge from this determined never to let herself be molded by anyone again! (Well my theory is that there's an elelent of Pygmalion going on here with Marilyn and her).

Postcards from Simitopia! said...

Hmmmmm...I intensely dislike Marilyn Manson, but I must say I quite like ERW's look there!
But yes, it's one thing to be inspired, and quite another to mimic completely. And you can always tell the difference!

Sasha la pin-up said...

Completely agreed. I woke up from the mass fashion nightmare two years ago, it changed my life. Now, I assume everything I am.

WendyB said...

The whole Evan/Dita thing was very "Single White Female."

Barry Wright, III said...

This is a very important idea. So many people today are focused on conforming to the current trends that while they dress well, it's uninspired. It's very easy to be in fashion without looking confident or personal, which takes away so much of the benefits of dressing well. All of the most stylish people have an independent viewpoint that they're unafraid to publish.

Kelly said...

As always, a great point. I can't even fathom how boring (or ultimately saddening) it would be to be out shopping and think "would _____ wear this?" before knowing if I wanted to wear it, myself.

Paula said...

Evan Rachel Wood WISHES she looked as good as Dita!

Too Many Shoes said...

Great post SKM. I don't mind saying that your style certainly inspires me a great deal. It is people such as yourself that gives the rest of us confidence in our sense of style.


Alicia - Sea Of Ghosts said...

What a lovely, thought provoking post!
Being "myself" through style is something I'm constantly persuing. I've always had a slightly edgier streak than my friends, with a secret love of gothic subculture. But when I got labeled as such throughout high school I rebelled angrily and tried to adopt a more mainstream look.
It's only in the last year or so that I'm beggining to not only accept but embrace my more alternative side, and it feels great.

Anonymous said...

LOVE this post. My readers also really loved your blog when I featured it yesterday! Thanks!

Hammie said...

I kind of get her trying to tone down the Californian healthiness when on the arm of Marilyn Manson. Otherwise she would look like a photo negative on his arm. (the trouble with going out with a Moo-man)
But she has taken it too far.

I just wonder if he consciously chose a different type of beauty following the split from Dita, and how he feels about the gradual change?


Super Kawaii Mama said...

Thank you all. I debated whether to post this photo of ERW as I didn't want to distract from what I was trying to say. I wonder how it makes her feel that she is now the subject of such criticism and whether she feels authentic? I think it would have been fine for her to change her look somewhat to match her partner, but to do it in her own way rather than what amounts to stylistic theft.
There is so much to be said for finding the "you" in your style as it gives you a sense of confidence that can't be replaced.

Bernard said...

Tired of black? Never! :-)

Anonymous said...

It's Evan Rachel WOOD, not WARD. And great post, enjoyed reading it. :)