“Fashion is about the lies we tell ourselves about who we are!” This direct quote is attributed to the current editor of The New York Times “Styles” section, Choire Sicha. This quote stopped me in my tracks. I wonder how this declaration lands for you, and I’d definitely love to hear your thoughts on this. To get the conversation started, I’m going to tell you how the quote strikes me.
I find Sicha’s statement disturbing, despite that it might also be true. I think that people do lie to themselves all the time. If I take an empathetic approach to understanding where this comes from, I sense that people want to unbecome. A Vanessa Daou song, entitled “Unbecome,” is about this very thing. In her sultry, salty, and jazzy way, Daou sings about distancing herself from experiences that came before the present moment. “I want to unbecome,” she laments.
To be perfectly clear, I totally relate to the desire to unbecome. I’ve had experiences in my life that I wish hadn’t happened to me. Plus, I’ve also complicated my life because of some choices I’ve made along the way. I want to unbecome, too.
But, I also want to accept what is true about myself. And that means accepting my life exactly as it is. It’s hard to bring about change without first seeing the truth and accepting it. Don’t you agree?
So, I suppose that it’s entirely possible to lie to oneself without the desire to unbecome. A lie is just a cover-up for the truth. And this is how I believe that people use fashion to tell lies. If you know me, then you know how disturbing I find this. It practically makes my skin crawl.
Especially these days, we are trying to survive a time that feels full of inauthenticity. Instagram and Facebook feeds filled with fashions and travels more fabulous than the next, it all feels a bit unreal. We are beset by propaganda, and campaigns that threaten our American system of government. People, regardless of beliefs – believe – there is a drumbeat of disinformation, deafening to our ears and revolting to our eyes.
We are living in an age of lies.
That’s an ugly truth. And so, why shouldn’t fashion be any different? If fashion is about the lies we tell ourselves about who we are, it’s our reaction to the zeitgeist.
I see how lots of people misuse fashion to lie to themselves and others about who they are. But, I don’t like it, nor do I agree with it. Enough with the lies. It’s time to get back to telling the truth and living with authenticity and sincerity.
The notion that our lives are inadequate unless we outdo someone else is horrible. Taken as a competition, if your goal is to be better than someone else, then you want someone to lose. If you think you need to outdo someone else, just maybe you’re really trying to outdo yourself. I think this is a dangerous game because you might not be able to sustain it. To use fashion as a lie means that your resources could run dry. And even worse is the idea that it is unfulfilling.
To me, the core difference between fashion and style is that style is about the truth. Style is working within your means to use clothing to tell your real story. Your real story consists of where you come from and where you are headed. It consists of how you became the person you are right now, and who you want to become. Personal style is about your history and your future, as well as the present moment. Style is an expression of taste as much as it also helps us to express our best selves.
Fashion is about the lies we tell ourselves about who we are, only if we do a disservice to ourselves. If we want to live in a more transparent and truthful society, we need to bring it to ourselves first. The thoughts we have, and how we see the world, must be the truth. The things we say to ourselves and to each other must be the truth. And yes, the fashions we wear must communicate the truth, too.