17 In Getting Dressed/ Style/ Women Now

Why beauty? why now?

As some of you know, I meet with two other image consultants once a month to brainstorm, share resources, go on field trips and just enjoy each other’s delightful company. It’s a tradition that’s been going on for nearly ten years! This month, we had a guest member join us, Nicole who was visiting from New York. What fun we had! On one of the prettiest days in the wine country, we enjoyed a late September afternoon lunch at Bardessono, my favorite (and beautiful!) hotel and spa in Yountville.

What better place to bring up a question that’s been on my mind. I think about beauty, as in how we put ourselves together using clothes and accessories in a pleasing way, and I think, “Why would anyone bother?” It’s the devil’s advocate question you already know how I feel about the subject. I’ve written countless articles, newsletters and books about it. I think beauty is a salve for the soul and the reward for living what can be a challenging life.

Certainly, there is plenty of evidence out there that people don’t bother! It hurts my eyes from time to time when I see it. Yet, there have to be compelling reasons to bother and I wondered what my cohorts thought about the subject.

We’re a group that believes from personal experience as well as professional experience, that you feel better about yourself and what’s in front of you to do today when you look sharp, pulled together, and inviting. But what really compels someone to make the effort?

Nicole made the point that if you spend your day social networking, you could be in your jammies all day. Who would know the difference? But she lives in New York and certainly, when you walk out onto the streets, there are people who are dressed and inspiring to look at. That alone can create the impetus to make an effort.

Other contributions to the discussion —

Lynn: “I’m living my life once so I need to make it an event. I’m going to grab the gusto and put on something I love to wear. I’m not that tied into what others are doing. They have their one life to live and that’s fine.”

Marj: “I like being surrounded by color, texture, interest and creativity. I just think it pleases other people to look nice.”

Nicole: “Fashion and beauty isn’t easy and if you don’t know how to do it, it becomes a chore. Maybe in their hearts, people want to look good but they’re worried it’s going to cost too much.”

I know that beauty doesn’t have to cost a fortune, style can be developed, dressing well can be learned. And I think it’s worth the effort. Please, would you share your thoughts on the subject? I’d love to know what do you think. Why do you make the effort or not?

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  • Reply
    Marcella Friel
    October 6, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Thanks for your post here and for the T&T article on Lucinda Williams and Tony Bennett. In May, my boyfriend Mike and I attended the Sonoma Jazz Festival two nights in a row. The first night we saw Crosby, Stills, & Nash; next night was Earth, Wind, & Fire. The back-to-back shows were a fascinating study in aging. CS&N looked like what the buzzards left behind. The best clothes they could pull over their drug-addled bodies were rumpled jeans & grungy T-shirts. Crosby wore a baseball hat that covered his eyes. The music was great, but the wear of time was ponderously evident. EWF, in stark contrast, was a dazzling group of well-dressed, gracious, handsome, energetic men with tremendous stage presence. The lead bass guitarist blew my mind. Tall, fit, and ebony black, his gorgeous dreads hung to his waist as he sported an immaculate white broadcloth shirt with traditional French cuffs and onyx-jeweled cufflinks. His slacks were fire-engine red bell bottoms with **gold** leather fringe swinging from the sides, and the thigh portion of the front of the pants had a red, white, gold, and black African design motif that complemented perfectly the scale of his facial features. He wore black high-heeled boots, and his red guitar pulled the whole outfit together like a woman’s purse might. He was moving and smiling and singing and dancing and playing and working the audience like a master. He was pure joy embodied. I couldn’t take my eyes off him, obviously! After the show, I dusted off my old EWF LP from 1976 and saw his picture on the cover. I calculated that he’s easily in his 60s now, and he’s HOT! So yes, I’m with you. A performer’s outfit matters!

  • Reply
    Laurice Gilbert
    October 6, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    I love looking in the mirror in the morning and telling myself I look good. I work from home, often don’t see anyone else in the course of my day, and it matters to nobody but me. By looking good I am telling myself I matter – to myself, anyway. Isn’t that what self-care is about?

  • Reply
    Loes Blokker, Amsterdam
    October 7, 2010 at 2:10 am

    Being and looking well dressed and put together is a way to validate yourself, to express yourself, and a good way to be creative. I think someone how looks striking is like a piece of art on a daily/ more mundane level. And the process to get/ keep getting there is so much fun!

  • Reply
    October 7, 2010 at 3:59 am

    It’s taken me a long time to learn that I can participate in the art of being a beautiful woman. Regular grooming is NOT a luxury, it’s required of us if we want to feel and look our best. I’m learning to try clothes on first and pay attention to fit, improving my posture, eating right. One of my greatest pleasures is in seeing my daughter blossom into a lovely woman who is confident in her choices, style & otherwise. Women learn from other women and I want to be a good enough teacher for her sake as well as my own.

  • Reply
    Lety Shelley
    October 7, 2010 at 5:09 am

    Why bother? I ask myself that question everyday; when I go to work where the environment has gotten so casual that a few co-workers wear capris and flip-flops almost everyday. I ask when I go to the store, whether it’s for groceries or the mall, where I see every extreme in the book—women wearing low cut dresses with super-high heels or women wearing clothes that looked liked they slept in or pulled off the floor. I especially ask when I go out to celebrate any occasion where I see people who don’t put much thought and respect for the celebrant. We’ve become a society of extremes—you either over-dress or you don’t care. I care, I want to care even though a lot of times I fail but I’ve noticed if I don’t take time to put a look together, whether it’s casual or dressy, my emotions draw from that look. If I go out looking like I just rolled out of bed, then I feel tired and drag the entire day. If I put thought into my outfit for the day, I feel great, I feel confident. I learned this valuable lesson in an article I read in the now defunct Moxie magazine; she wrote about the importance of looking good and how we dress to special occasions shows respect to the celebrant. We show that we care by dressing up for them. I’ve always loved that article and still have that magazine to remind myself of this.
    Right now I do admit that I’m going through a rough patch, I’m 43 and I can’t seem to find clothes for me right now. Either, they’re made for very young women, very old women, or very rich women. Finding your website has been a God-send because I’ve slowly but surely have been re-building my wardrobe, I take more time to think about my purchases and I’m beginning to change my attitude about getting one pair of very good shoes as opposed to 10 pairs of cheaper shoes. It’s a work in progress…Thanks for your help!

  • Reply
    October 7, 2010 at 5:43 am

    Looking nice makes me feel good about myself, and that’s why I like to do it. Having said that, I don’t get to very often. It’s not due to a lack of money but a lack of time. In my opinion, looking good requires well-fitting clothes and combining those clothes and accessories into flattering outfits. I work full-time, have 2 pre-teen kids, a husband and a home. Shopping for clothes that flatter and trying on outfits are things I rarely have the time & energy to do. sigh….maybe one day.

  • Reply
    Karen Fleeman
    October 7, 2010 at 6:34 am

    Why bother? Sometimes I use my children and busy schedule as an excusse but now I say they are my reason. What message do I give my children if I only get dressed up when I go out? Are they not the reason? I also dress for my “charisma”. When I walk through a door I want to feel I look the best I can for right now. Sure I need to loose weight or get a manicure but I feel I still can have charisma with my attitude and smile. (I am lowering my sugar and upping my fiber and a manicure is scheduled. lol) I like to top off my look with alittle or a lot of bling. Thanks for your October 2009 dress camp.

  • Reply
    October 7, 2010 at 6:50 am

    I’m so loving this discussion! You guys are inspiring me once again! Thanks so very very much for expressing yourselves and keeping “beauty” alive.

  • Reply
    Diane Feldon
    October 7, 2010 at 7:20 am

    Unfortunately, we live in a society where some (many?) people are so self-centerd they don’t care what others think at all. No one should live life based enitrely on other people’s opinions, but what others think is important – in both business and social situations. People form opinions instantly based on how someone looks. It may be consciously or an unconscious act, but those first impressions last! “What is inside” should be the most important part of any relationship, but in reality that is completely influenced by the outside. It shows self-respect and respect for others. That should be the basis for everything from casual encounters to long-standing relationships. It does not need to take a lot of time or money — just a little thought and effort. It is equally important for stay-at-home moms, work-at-home careerists or out-in-the world adventurers. It needs to be a part of who you are!

  • Reply
    Melissa Rodgers
    October 7, 2010 at 8:57 am

    What great comments so far! We all have a different aesthetic, so it’s more than that. I see lots of ‘looks’ that I wouldn’t even dream of wearing myself but I always appreciate those that show some thought and creativitiy. Many have already raised the concept of respect. To me, paying attention to how I look shows that I respect myself and that I respect you. I believe we owe it to ourselves to ‘show up’ to life – and the benefits are tangible. Not only do I feel better and have more confidence, but I’m amazed at the response of those around me. Some may opt out, saying it’s not ‘natural’ – but humans have been adorning themselves for millenia. It’s fascinating to look at the breadth of what is considered beautiful across time and cultures. You don’t have to be a reflection of Madison Avenue but rather, let who you are inside shine through.

  • Reply
    Ann Tyler
    October 7, 2010 at 9:50 am

    For the women who think there is no time for looking well put together, here’s a suggestion that might help: When you take off your current day’s outfit, pick out what to wear tomorrow. Hang pants/skirt choice, tuck the hanger for the top or blouse inside your jacket or sweater (still on its hanger) so you can be sure the color and collars work together, and hang your accessories right around the neck of those hangers: scarf, belt, necklace. I even use small sealed bags with a hole punched in them to attach bracelets and earrings. Takes 5 minutes at most, and makes mornings go a lot quicker!

  • Reply
    October 7, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Interesting observations about Lucinda Williams. I loved “Car Wheels” and didn’t think that her subsequent work measured up to it.

    Carole King dresses well, in my opinion. She looks comfortable and her clothes seem to express her personality. It’s hard to believe that she’s 68.

  • Reply
    Junie Moon
    October 9, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Regarding the comment about everyone being well dressed for the Tony Bennett show; they were probably older adults. Tony’s fan base is mose likely older people, me included.

    I can’t understand why we have gotten so lazy about grooming. I don’t feel we all have to be in a lock step regarding style or fashion, but give me a break! Some of the stuff I see, even here in a small town.

    Living in a small town, I have sometimes been guilty of taking a chance and schlepped to the grocery store in my baggy sweats and bad hair. Every time, that is when I run on to someone I know, or see a woman my age who has taken the time to look halfway decent. How long does it take to slip on a pair of decent jeans and a crisp blouse, spend 5 minutes on your hair?

    Another thing is this not bothering to dress up for special occaisions. I have attended funerals where I saw cargo shorts, wrinkled t shirts and flip flops.
    I am going to make a request for everyone to dress up at my funeral. Forget the flowers, just try to look like you didn’t recently roll out of bed or get in from a beach vacation.

    After saying all this, I now have to go to the grocery store, so darn it, I have to change my clothes and check out my mirror image. Darn!!

  • Reply
    Anet Ahern
    October 9, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    on the subject of why I bother to dress up:

    1. It is fun – my job involves figures, being tough, business, finance…dressing up every morning is fun and creative
    2. It is showing respect for myself – I am important enough to dress nicely, I matter, and of course it is respectful to the occasion (as Junie points out about funerals)
    3. It gives me confidence – I often do roadshows and presentations as the only woman there, and dressing well makes me walk taller.
    4. People are often complimenting me on the way I dress and it makes me smile, it clearly makes them smile and we’re all just generally nicer to each other
    5. It makes it easier for me to accept myself when I dress my body well – how bad can wobbly thighs be when you have a flirty bohemian tunic with lots of fun accessories over skinny jeans and killer heels?

    do you really need more reasons?

    PS Brenda I have now figured out how to use the blog….so you can ignore my email!

  • Reply
    November 8, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    I love this discussion! I’m a 48-year old who is trying to revamp her look and her closet…reading the magazines (even the ones geared for younger women, like InStyle and Lucky…boy is it fun!!) But I do feel guilty sometimes combing through “beauty and clothing” materials when I feel I should be doing something more “virtuous.” Is it self-centered or vain to want to dress flatteringly and creatively for the first time in my life? I keep telling myself no, it isn’t. But I need more encouragement! I love what a poster said about about an outfit making us into a work of art…or even more of one than we already are. Help…keep that encouragement coming!

  • Reply
    Cindy Barron
    November 27, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Virginia, consider yourself fully encouraged and validated in taking the time to learn how to dress flatteringly and creatively. As Brenda says, you may miss out on the life you’re meant to live if you don’t dress for who you are on the inside. I’ve had the same guilty feelings you’ve had but now realize it’s a virtuous thing to do for yourself! Keep up the great work!

  • Reply
    Charlene R Conner
    June 12, 2019 at 7:28 pm

    Brenda, your blog has changed my attitude about work or outside style. I am expressing my Extrovert style that I avoided before. Thanks for your encouragement!..BTW, I still talk to my (passed) parents, also!

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