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Aug 16, 2012

The Demise of Bad Taste



So I just went to my local supermarket to buy mayonnaise.  A 15 oz. jar of Hellman's cost $5.29.  Isn't that kind of a lot?  I mean, I haven't bought mayonnaise in a while, but shouldn't this kind of thing be, like $1.29, or am I still living in 1987?

But I digress, and apologies to those who don't buy mayonnaise in the USA.

As I was flipping through my September Vogue yesterday -- I feel like I have to revisit it constantly to justify the $6 purchase -- I noticed something strange (or rather, among all the wacky fashions, another strange thing).  In among the hundreds of pages of Prada, Gucci, Tom Ford, Valentino, Marc Jacobs, etc., were ads for stores I wouldn't have expected to find in Vogue: Target, Kmart, and discounters like DSW and T.J. Maxx.

I mean, honestly, Kmart Exclusive Collection?  How exclusive can it be if it's for sale at Kmart?



And yet the taste level of what these stores are advertising doesn't seem markedly different from anything else in September Vogue, though the quality of the garments themselves is probably another story.





It occurred to me that unlike when I was a kid forty year ago, today it's really hard to find something that would unquestionably be labeled "bad taste" -- that sort of tacky-looking stuff one might have associated with Montgomery Ward in the Seventies.  Am I right?

Growing up in the Bronx in the Brady Bunch era, we had quite a few local clothing stores, and these were very unlike the discount dollar stores you see everywhere now.  They were first-quality stores, but the (relatively cheap) merchandise might as well have been shipped in from the Soviet bloc, that's how out-of-fashion most of the clothing was.  In those days, more people shopped for clothes in their neighborhoods and didn't follow the same trends you might see, say, in tonier parts of Manhattan.  Even New York City had its equivalent of the local yokel.

Today, I'd argue, you have to go out of your way to find something that is truly in bad taste.  Every conceivable style or period, from Seventies trucker to Eighties cowboy to Nineties hooker, has its advocates (even if they're embracing it ironically).  Nobody gets to proclaim what good taste or bad taste is anymore -- and if they do, who's really listening?

Taste used to be something that was decided among an elite, composed of A) the very wealthy, B) the professional taste-makers (like Parisian couturiers) who served them, and C) I can't think of a "C" -- can you?  Now everything's different: you might call it the great democratization of "good" taste.  I think this is the result of the following:

1) Globalization.  Clothing is made everywhere to be sold (almost) everywhere.  The clothing made by global brands like Zara or H&M is manufactured for an international market.  Ad campaigns are global too, so everybody everywhere is looking at the same images and developing similar -- though not identical -- taste (and we call this taste good).

Even in the Eighties, I remember that you'd only find brands like Versace in Italy, or a few very high-end boutiques on Madison Avenue in New York.  Now these brands are international and advertised up the wazoo.

2) The Internet.  Even before the Internet, television had had a tremendous impact on global tastes.  Before television, very few people got to see how people in other cultures (and classes) were dressing.  If you're sitting in Bulgaria and watching Dallas, it's going to have an impact on what you think is fashionable.

With the Internet, the same thing is going on but multiplied a thousand times.   Not only can you see how people are dressing in other cultures, you can connect directly to them (as opposed to watching a Mexican telenovela).  There is such a tremendous amount of fashion online that, frankly, it's overwhelming.  But it has raised the average person's taste level -- or at least I think it has.

Of course, the Internet also allows almost anyone to order clothing from almost anywhere.  You can live on a ranch in Montana and wear Prada if you want to -- you don't have to fly to Italy or New York City to purchase it.

3) What most people consider discount stores are jumping on the "high-fashion" bandwagon, as mentioned above.  When Kmart is advertising in Vogue, you know something's changed.  I'm not entirely sure what's pushing this, but the obvious answer is that there's money to be made.  It makes sense that, thanks to the Internet, shoppers at every economic level are aware of what the trends are and want to follow them whether they shop at Walmart or Neiman Marcus.

4) Every new trend is knocked off and knocked off quickly.  And accurately.  This is the result of points 1 & 2.  Rumor has it that not only are many designer originals manufactured in China, but their knock-offs are made in the same factories. 



Readers, can you think of what else has "done in" bad taste?

Or maybe you don't agree with me, and think that bad taste still exists, perhaps in your neck of the woods among the pajama and flip-flop-wearing masses at the mall.  But I'd argue this isn't really bad taste, but rather no taste.  These people just can't be bothered to get dressed.

One of my favorite books is Jane and Michael Stern's The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste (Harper Collins, 1990).  Much of what's included in this now-two-decade-old book -- from fake fur to leopard skin, from polyester to tattoos -- would be considered fashionable today.  In the last twenty years, perhaps thanks to people like film director John Waters, who embraced and celebrated it, bad taste has become good taste, or rather ironic/hipster taste.  Bad taste as such is dead.







Accordion music!

In closing readers, what do you think?  Have taste levels risen overall thanks to the Internet, globalization, and fast fashion?  Do you still see what you consider bad taste where you live?  If so, how do you define it?

Is there still a yet-to-be-discovered vein of bad taste to be tapped -- maybe in an isolated farming town outside of Scranton, PA -- or has the well run dry?

Jump in!

UPDATE: Michael just got a 32 oz. jar of Whole Foods' "365" brand mayo for $3.99!  Highly recommended.

74 comments:

  1. Very interesting thoughts ... I think what we have now in place of "taste" is the judgment of whether something looks good or bad on a particular person, combined with whether something is appropriate (i.e., does it show too much of the body, or not enough? is it too casual or too dressy? etc.). Otherwise, anything goes, probably due to all of the factors you mention.

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  2. I love being alive right now. I remember being in school during the nineties and there was a very specific "uniform" that all the kids wore, (to the limit of their parents' ability to pay for it,) or they faced ostracisation. Brands mattered, colors mattered, everything had to be just-so for you to be "okay," and any deviations from that standard put you lower on the pecking order.

    Obviously I've grown up since then and wear whatever I want, but it doesn't seem to me that even young people now police each other's clothes as much as they used to. (could just be wishful thinking on my part!)

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  3. Maybe bad taste is no taste... As in people who have been wearing the same outfits since they graduated high school.

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  4. when I think contemporary bad taste, I think american apparel.

    I'm not plus sized, but I occasionally accompany plus-sized friends and family shopping. There is a lot of off brand plus sized clothing for women that is in really really poor taste.

    I think it depends on the wearer as well. I was at dinner a while ago with a woman wearing these very bright pink shoes; their grosgrain trim indicated that they probably cost a pretty penny. On the runway, they may have looked impossibly chic, but on this girl, they just looked like a cry for attention.

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  5. I think it used to be a lot easier to define bad taste because the range of looks that were "in" each year was pretty narrow... wearing the wrong length of hemline was a major faux pas. Nowadays anything goes.

    The only recent trend that I consider bad taste is leggings as pants.

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  6. Dunno about taste, but I love fake fur. All the fun of fur, without the cost & the killing of animals better left alive.

    I don't know why people called it bad taste, except for the low cost -- where are the profits after all, if wearing fake fur is considered ok?

    OTOH, I was reading a magazine the other day which had a shopping insert that did lead me to think that was where bad taste had gone to hide. I suspect it was made with the mega plus size in mind.

    Beth

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  7. The question is interesting, as I believe bad taste still exist, but only in the eye of the beholder. For example, I consider a sleek black evening dress of an interesting cut, and no adornments as elegant. For others, they will not be content until the dress is adorned by lots of sequins and crystals, which I find personally in bad taste. But to those people, such a dress is the epitome of elegance.

    The list could go on for a long time. But what I want to know is, in this day and age, are there still trendsetters? People who dress so marvelously, originally and elegantly that they become a target of emulation?

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    1. I would say, yes, definitely, there are trendsetters: the people you see often on The Sartorialist blog, for example. But style is very fragmented today, everyone in their own niche: rocker, vintage, punk, preppy, emo, etc.

      I agree with you about too much bling, but it's not like years ago, when excessive adornment would have been condemned as being in bad taste among the tastemakers. Today, if you can pull it off, then it's OK -- as others have said.

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  8. I am plus-sized; hate it, but certain illnesses have changed everything about my appearance from when I was in my 20's. Apropos of your question, though, is that bad-taste has come to live in the the larger size departments. It's frustrating and feels as thought the buyers and designers are telling those of us who need to shop there that we should just be happy they bother with us at all. Garish prints, hideous fabrics, no detailing other than ill-placed gathers to provide fabric to span your body - definitely not placed to enhance or conceal flaws. I do sew most of what I wear, but there are times when I need something quickly and need the option of purchasing it ready-made. Go to the department (if your stomach can stand it)....bad taste rules!

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    Replies
    1. So true... Like you, I am plus-sized. Decent clothes can be purchased, but it takes a huge amount of work, and often a substantial investment.

      Alas, Peter and Cousin Cathy are both thin, so no tips here.

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  9. Good taste was defined in the past by a level of refinement, a limited availability.
    Good taste was a sought after quality, something that was learned through experience.
    In my opinion, taste now is tailored to the mass market.
    Whatever sells the most is the new sought after quality. No one has the time or inclination to try and acquire taste, just to buy what's on offer.

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  10. I heartily agree about the tackiness of leggings as pants. Just pair them with any over-sized, poofy, stud-and-buckle-covered bag and a pair of platform shoes that can't decide if they're boots or not for the complete look. You get extra points if your purse is purple and has a big "silver" cross glued on it.

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  11. Just two comments not really germane to this at all. one, the guy who does the Sartorialist is the biggest, most arrogant douchebag on the planet. And, two, John Waters is my hero.
    I think the ultimate modern-day examples of bad taste are those testicles that hang from the back of redneck trucks (most likely due to make up for the lack of real testicles) and Joe Paterno supporters. Anything goes in clothing so it's almost completely off the bad-taste map.

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  12. Bad taste is still out there, its just that the democracy of fashion has forced those with bad taste to become more extreme in showing it off. See http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/ for some examples.

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  13. I think in reference to the term "bad taste" there is some clarification needed with regards to the meaning. It seems that here we are discussing it as indicative of something which is out of style. In that sense, yes, I think that access to current styles and trends has so much due to these media that it is difficult to find things that are in "bad taste" as far as being out of fashion. My definition of "bad taste" in fashion, however, is a bit different. Being out of fashion could be viewed as a lack of taste when discussing membership in the hierarchy of our modern social structure, but i think what it more importantly signifies is a level of appropriateness in many senses. I think that in many respects the level of "bad taste" in fashion has risen, meaning that the number of people who wear things that are entirely inappropriate for their age (regardless of their physical fitness), or the prevalence of people in barely-there outfits that look like they came from the adult superstore out on "Highway XYZ". Now, I am far from prudish in the way I dress. I own my fair share of mini-skirts and figure hugging dresses, but there are certain times and places that things like that are appropriate. I'm not going to go to the grocery with my butt hanging out of the bottom of my shorts and a completely sheer top on. Going clubbing? Fine! That's where things like that belong. Wearing all too revealing or age inappropriate clothing during the daily grind on the other hand, something that has become ubiquitous in modern society, comes under the heading of what I would consider "bad taste" in fashion.

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    1. I'm inclined to agree with you, Evie. But I think what's changed is that there's no longer any cultural consensus around the issue of appropriateness. Even top designers (Gaultier comes to mind) have, on occasion, embraced Frederick's of Hollywood styles that at one time would have been considered the epitome of bad taste.

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    2. I completely agree here with Evie. Certainly people have broad access to clothes that are current and in "good taste," however you have to know how to put it all together. If we can all think of an example of someone we know or people we have seen who we think epitomize bad taste in the modern era, there's still a general idea of "bad taste."

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    3. I think there is a difference between Chic and just plain trashy, as my grandmother used to say. You can be sexy without being absolutely trashy, it just takes paing a little attention to what would be appropriate in any setting, not what's the fashion of the moment. I grew up in the era of girls wearing hats and white gloves, and yet still managed to to be fashionable without crossing that border. Mostly it was because if I thought it was something said grandmother, who had good taste, would approve of or not. And watching Jackie Kennedy!

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  14. I think there is still bad taste - these days, however, it runs more along the lines of someone wearing clothing that doesn't properly cover their body (being because it doesn't fit, or it's intentionally "skanky," or whatever). People of Walmart is a good example of that.

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  15. I don't know... it seems like I sift through mountains of "bad taste" every time I go to TJ Maxx. Huge batwing sleeves, tops with half of the back missing, cardigans cut up to the waist in the back and hanging to the knees in the front, sheer and flimsy knits, ruffles and rosettes as far the eye can see, the list goes on and on. In all likelihood, I am just getting old and less willing to take fashion risks. But surely I am not the only one who thinks that 6-inch heels are in poor taste anywhere outside of a gentleman's club?

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    1. You bring up an interesting point which I have been made painfully aware of since I moved to England two years ago: we Americans are very very conservative compared to the rest of the world. I grew up in the 80s and 90s in a far suburb of Chicago, and I recall that there was almost no access to fashion forward style, and that you had to have a seperate set of clothes to wear to work which covered almost everything. you could get sent home for showing even the slightest cleavage. It's not hard to see the differences here in the UK. when I first moved I had a difficult time but staring at the women's chests because even the middle aged b cup ladies tend to sport an inch or so of cleavage. It's also well known that taller heels are better so often a girl's first pair of heels are stilettos. So what I think I'm saying is the majority of us average Americans will have some growing pains as fashion gets more and more globalised and easy to access.

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  16. bad taste is like porn hard to describe but you know it when you see it. Congrats on the whole foods mayo :)

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    1. I think you nailed it.

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    2. That's freakin hilarious and correct.

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  17. I have to agree with you... however I would have to say that buying clothes at Walmart (the horror!) was ALWAYS on my big no list. Ever since I was 12.

    Also, now that I'm in Seattle (by way of NYC), I often wonder...see, people out here do not know how to dress in any sort of fashionable means. It's all practical, waterproof, comfort shoes...which makes sense, but is it bad taste? Perhaps not.

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  18. I am of a similar opinion as Evie. I think that things are in “bad taste” if they are not appropriate. Currently, what is considered appropriate by some is not by others. This has always been the case; it is just easier to find those of like-mind with our global society. I think the difference today with the past is that there was a more universal understanding of what is in “bad taste” or appropriate. I grew up with a mother who strictly adhered to the no white shoes after Labor Day rule and other “good taste” fashion rules. White shoes in October were in very poor taste and showed you didn’t have proper upbringing. People’s dress these days is less reflective of their upbringing and there is more overall tolerance. The place where “bad taste” may be most evident these days is in the rare workplaces with an understood dress code. Those that stray from the code are considered in bad taste and may suffer for it.

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  19. I know for a fact that your #4 above is true. Substitute "Indonesia" for "China". ;-) You can get "authentic" Versace jeans with the holographic tag and everything. At "outlet" stores. They're knockoffs but they aren't since they're made of the same materials on the same assembly line with the same tags but not being sold at the same prices.

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  20. Yes, there is "Taste", but there isn't a single style any more that defines it. Taste:
    - is flattering to the wearer
    - has well-coordinated colors and accessories
    - could generally be described as clean or tidy
    - is situation-appropriate. Just because you can wear an outfit doesn't mean you should.

    I see examples of poor taste all of the time. Sadly, WalMart and Target are local centers of bad taste. (Referring to the shoppers. No comment on their merchandise.) The People of WalMart site says it all.

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  21. I think it's in bad taste to look down your nose at people who shop at Walmart. Sometimes that's the best someone can do to buy new clothes for themselves or their family. Hard economic times and all that...

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    1. I think the commenters are saying WalMart and similar stores have an unusually high number of people who wear inappropriately tight, too short, sloppy or flat-out offensive clothing.

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    2. It's bad taste to shop at walmart and get a bargain off the back of a woman making a nickel an hour in China. "Hard economic times" is a relative term and my guess is that the slave in China has it a hell of a lot worse than a fat American who even has the option of going to a store and buying new clothes.

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  22. It's called post modernism, and in academic speak the word pluralism is used a lot to describe how in part as a reaction to the overt 'good taste' ideas of modernism most people are much more accepting of a huge variety of opinions, world views and fashions :)

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  23. Replies
    1. [ding-ding-ding]...and we have a winner!!!

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  24. Blame Martha. Design been neutered to the point where it's all mediocre but never good. When's the last time you saw a plaid Barcalounger?

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  25. I agree with several of the comments that bad taste is to wear clothes that are not situation-age-fitness appropriate, but sometimes bad taste can also be found on people who are wearing the latest trends and/or expensive pieces of clothes. On the other hand, good taste nowadays is not a formula like use to be in some of past decades, but something that has to do with style.

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  26. Here in the UK. we had a series on "taste" presented by one of out National Treasures. The fabulous Grayson Perry. He presented three shows on Channel 4 looking at views of taste in different social classes. he used his research to produce 6 large tapestries. You can still watch online I think. Might be worth having a look. I think you'd find these programmes really interesting!
    link is http://www.channel4.com/programmes/in-the-best-possible-taste-grayson-perry/

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  27. Current fashion pet peeve: those neon athletic shoes with matching neon laces. Do not.

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  28. I think it's true that it's no longer the big fashion designers or elite class that decide what is considered good or bad taste. You can still be on or off trend though. It's like the message is you can wear anything, but you still have to figure out the right way to do it. The definition of bad taste now lies with the one who wears it, not with the garment itself like it used to. What I'm really wondering about though, is what it'll be like in ten years. Will bad taste as we knew it come back? Will there be new groups outside designer houses that make the new rules? Or will it go even further and will even things like age-approriateness disappear? I wonder.

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  29. I think that Simplicity 1756, the new Cynthia Rowley jacket with the shoulder blade cut out = bad taste.

    http://www.simplicity.com/p-7920-misses-jacket-cynthia-rowley-collection.aspx

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    Replies
    1. Clicked over to look at it. Wow! She went to Hong Kong and had to hurry back before the tailor could finish!

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  30. In the 50's and 60's in the U.S., "good taste" seemed to be whatever the moneyed WASPs wore. The middle class struggled to emulate, as a way of demonstrating that they were worthy. Immigrants and poor folk were ridiculed as having "bad taste". Thankfully, small rebellions in many quarters coalesced, and an "anything goes" spirit largely prevails. It's telling though that any remaining "bad taste" derision is directed at those who are outsiders. It's still a way of attempting to close ranks. Elle

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  31. I think we all know that Vogue will accept the ad dollars no matter where they come from. I usually think of that old fashion toy where you lay the scraps of fabric down and then pull the cover over, and POOF! she's wearing a striking ensemble. Target, K-mart and the rest can dress it up for a pic but (as you mentioned) what kind of crap is it in real life?
    Also, mayo is an egg whipped with oil and a dash of white pepper. You can MAKE a quart of it with like 3 eggs and 3/4 cup of oil in a mason jar with an immersion blender (or in regular blender) in about 3 minutes. I use sunflower oil and a little olive oil for flavor.

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    Replies
    1. You forgot the lemon or lime juice to cook the egg yolk.

      Delete
    2. Thank you, I did forget that you need an acid.

      Delete
  32. Most of the clothing that exists in stores today is in bad taste for someone. One size does not fit all, the color palette is not flattering for the universe, and there is no way I am wearing anything made out of polyester. It may drape like silk, but it is as comfortable as a plastic shower curtain-- bad taste. Fit, function and flatter. If clothing doesn't do those things, as far as I'm concerned it is bad, wrong, and horrible.

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  33. Yikes on the mayo!! I always buy the 365, it is better anyway :)

    I think even though we have the net, and can get anything we want from all over the world, bad taste is still out there. The worst offenders in my area are the flip flop Ugg wearing girls out here! I'm sorry but Uggs should not be manufactured anymore and the ones existing should be all put in a pile and burned!!!

    I can't remember if I already said this on here or on another blog, but there was a picture in our paper not to long ago with protesters in the 1960's in down town Oakland Ca. and they were all dressed really nice. Women with dresses, guys with nice slacks and shirts. Next to it was a new photo of occupy Oakland and it tells a whole different story! I think people need to put their best self forward and not look so darned sloppy all the time.

    On another note, I really enjoyed the September issue of Vogue. I read the article on Thomas Keller and had a dream with him last night :)

    Also, why was your copy 6 dollars? I only paid $4.99 for mine????

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  34. Yes, I still think that bad taste exists, but I would argue that it is a good thing. In an earlier time, it seems to me that "bad taste" was used in a way to describe the way people of lower socioeconomic statuses dressed, thus keeping the classes more separated.

    I would also argue that bad taste was something that would be directed more at women than men. If your clothing it too tight, too short, too whatever, you're more likely to face criticism about the way you dress if you're female. If women are forced to keep within the bounds of "good taste" dictated by the men are we truly liberated? I'm not saying criticism is limited to women, but women seem to be on the receiving end the most when it comes to fashion.

    I think we need to look at the deep rooted reason "why" we define bad taste how we do. I think that if we really examine that we will find patriarchal undertones in the way we evaluate bad taste. :]

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  35. About the mayo: make your own, it's cheaper, healthier and tastes better.

    As for bad taste, it's pretty hard to define what makes bad taste these days. I love animal prints and some people say they're bad taste. I wear short skirts and some people say that's bad taste on a woman of my age. I wore big hair in the 80s and I think that's bad taste in 2012. I don't think it's that bad taste doesn't exist any more, it's just that there are as many definitions of bad taste as there are people, if that makes any sense.

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  36. Bad taste = low rider pants that show off your underwear, bra straps intentionally showing (even the "clear" straps), jeans that are obviously meant for a person six sizes smaller (just because you can "get into" hip huggers, doesn't mean they fit you!). Good taste = clean, well-fitting clothing of most any style, it doesn't have to be expensive. Oh, and age apprrpriate. I strongly dislike seeing a 12 year old girl decked out like a street walker.

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    Replies
    1. I totally agree!! add "stripper-heals" to the collection and The Bad Taste Party is complete.

      Delete
  37. In London in the early '90's the parameters of taste were still very much enforced. The look was what can only be described as 'sophisticated' apres-ski, black or tan ski-pants, cashmere turtle neck and maybe a silk parka with fur collar, I think jersey snoods were involved somehow, but don't quote me!Shoes had to be flat, preferably loafers, hair tied back, subtle make-up. Anyone who dressed as I did in high heels worn with pants or jeans[ oh the shame!] and glamorous make-up and hair was not only considered to be unfashionable but of doubtful repute!

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  38. At Costco I admit I buy the 64 oz jar of Kirkland mayonnaise (which is Hellman's private labeled for Costco) for $5.29...not sure that's a good thing either. The jar is so huge it's really impossible to scoop it all out with a knife as it gets towards the end. Plus does the world really need 64 oz jars of mayonnaise in the first place?

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  39. Yes, there is bad taste. Would you believe I have a gorgeous Moroccan mag, from about 2000, with Gaultier deemed appropriate for Moslem country. I adore this!!!!!!!!!! Plus clothes are horrendous, as you have described. I wear larger sizes, but do better with a 14 that I have up-sized. The grading in plus clothes doesn't work for me - mega shoulders, A to B cup, etc....I have to do it myself. I see some very bad taste near where we live. One woman went to a church event at the cathedral in a 70's terry playsuit, very short shorts, and a captain's hat (think yacht). She was well into 60's, and not fit. An usher asked her to move from the front pew. I did think this was prejudiced (LOL), and also thought she was an eyesore. I am going to a Western party on Sat. Hubster is teasing me - will I have big hair? The answer is NO, my own Bob, from the 1920's. I do agree about the older style rules and the Very, Very conservative ruling classes. What we need is creativity, and style. Cathie, in Quebec.

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  40. i sometimes think people who follow every fashion, whether it suits them or not, are representative of bad taste. Skinny jeans (or hot pants) simply look terrible above a certain size and proportion. Here is Australia it seems that neon colours are making a comeback, so judgemental as I am, anyone out of their teens wearing them will be labeled as 'no taste to bad taste' :-)

    However, I am trying very hard to be non-judgemental so my mantra for today will be 'there is no such thing as bad taste, it is merely not to my taste' :-)

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  41. I think the Britney Spears skirt pulled so low you could see her thong & tube top look was in bad taste - it was this outfit that finally persuaded my tween daughters to stop trying to imitate her outfits.
    Society has grown overly informal in many ways but I think overall it's better than when the designers truly controlled what women wore. My late mom told me that after Dior's New Look came in in 6 months everyone had dumped their old clothes and were all in the New Look - nowadays this wouldn't happen.

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  42. Bad taste is alive and thriving. Low cut pants with underwear sticking up an inch above the waistband, facial piercings and tattoos, torn jeans with neon fishnet stockings showing through the holes. Oh yeah, there's plenty of it.

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  43. Jerseylicious = bad taste

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  44. Add to age appropriate and body appropriate, "place appropriate". Isn't good taste closely related to good manners? One tries to make others comfortable by not offending them. Just because you can do/wear something doesn't mean you should. When in doubt, remember that a little restraint goes a very long way.

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  45. Hi Peter! I love this post and John Waters as well. I also agree with Lisa above who said bad taste is not the clothes in themselves but expressed by the people who wear them - for example: the Real Housewives of New Jersey in a drag out knock down screaming match in their Guccis and Louboutins. It's just gross. It makes me miss the kind of bad taste when it was fake fur and a bedazzled sweater vest.

    On another note, I hope this doesn't sound snobbish, but it bugs me a little to see Kmart and Target in Vogue - I have nothing against these stores, they have decent product, but for Vogue it reeks of "I gotta pay the bills too" and dispels the fantasy of what was once a great magazine. I would love to see Vogue promote more boutiques and designers both local and international.

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  46. I am mayo-ticular. Hellman's (or Best Brand, on the west coast) is a MUST.

    My chicken salad sags with anything else (even 365 brand).

    Of course, mayonnaise cannot be mentioned without a thorough distancing from salad dressing. The only thing miraculous about salad dressing is that it sells.

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  47. You can pick out an outfit in the dark and put it on some people and it will work. You can take others to couture boutiques and they will still look like something is not quite ... right.
    Like others have mentioned, it's the people rather than the clothes.

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  48. Bad taste is the plus size brands and shops which don't expend the energy beyond resizing the 'big trends'. Now I used to adore lane Bryant's underwear, before they changed the cup shape in my favourite bra, but no matter what I tried on, I could never find anything in the clothes dept that genuinely looked good on me. It seemed like all they sold were shapeless sacks which only looked good on their not-actually-plus-sized models, there was just no variety.

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  49. Oh yes, bad taste is alive and kicking where I live. I know that "to each his own", but I doubt that tight, shiny, bedazzled mini-dresses made in swimsuit-like poly-lycra will be up the runway anytime soon. Yet, there are shops full of them in my city.

    I think that bad taste do exists, but it's now legit. It's on TV, it has icons, etc. It's the same for litterature, movies, etc ... If people are ready to buy it, it will be for sale somewhere.

    I don't say it's a bad thing, however. It allows people to make up their own mind and show their true colors. And gives snobs something to be snob about !

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  50. I noticed much the same thing when I used to subscribe to Gourmet magazine. The articles were all about roasting duck liver, using lardo, and making brioche. In between were adds for Jello pudding and Hamburger Helper. I guess we all aspire to the high end, but most of us can't afford it, wouldn't fit in it, or don't have the time to cultivate it. And Target and KMart is what we really wear (or eat). Vogue is the Wishbook of our times.

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  51. Bad taste - I know it when I see it. Depending on who is wearing it and/or where it's worn, the same outfit can be wonderful or woefully bad taste.

    As far as discounters being in Vogue - those stores realized a long time ago that they had to upgrade their goods (at least in styles) to stay in business. And I doubt Vogue is in a position to turn down advertising dollars, esp. after the last few years of consumers pinching pennies. Vogue gets $, discounters get an image of selling fashionable clothes.

    If you have a food processor, mayo is easy to make. The version I used had egg yolks, dry mustard, lemon juice, salt(?) and oil (lots of oil!). I don't recall the proportions though, I do remember blending the first 3 items and then drizzling the oil in slowly. It seemed like magic when it changed from yolk and oil to mayonaise.

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  52. Interesting question, Peter. I live in the sticks (rural Ohio) and shop at big box discount stores, and alter what I buy to fit. Vogue sells a look and a price tag that may as well be the moon. Why would we--real people who work, raise kids, pay taxes, and smile once in a while--want to borrow from sullen, anorexic teenage models and go into debt to buy impractical, ugly clothes??? Clothes are such a fascinating clue to society, more important to some of us than to others. We may be confusing taste with standards; the appalling appearance of some poor people does raise both questions. In America, one would have thought, everyone can afford a bath and a clean T shirt? Tastes always are easier to develop with choices and a little money.

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  53. Well there used to be a much bigger distinction to the classes and now knock offs of high fashion are available instantly due to fast fashion, the world has become so homogenous. I remember traveling in the 80's and 90's and different regions and countries had such different looks but now most everyone dresses the same!

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    Replies
    1. Oh yes, there still is plenty of bad taste! Mostly really overweight people wearing really tight clingy low waisted clothing and grown men wearing giant shorts and t shirts. And I will always think tattoos are in bad taste no matter how mainstream they have become.

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  54. One area of bad taste that always horrifies me is young girls dressed like hookers. What are their parents to let them dress like that?!! (I'm talking girls age 10 and under here.)

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  55. Gristedes is way way way overpriced. Prob b/c they're on the verge of going out of business, but still!

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  56. As a slight side bar -I too have noticed that with the shift in our American economy, our mainstream American fashion magazines (Vogue, Elle, Harper's Bazaar) have become significantly more "accessible" in the scope of their advertisers. I used to love seeing the positions for the season from all the big designers: Versace, YSL, Gucci, Dior, etc. and now their ads are frankly quite lost among the 6 page spreads from Cover Girl and the discount stores you named in your post. For a September issue, I found it quite un-revealing for inspiration, but quite transparent as to who is making the dollars to spend on advertising (or who sees an untapped market to capitalize on) in this tough economy. My take on it is that as much as we covet or revere fashion with a capital "F", knocking someone for the discount origins of their wardrobe has become the most tasteless act of all, and finding a personal, creative and expressive style with a capital "S" has become the most significant form of "good taste".

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  57. some of the stores mentioned are not in the same class as others of the stores mentioned. i.e. T.J. Maxx carries real lbrand names, not hacks, but they're irregulars or last year. if you look carefully, you can get good deals on high-end merchandise. DSW also carries brand names, if you like the look of "knock me down and f**k me" shoes. both of these chains have last season's goods, but still what was considered stylish. others of the store mentioned, like walmart, have their own styles, not even knock-offs, made up in cheapo fabrics that are badly fitted in every size. but it's probably the cheapest game in town for a lot of families. then there's kohl's. kohl's is a clearing house. you'll find everything there, but mostly one-of-a-kind and often damaged. if you don't mind taking time to scour the racks and perhaps mending something, you can find some good prices there.

    back to the point: what's bad taste? it's always what someone else is wearing. never what you're wearing.

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