For those of us with a propensity towards fashion, our interests and aspirations are often criticized for being unimportant in a world where dresses, shoes and runway models are not nearly as paramount as the arguments over universal healthcare, climate change, or the ever changing political landscape.
Normally, I push these judgments aside with a quick eye roll and a shake of my head. I know just the movie to recommend to them…
I make an incredibly generalized statement when I say that I’m sure most of us have viewed “The Devil Wears Prada.” But for those who haven’t, there’s an iconic scene where Meryl Streep’s soul crushing-character, with hair styled in sharp edges and piercing eyes lined in black, completely obliterates the innocent and slightly snarky Andrea Sachs over the value of a particular shade of blue, causing her to embark on a bangs-producing transformation.
Aside from the sharp commentary on the trickle-down theory often used to describe the origin of fashion trends, the scene provides a great base for any fashion industry enthusiast, like myself, to use against attacks of intellectual snobbery from those “on the outside,” with a limited understanding of fashion’s importance to culture and society.
However, even after having used this argument and others constructed similarly on anyone who dared question the legitimacy of my dream job as a fashion editor, I found myself wondering from the always comforting floor of my childhood bedroom, “Am I wasting my time being passionate about something objectively frivolous?”
I am about to graduate from college with a degree in Fashion Marketing and Merchandising, a choice that wouldn’t have been possible without the calculated approach I took to get approval from my parents, who lovingly paid for my years of thread-count and buyer enlightenment.
This is not the same film that we reviewed above. We have instead a different plot with a fresh cast of characters. No longer are we following a beautiful Hathaway spinning in an endless orbit around the empire running “devil” in designer shoes. Instead our focus falls on me, a freshly-turned twenty-one year-old spending her parents’ life savings for the opportunity to join an industry that while glamorous and shiny, looks small in comparison to the literal life-changing school of nursing where my college roommate chose to place her ambitions.
So, in an attempt to make myself feel a bit better before I finish my time in school, I thought I would try my hand at rebuking this notion that fashion is frivolous by deconstructing the idea of frivolity itself.
I would argue that this overused fashion-targeting ‘hot take’ is useless when taking into account that society as it exists today is nothing but frivolous and overflows with excess in every facet.
Take for example the car industry. The only usage for a car at the most basic level is as transportation from point A to point B, and yet we see driveways filled with cars intensely modified to be technologically indispensable with bluetooth capability and bright neon paint.
But despite being able to find that this is the case with most modern luxuries, the critiques continue to roll in. Fans of lavish cars are often mocked and scoffed at by those riding around in a scratched up Chevy pickup truck, obviously superior based on the way they remain untouched by the need for such opulence.
Can we not go around in circles all day arguing over the value of beauty, structure and status? If we cannot vouch for the validity of any medium for which the goal is to elicit emotion, like with art, entertainment, or music, what does it matter that fashion and all who engage with it at a professional level are nothing but frivolous?
Fashion, like art and the other things I so elegantly threw under the bus a few sentences ago, are necessary for a life of value. Without them, we are merely existing, looking for meaning through the process of surviving another day.
I fear I will never stop myself from this back-and-forth self-inflicted identity crisis in which I devalue the one industry I’ve been a slave to since I was eight, but I know there is a purpose to the artistry worn on our backs and thus a purpose to my precious soon-to-be college degree.