If you search on the internet for “2012 must-have items”, you get more than three hundred MILLION hits. Even if you assume that most of these won’t, in fact, tell you to buy something, that’s still a tremendous number of people bossing you around about how to spend your hard-earned money!
And these lists are full of logical flaws:
- If these are truly must-have items, why don’t all of the lists agree? Or at least have a significant degree of overlap? After looking at the first handful of “top-ten for spring” lists, I saw at least 50 different items I absolutely have to buy if I’m going to be able to show my face in public.
- Why do all of these lists assume that you can’t look around a store and make your own choices? Or worse yet, that you MUST be wearing the same items as every other woman around the world? Maybe you don’t want to wear orange pants this spring…
- Why are we never presented with the fate that will befall us if we ignore these lists? (I know, we’ll be consigned to fashion purgatory, and our photograph will NEVER appear on one of those street photographer blogs)
- Why does nobody ever counsel us about how to continue to wear the stuff we bought from last year’s “must-have” list? Are we seriously just supposed to throw all of those things away? (why yes, I believe we are…)
But the most insidious thing about these lists is a mentality that I observe in myself, which goes something like “well, I’m certainly not going to buy number 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, and 10, but I suppose I might get myself numbers five and six, so I’ll at least be participating a little bit in the fashion world…”
It’s not like I really ADORE numbers five and six; I’m just giving in to the pressure of the magazines (and their advertisers) to conform. These are the purchases that just hang in the closet, week after week, because I was never committed to the purchase to begin with, and because I’ve grown tired of seeing every third person I pass on the street wearing a similar item.
And let’s not underestimate the role that advertisers play in these lists – you’re not going to see a list composed of garments and accessories that come from obscure little companies that don’t have full-page ads in the magazine in question…
If you love a trend, buy it and wear it to death. (like twice a week, minimum)
But don’t let other people tell you how you should spend your money, and present yourself to the world. Slavish following of fashion is not elegant.
Patti @ NotDeadYet Style says
Brava! So well said. Here's to common-sense shopping!
This we sort of know deep down but needed it vocalizing- masterfully and authoratively, thank you so much.
As soon as I hit on '……role that advertisers play', my indignation motor was kick-started!
However, the insidious voice that tells us we look good (read 'acceptable in the eyes of the world') because skinnies are a la mode, for example, is a strong and persistent influence. Never mind the fact that bootlegs are to be found somewhere off the planet! I will make my four daughters read this – four times!
Mrs. Jenner says
The funny thing is all the big "fashion" people wear the same thing year after year. Carine Roitfeld wears the same shoes she's been wearing for two years. They have a style and things they love and stick with them.
I read a really funny post the other day on a blog I found randomly ( I can't remember the name). The writer said that she jumped on the ripped, stained, baggy, rolled up pants band wagon a few years ago (remember Katie Holmes) and now when she puts on all these expensive, distressed clothes she feels like a clown. She said the worst part is that she can't donate them to Goodwill because everything is ripped and stained. Who would even want them in a charity shop.
Dear Mrs. Jenner,
You're so right – when you buy things because you're told to buy them, then end up feeling like a costume! That's what happens when you're dressed from the outside in, and not from your true preferences and sense of personal style.
Thanks for being here!
The lists are just weather reports, and about as accurate. I find them fun for a few minutes: Do I have this? Do I want this? What kind of life is this person living? They are rarely as preemptory as Ines de la Fressenge's book, which contains its own list- and advises women to buy their velvet blazers two sizes too small.
And do those of us who write blogs not enjoy telling others what is the best aesthetic choice, at least some of the time?
Duchesse, love your first sentence especially—it made me laugh. I was looking for your response to this most excellent post! You and Vivienne are both daily (and I know Duchesse only posts twice a week) reads for me. Judy
I try to avoid being too bossy about what people should or shouldn't wear – I'd like to encourage women to think intelligently about their shopping, and their fashion choices, and make sure that what they're doing/wearing is really furthering their best interests. Which is NOT to say that I don't have strong opinions about certain faux pas that I see from time to time…
big hug – I'm so thrilled that you're reading my blog!
Jane W. says
So true. "Must have" lists have always resulted in stressful shopping experiences…even if my "shopping" was of the window variety. All this time, I just thought I had authority issues!
Dear Vivienne, This is exactly why your posts are so good. I've found your format helpful for just thinking about what I have and how things might work together, with less emphasis on this kind of manufactured need. Much better than a must-have list! Thank you again.
This was an excellent post, and I guffawed out loud. Your argument is iron-clad, and so true, and so sage — but wait — I SERIOUSLY was considering orange-color-family pants as my one deliberate purchase this season (did you see Tilda Swinton in I am Love?), and was getting ready to write you about them. Light orange or coral…. I have the cobalt ones from last season and wear them all the time, hence being heartened at the prospect of one more colorful pair (as opposed to my jeans, black pants, brown pants, grey pants) in my closet. Green and red seemed too bold, yellow is not my color, I have the blue, and purple would be whacky, so deep coral seemed fun and possibly quasi-neutral and wearable past spring 2012. So, is it possible to ask how deep coral pants might work with a set of crazy 8s OR should I exorcise myself of the pesky "must have" in my head? Help, V, how should I think about this in a logical manner???
Actually, a pair of coral pants can be tremendously versatile – I suspect you could just wear them any time you would have worn the cobalt pants that you found so successful as an accent in your wardrobe. If you're in doubt, just sit down and write out (seriously, on your computer or… on paper!) five outfits you could make with your core clothing and a pair of coral pants. Black tee shirt? White shirt? White tank top? Chambray short-sleeved shirt? Blue and white striped tee shirt?
There's nothing wrong with trends – they can be fun and bring variety into what we wear. What's wrong is when we buy into them (literally and figuratively) for all of the wrong reasons.
P.S. on the pants: Or some form of nude (dark nude), but not pink?
OH, thanks V, we posted at the same time. I love the challenge to see if I can make 5 outfits. I now have pix of all my clothes (what we under employed do with our time), so could even try that out as well. Thank you for this advice — spot on as always. I know I won't be able to do it with the magic you do (care to style some deep coral pants? — Ann taylor has some ;).
Oh no – stick with the coral – I think they'll prove to be very versatile and quite fun!
Thanks!! Will do. XOXO
Amen. You said it, sister. Do you know how many times I have bought a magazine just because on the cover it promised an article on the "must haves"? The last time I did, I added up the total cost of the 10 "must haves" they deteremined that I, the average, mainstream reader, should have…it was over $20,000 for 10 items. Yeah right. Very realistic. ~~Bliss
anyone out there believe that carolina herrera, for example, buys into the "must haves?" right. i didn't think so.
You're absolutely right! I look at those lists for entertainment value, but then look at my wardrobe and work out what is missing. At the moment what is missing is a light weight long-line (but not too long) merino cardigan, edge-to-edge or with a tie closure; a red pullover that will turn my halter-neck dress into a skirt; and a cardigan or jacket that I can wear with my sleeveless gray sheath dress. I'm on a tight budget and search consignment stores or shop at sales. I recently bought a black beaded t-shirt which I can put on with day-time trousers before going out in the evening. I always try to build up the wardrobe I've already got and this has come about through both financial constraints and a need to recycle and live green.
#11 Must Have Item: Common sense about which styles flatter you, which don't, and realizing that we have to put out these lists each year so we can sell advert revenue.
All true BUT each season there are a few items that do update your look. My problem is that I can never figure out what they are–luckily, my daughter can generally pinpoint. So for instance: skinny jeans are updaters as are the long scarves that everyone in Paris wears. Interestingly, both these items can be had for a song. They have been au courant for two years or so…
Once again, a little reality therapy. Thank you.
The fashion world is complicit in making us all feel insufficient. They depend on it to sell us more , as if one more piece in our closets or on our backs will make us "ok". Here,s where the French notion of being comfortable in our own skin becomes critical. Once we find a way to live that, we won't be stampeded or haunted by every whim of fashion. Instead we can play dress-up or not & still be content.