Friends, be honest: when you dress up, do you aspire to look affluent? Do you (ever) take your fashion cues from the rich and famous?
We're constantly bombarded -- in magazines, movies, on television, even blogs -- with images of wealth, "luxury" designer brands, and status symbols. It's more pervasive than ever before because the media is more present in most of our lives than ever before, certainly here in the United States.
One of the biggest surprises I've had looking through old (pre Nineties) issues of Vogue -- or any fashion magazine for that matter -- is the near absence of luxury brand advertisements. It's not like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, or Givenchy didn't exist, but they weren't global brands and they didn't advertise heavily. The rich (presumably) knew about them and knew where to find them; they were truly exclusive.
Is it any wonder that when we dress up, we tend to aspire to the "luxury" looks we see so often?
We may be wearing the Payless knockoff, but we're still evoking wealth and high class. It's not the shoe itself -- or is it?
One of the things I like about many of the style blogs is that the looks people put together often have very little to do with conspicuous display of wealth or status brands. I see people who may put a lot of effort (and money) into their clothes, but it doesn't feel like ostentation but rather creativity.
In classic Hollywood movies, many made during the Great Depression, you could certainly find representations of luxury, but it was fantasy, not advertising. Nobody left a Marlene Dietrich film in search of a really great monkey fur coat, right?
Often the rich were parodied: the snobby millionaire and hoity-toity matron were something to laugh at.
No more: today they're our style icons with their own "fashion" brands.
Granted, there were plenty of movies like "Stella Dallas" that instructed us that the rich have a class and breeding that one can aspire to, but never truly attain. Sorry, Stella!
But we also knew that no matter how glamorous or well-dressed, most of our favorite stars came from hardscrabble backgrounds and had clawed their way to the top.
But back to status.
I got the shock of my life when I started going to a private school in the Seventh grade. This was back in the Seventies and there weren't as many popular status brands as there are today, but still I got the message from day one that if I wanted to fit in, I was going to have to get a Lacoste shirt, Adidas sneakers, and a down jacket (not polyester fiberfill!). That was my perception anyway.
Thirty years later, I sometimes still feel like a bit of a fraud, cranberry corduroys notwithstanding...
..and have intrusive thoughts of revenge!
In conclusion, friends, what's your take on all this?
When you dress up, do you take your cues from how the rich dress, either in your community, as depicted in magazine or TV, or because you're rich yourself?
When you were growing up was there a big class divide with people on one side dressing very differently than people on the other? Which side were you on and how did it affect you style-wise?
Does it make sense that we'd want to look affluent? After all, the rich can afford the best clothes, styling, etc? Or do money and style have nothing to do with each other?