My commute is a short ten-minute walk, down a very busy and crowded Chicago street. I’m fortunate enough to see hundreds of people in my short journey, including many women, of course.
Only rarely do I see someone who’s appearance is generally envy-provoking. Most days, I’m more than happy with what I’m wearing, and with how I look, overall. But on the occasions when I’m beginning to feel my eyes turning green, I try to turn that unproductive and generally unbecoming sensation into a chance to learn something.
Overall, if you really envy someone, the fundamental question has to be “why?”.
- If it’s someone half your age, with the body of an Olympic gymnast:
- This is both a lesson in learning to accept your age, and a reminder to get up off of your… chair… and get to the gym. The goal is unachievable, but reasonable effort toward fitness will make you much more accepting of your own body.
- If it’s someone wearing something obviously expensive:
- Why does price matter so much to you? Could you achieve the same look for less money, or is the money what it’s really about? Remember, the object you’re coveting could be painful debt for that person. It could have been a gift, or purchased second-hand, or (horror of horrors) counterfeit. If you ultimately can’t shake this covetousness, it’s time to look for a much better job, or a gut-level reevaluation of your priorities.
- Is it someone with a brand-new outfit?
- Is it the newness? Or is it that you feel the need for novelty? There are more paths to stimulation and excitement in life than shopping…
- But if it’s a look that you could wear well, which would be flattering on you, and work well in your wardrobe, THIS could be a real idea for a future purchase. Jot down a note, and when you get home, in front of your closet, determine if this particular outfit (or just an item in the outfit) is an effective upcoming purchase for you.
- It is an outfit put together particularly well?
- THIS is a great possible lesson. Make a note of what catches your eye, and when you get home, see if you can replicate the look with things you already own. Most of the time, it’s not the pieces themselves that are particularly amazing, as much as it’s just someone else’s spin on how to combine things.
Please note that the idea of envying someone for their appearance, and learning from that envy, is most effective when you’re looking at REAL people, in REAL life settings. Trying to emulate people in magazines, movies, television shows, or on the internet is just a quick way to depress yourself permanently. Can you hire a stylist, a person chef, a personal trainer, and OH YEAH, have yourself Photoshopped constantly? You might as well try to look like the Mona Lisa…
Excellent. (and what a gorgeous kitty!)
I am somewhat prone to this sin myself. Interestingly, when we were in Paris last summer, I suddenly realized I was surrounded by women in very expensive clothing, all carrying Hermes bags. I looked up and realized we were on the rue de Sevres, right by a Hermes store. We saw the famous window with the chimps cavorting amongst the destroyed Hermes items.
That's drifting off topic. I was surprised to find that being surrounded by at least 15 Hermes bags made me not want one! Why should I want what everyone else has?? What a relief. (Though I still want another scarf)
What a thought provoking post!!! Examining the why always leads to so much introspection. I love how you encourage the reader to recognize the negative thoughts that emerge from envy but to create a more positive response. I just found your blog and absolutely love it! I did a post yesterday on streamlining/organizing my wardrobe and giving up the frustration of always being unable to find something to wear. Your blog was recommenced to me (you had lots of great tips!!!!). I love it and look forward to keeping up with you. Your blog friend, Victoria- tenthousandsewinghours.blogspot.com
A Well Styled Life says
Fantastic post! Guilty as charged many times unfortunately.
I wonder, do men experience the same feelings? I doubt it.
I must be all thumbs this morning…so I'll try again. This is great food for thought and I really appreciate this wonderful blog that you put out for us every day.
There is a world of difference between admiration and envy.
Your last idea- replicating a look from things in your own closet- is something I have learned from your blog! And if an item keeps popping up in your capsules that I don't have and which would complete a look, I try to find something very similar in my price range. It has worked beautifully. Surprisingly, I haven't had to add a lot, but I have subtracted a lot. The less I shop, the more cash I have and I actually feel so much better in my re-engineered wardrobe. Thanks, Janice.
Very well put as are the comments. Trying to remember to click on your sponsors!
Liz D. says
I actually wish I could see someone who made me envious! It would make me reexamine myself and inspire improvement! Sadly, I live in California where looking very tacky (my opinion and this is the very PC version of what I really think) is the standard.
I've mentioned the same thing here before. We Californians, especially SoCal, border on the sloppy more and more as time goes on; it's out of control. It's like women have no pride, or else they think they're still the young beach bunny long after that day has come and gone. I love L.A. and was born there, but I can remember going down into the financial district in the early 1980s, ferrying documents for my boss with our Controller, and the CEO's assistant was wearing heels with no nylons/hosiery. We were small-town girls, but still aghast. (It looked SO bad.) I can't imagine how some of us stick out on the streets of New York or Paris, "California Tourist" stamped on our foreheads, as if anybody had to guess. It's casual gone 'way too far; not everyplace is the beach.
Rebekah Bonde says
Another excellent sermon from the church of style. As someone who tries to workout, I gave up trying to look like the goddess on the stair climber and focus instead on my progress: delighting in my ability to increase strength and flexibility compared to an earlier period.
As for envying someone's style, your flowchart is a rational approach to focusing that erstwhile jealous energy into something productive. This is an exercise from which we can all benefit, no matter our age or experience in developing our own styles. I can still remember being bowled away by the neat and orderly appearance (not just clothing) of a female department head. The rest of us young things would sigh and wonder how she possibly had the time to be gorgeous, deliver a focused presentation, have a neat desk, have killer binders, etc. After mumbling amongst ourselves for months, I decided I had to either emulate her or stop moaning. That was a pivotal moment in my work product development, as well as defining my self-respect in how I want others to see me.
Church of Style indeed! LOL I love this.
Thank you once again for a brilliant voice of reason
I have used your site time and time again to reinvent what I have and be happy with what I have and try not to spend
It does take discipline and willpower but all new habits take time to become the norm
Nice post, Janice, and some great things to think about.
Great post – thanks Janice!!
What a thoughtful and thought-provoking post. When I covet really badly, my default is to remember the Ten Commandments from early religious training when I was taught to memorize them. (They've pretty much withstood the test of time.) Your last paragraph is very valuable, reminding us even now to not become too envious of the cover-girl photos. Nobody told us these things (back in the day of impressionable youth); I assumed the models really looked like that in photo spreads. I suppose my grandmother dreamed of looking like the Gibson Girl. For me, it wasn't Cheryl Tiegs; it was Ali MacGraw. She was everywhere after LOVE STORY. I remember a whole spread in one of the mags just on her eye makeup; I wanted Ali Eyes. I really studied the technique! I wanted the clothes she wore in the movie, particularly that cherry-red piano recital dress. I was planning the whole wardrobe in my head. Another girl getting a lot of press at the time was Princess Caroline of Monaco, similar to what her daughter, Charlotte, is getting today (modeling). I was the same age as her, in my late teens or earliest 20s I guess…and I wanted Caroline's sort of exotic Mediteranean look…the golden-tanned, clear skin; just everything, right down to her string/beaded "hippie" bracelets. I was slightly too young for Twiggy, but I remember my cousins' friends getting the drastic short haircut, and doing the eyeliner for the big eyes. I don't know if it's so much idolatry as much as just being young and believing in possibilities for oneself ("yeah, I can look like that!"); it's all about idealism with young female readers and not practicality/reality. I can't imagine what it is today with young girls wanting to copy the Size Minus-Zero worn by the cover girl.
Jill Ann says
We must be the same age, Vicki; I always admired Princess Caroline, so beautiful and glamorous! I think I'm about a week older than her, and always compared myself unfavorably. Just a middle class, frizzy haired girl from suburban Detroit, not the least bit glam! But then Caroline's mother died, and her husband was killed, and I thought I'd rather be unglamorous me with my Mom & husband.
But I still wouldn't mind looking like her, or having her wardrobe…and the occasions to wear it!
Good point; she has had her share of tragedies. There was such a big to-do about her marrying that first guy, who was older and sort of a playboy; I think I remember reading that Princess Grace did not approve of him (like anyone would actually have access to that kind of personal information!). I enjoyed looking at the ladies' fashion on the occasion of the Prince's more-recent wedding which occurred in Monaco around the time of Kate Middleton's & William's. There were a lot of interesting hats and sherbet colors.
esme noir says
i love seeing women with well-put-together outfits. what frustrates me is that i always wish i could photograph them to study the looks more carefully—-the better to imitate them!