Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pondering What I Wore (WIW) posts

This is a post inspired by the wonderful Deja Pseu's post about her year-end wardrobe review. I left a comment which I've thought about since:

"I think posting WIWs or WIBs elicits positive comments from women who *adore* the thing, but it still is not right for the poster. It is extremely rare that a commenter will say, "Uh, I don't think so". They don't want to hurt someone's feelings or make us feel worse, because the thing's been bought.

I tried it once (not on your blog) and the poster got so defensive, I thought, Never again. So I now just say something like, "Enjoy!" (Do people want an opinion or just praise?)"

Wait a little minute, I said to myself, after writing that. The enjoyment of praise is only one motive for the WIW post.   

WIWs offer lessons. Women have always studied what other women are wearing for edification. "Oh, look how she ties a scarf; I could try that."  The writer might show how she pairs a years-old sweater with new jeans; this imparts confidence that we can do that, too. WIWs provide vicarious enjoyment: mother-of-bride ensembles, party dresses, what to take on safari–what fun!

Sometimes the writer seeks validation for buying (I couldn't resist this; isn't it cute?) Perhaps she's excited about a bargain and wants to show us her good luck.

Or she has found something she likes and wants to offer you that information, too. (Therefore, here is the Wolff & Descourtis fine wool shawl, which "E.A." asked to see after I named it as one of my five best buys of last year.)

The thin ice is when a writer seeks feedback (Which shoes look better with this dress? Should I keep this jacket?) I've noticed that responses  are sometimes more about the commenter's tastes than the writer's question.

It is here that I find myself challenged, on occasion. If think something's a mistake on her, I struggle with what to say. The real-life girlfriend can cry "No! Not that shade of red!", but should a commenter? I'm most likely to be candid when a writer receives all comments (short of nastiness) with even-handed consideration.

And how useful is my assessment, anyway, when so much is missing from the photo: the woman's animation of the clothes, her gestures, her personality? Haven't you ever passed several hours in rapt conversation and had no idea what your friend wore, once you parted?

Women's insecurities are ratcheted up to bizarre levels by the beauty and fashion industries– do we need more judgment? Or have we become accultured to constant assessment and competition?

When we face ourselves, as well as the camera, strive to please ourselves, rather than others, and feel beautiful in our own skins, regardless of the perfection of any outfit, then What I Wore is simply a record of us, on a given day, showing ourselves to the world. 


41 comments:

Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

Excellent post! I really attempt to use the WIW as a way to teach something that I have learned about myself through the outfit. It's funny...I have never thought of it as getting women to look like me...but I hope I am inspiring women over 50 to live life to its fullest and up their game. Sometimes I look back at a post and want to write...NO...what was I thinking. I have also tried to give my honest opinion when asked and it was not well recieved...sometimes I just do not comment. I do know that when I was not showing my face...others coaxed me out...many women want to see the WIWs and come to a blog for them!

coffeeaddict said...

This is one of those: "Should you tell someone they have bits of spinach stuck between their teeth?" dilemma.
Were it me I'd definitely like to know and the same goes for my blog. I always encourage honest feedback.
That said, it still stings when I receive a dissenting opinion.

Frugal Scholar said...

i had a similar experience: there's a tendency to validate what may, in some cases, be a shopping addiction. I am somewhat sensitive to that as a daughter of a self-avowed shop and return addict. Of course, I may be a thrift shopping addict myself...hard to tell.

I was curious about that scarf you mentioned. It definitely exceeds expectations! I did a wee search--is the only place you can see them at that Vivienne shop?

Tabitha said...

Oh this is all so very true!
I don't do that many nowadays, at first I thought it was a necessary part of blogging but I'm very uncomfortable in front of the camera. Already, I see the odd pic of myself flashing up and cringe!

déjà pseu said...

Very thoughtful post, Duchesse!

I think the value in WIW posts for our demographic (and why I finally relented and started doing them occasionally) is to get images out there of women who are not models or physically perfect or photoshopped or wearing something put together by a stylist. There's a hunger out there to see women we believe are Like Us, to be culturally visible. And to share ideas about how to make our wardrobes work harder.

I can often appreciate a certain WIW look, even if it runs counter to my own taste. If the poster is asking for feedback ("does this work?") I try to be constructive and offer a suggestion. And I appreciate honest, well-intended feedback on my own WIW's (and mostly laugh off the "drive by" snarky comments).

Duchesse said...

Pam: Showing our mistakes can be not only funny, but also comforting, b/c we all make them! Unfortunately gave away a candy pink sweater that made me look like a jet-puffed marshmallow before taking the photo.

coffeeaddict: There are so many personal styles out there; if someone is less than admiring, it's just her preference. However, when someone says "That skirt is not a great length on *you*" I really listen. Another's eye is very useful.

Frugal: There is a *lot* of validation for consuming, whether retail or secondhand. The shawl is from the much-loved, small Wolff & Descourtis' boutique in Galeries Vivienne, sold only there.

Tabitha: You're good at showing only a shoe, sleeve or detail!

Lynda said...

You look beautiful in your new photo. The scarf is so lovely with your hair and skin. I really like what deja pesu said about wanting to see other women like us and how they put clothes together.
Enjoy your day.

LPC said...

Oh this is such a large topic. I'm going to add only this: people like to see pictures of other people. When you think about what you might want to post, and then factor in what people want to see, pictures of real human beings always comes up on top. People are engineered that way. Why else all the stock photos of people for marketing content?

Lynda said...

You look beautiful in your new photo. The scarf is so lovely with your hair and skin. I really like what deja pesu said about wanting to see other women like us and how they put clothes together.
Enjoy your day.

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

I find those WIW or OOTD posts inspiring as we are all so different in our sizes, shapes, and clothing tastes.
I am really tired of seeing stick insect models that are 19 years old showing us fashions in the glossy mags...I want to see real women, wrinkles, pounds and all.

I may be quirky in this area, no apologies!

Jane W. said...

I agree with Pseu and LPC. People love to see photos of other people...and as someone who recently moved into a different demographic, I prefer to see photos of self-styled women of all ages, shapes and sizes.

materfamilias said...

What a beautiful scarf! I love the intricacies of the print and the rich palette -- bet it feels marvelous as well.
When I post WIW, I'm rarely asking for an opinion although I try not to be defensive when I get suggestions for improvement. Sometimes I know as I post it that the photo is showing weaknesses in the outfit that I couldn't perceive in the mirror. Sometimes I know the photo just doesn't convey what does work about it -- or how good it makes me feel.
Primarily, though, I'm simply Sharing. I believe we need more diversity of images of what women my age look like -- particularly in regards to fashion/style, and I decided I want to try to address that in my tiny way.
As well, quite pragmatically, I've found that readers seem to like those posts and I like readers. I think it's because what we wear reveals something of our personality -- well, duh! -- and it adds to what we know of our blogging friends.
I tend, generally, to be very careful about offering feedback even when someone claims to want it -- it's so very easy for that feedback to tap into insecurities and to be misread. On-line especially, I think we're still working out how to read context without all those facial and body-language cues.

lagatta à montréal said...

Firstly, I want to tell la Duchesse et toute la Cour ducale how much I've appreciated this pair of posts, as well as Une femme's cited post. And the thoughtful comments from everyone posting at these blogs.

In the previous post, I did think Duchesse was being too hard on herself - I think her record in wise but smashing spending was admirable this year, and indeed, my accountant (she works with mad, disorganised artists like me, the admirable soul) has reminded me that dry cleaning, for example, can be a business expense - not that I have a lot, but a woollen coat and boiled wool jacket I often wear for out-of-house work certainly do.

It takes quite a bit of skill to provide constructive criticism - and praise - while admitting one's own style and colour preferences. Pastel anything makes me want to run screaming in the opposite direction, and I have to remember that the colour pink can have utterly different connotations according to culture - in India, or in Mexico, just to cite cultures where pink is common without being infantile or saccharine.

I do admit that I was frightened by one style blogger's overstuffed closets and other storage - I have a poor child's tendency to hoarding and an artsty-farsty's tendency to literary, artistic clutter and have been working hard on weeding it out. And some seem to simply be buying too much.

The lessons, as Duchesse states, are very important, as there are so few available for women in mid-life or older. I'd add even fewer for those with limited means, but who have to look current for work. And in my case, for the kind of women who definitely do not want to look mumsy, suburban, or overly conventional while not wanting to look like a crafts show victim!

And personally, I'm very fond of uniform. I bought two identical merino v-necks on 60% sale at the Bay in the after-Christmas sales, and a pair of black petite boot-cut jeans, at a different store. Just hoping to get another plain gore skirt from a local-designer shop on avenue Mont-Royal - they only have print ones this season...

Murphy said...

Duchesse, I love your WIW posts! Even though you have a different shape and different coloring from me, you have exquisite taste and I can get good ideas about things to try with my own outfits. I agree with what others have said: I like to see real women in their clothes. It's partly because other women are middle-aged and imperfect like me, but it is also because most bloggers do not have the unlimited money of celebrities, thus I see it as hopeful that another woman looks good without spending millions. Gorgeous shawl by the way!

Duchesse said...

Pseu: I agree that WIWs are valuable, but the days when women had only images of models put together by stylists are gone, and no one requires us to buy and reading fashion magazines full of young, skinny girls in impossible to wear cltohes.

Before blogging we always had real women to look at, day to day. Now we have a vast stream of blogs documenting WIW- and these images in fact outnumber the media offerings.

The "be visible" rallying cry raises my suspicion, because I find real-life women entirely visible, except for those in burkas, and that's another matter.

If women past 50 (or whatever) are dismayed because "no one looks at me", my crabby retort is, "Not like they did when we were 20, you bet- and maybe it's time to accept it."

Lynda: Thank you; long a classic Winter, now think I might be a Late Fall or whatever that slightly shifted palette is called.

hostess: You might do as many other women have decided to do: don't buy those magazines. I take a peek @ hairdresser's sometimes. Some WIW posts inspire me, but overall there is only so long I want to spend looking at anybody's clothes.

LPC: I like some WIW s but have limited patience for blogs that are *only* WIW. There is a self-absorption and occupation with constant buying in those which turns me off. At the same time, I love other blogs that sprinkle WIW into broader issues and experiences, like yours.

Jane W.: It's fun, especially when the women are gifted writers like so many who comment here.

materfamilias: You are fearless in showing your less than perfect aspects, but also delight us with your inventiveness and I especially love your handknits.

Murphy: This encourages me to do a tiny but more, but at heart I am shy. But just got a new camera, a first step.

Rubiatonta said...

I agree with you, Duchesse, that it's hard to know what the WIW poster wants in terms of feedback. I feel most comfortable offering an opinion only when it's been asked for -- that's my rule in real life, too. It's not quite what Thumper's Mother suggested, but it works for me.

Otherwise, I find myself commenting on how the wearer seems to be feeling as a result of wearing what she's wearing. (If, of course, she's left her head on in the photo!)

And that scarf is gorgeous, so beautiful on you. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

déjà pseu said...

Duchesse, I'm talking more about *cultural* rather than personal visibility (and frankly, I'm glad to be flying under the radar of the kind of attention 20-somethings get. It's a big relief!) which to me means representation in various forms of media. What we perceive of culture so often is influenced by media, whether we like it or not (or consume it or not). For those of us living in urban areas, we *do* have plenty of opportunities to see women of all colors, sizes, ages, and styled in a multitude of ways. But I've read a lot of comments from women who say "no one in my town ever bothers to wear anything but sweats," or something similar, so for many people I think the internet and other media are an eye on the world of style. But when I want some inspiration as to how to jazz up a sweater and jeans, I'm more likely to find it online in someone's WIW than anywhere else.

Duchesse said...

pseu: For sure, I've been biased by living in large cities, with vast diversity. If I were isolated I'd definitely appreciate WIW posts more.

Projects like Visible Monday are attempt to create cultural change through the collaboration of many individuals, but there is something about the project that contains an off note for me. Their promotion of "visibility" is a little too close to narcissism for me, I don't need to raise my game further there!

Rubi: Yes, "if she asks" is the guideline. I still think some WIW is about our need for approval and attention and I don't mean that in a creepy way- it's a universal need though some have it to a higher degree than others.

Susan said...

Personally, I really like to see the WIW posts. They always make me smile, first, because it is fun to see the person behind the words I am reading, and second, I like to see the clothing people choose to wear. While I see my friends and many strangers dressed this way and that all the time, somehow it is different in the context of a blog that I regularly read. It's especially interesting when there is a story behind the photo---a new job to dress for, a party to attend, a new style of life to dress for. All are good in my book.

Duchesse said...

lagatta: Your comment about limited means struck a chord with me. So many WIWs show old mixed with new, recycled things, even things from a friend- just great!

Susan: Those are the kind I enjoy too.

Anonymous said...

It can't be easy to post photos of oneself for inspection (makes my knees knock to think of it) so--unless specifically asked for imput--I only comment to cheer. I really appreciate the bravery and generosity of bloggers like you and so many of the commenters here who share the search for a viable, vibrant personal style after 50. One "What I Wore" picture is more useful and heartening to me than a stack of fashion magazines. So thanks--and oh yes, that shawl was made for you, Duchesse: that very precise red...

C.

Susan Tiner said...

I wish readers would tell me the truth, as I want to learn about style and appreciate the feedback. I made a lot of mistakes last year, will certainly make less this year as I'm getting the hang of it, but still do want to know. I'm pretty sure "No! Not that shade of red!" applies to me :). That's a color I bombed a couple times last year. No worries, I pick myself up, dust myself off and keep experimenting.

I love fashion/style blogs for their diversity of ideas and images of real women.

Duchesse said...

Susan Tiner: I applaud your attitude!

Duchesse said...

C.: I'm not comfortable posting myself or my possessions often, but I am glad you find the exceptions useful.

laurieann said...

Before I even read your post I gasped upon seeing the lovely shawl. Completely gorgeous and beautiful with your coloring. It makes for a lovely photo of you as well. 100% honest. Scouts honor! {{This wasn't the point of your post exactly but a lovely shawl can easily knock me off topic.}}

Duchesse said...

laurieann: Thank you! I have a small collection; they provide a soft layer of warmth as well as fill my craving for textiles.

emma said...

I appreciate WIW posts when they are part of a blog's general discussion of designers and "useful" pieces. Often an EF sweater, for example, looks unexciting when laid out & photographed flat, but you get the idea of how it hangs on someone who isn't a size 6 in the WIW.
Some of us work in suburban workplaces where the fashion role models are few and far between. These fashion blogs and WIW are a godsend for those of us in our 50s who want our look to be polished and individual.

Duchesse said...

emma: Thanks; I especially like WIWs contributed by women who are not model sizes or shapes.

Anonymous said...

Well, I love WIW post and I do love ones with people not in their teen or 20s, with heaps of money, not skinny, not fitting the ideal etc 'cos I don't find these types of people to be visable in mainstream media. Yes, you see all sorts of people in 'real life' but a blog is nearly like a magazine article or something. It has a bit more 'official'ness or legitamacy or something...

Anyhoo, I don't think I'd ever post photos of myself, so I don't demand that you do! :)

Duchesse said...

Anonymous: Some fashion magazines- mostly one targeted at middle-aged women- feature "real women" from time to time, but they also look at what sells. Unfortunately that is InStyle with its parade of celebrity models.

Share my Garden said...

I find WIW posts fascinating, real choices on real women. However, when bloggers write asking for an opinion l don't think that a negative response is ever appropriate. I'm in my late 60's and don't expect to influence anyone with what I wear. Couldn't care less about 'age appropriate' - I'm old enough to do exactly as I please!

Duchesse said...

Share My Garden: You and I are quite different; I do pay attention to my age. My body and lifestyle (and,tolerance for spending too much on wardrobe) have changed. I'm 63; what looked OK at 33 or 43 no longer necessarily does; probably skirt length is the most notable, but then, I once wore them quite short ;)

Tamera Beardsley said...

So enjoyed the lively conversations, you seem to have struck a chord....well done my dear!

Mardel said...

I tend to have a really complicated relationship with WIW posts, most especially on my own. I think we like to share, and people like to look at people. I enjoy WIW posts on other blogs, but grow tired of blogs that are nothing but. And I am also weary of the politics of it, and of agendas although I have sometimes participated. My blogging, like much of my life, has been a big experiment to see how it turns out.

When I want advice I have asked for it, but mostly I post WIW posts just to share something. Sometimes I am successful, sometimes not. Sometimes my musings seem to get self-defensive and I look back at them and cringe. Oh well. We all have days like that. I still really hate seeing photographs of myself but posting them and maintaining my rather unfocused online musings has also helped me a great deal, in myriad ways. I've never really thought about as it as trying to get anyone to look at me, or to copy me, or even to inspire anyone even though I am often inspired by other people's outfits. I think they also help us to see the person behind the words, and therefore make more of a connection.

Anyway, the scarf is gorgeous with such rich colors! Thank you for sharing it with us, and how perfectly it seems to belong to you in the profile picture. Two different photos, to very different effect. Perhaps we as people are just programmed to want to see other people, that are references are more social than abstract.

Duchesse said...

mardel: Have mostly stayed away for WIW for myself, because of a desire for privacy and my feeling that I've not much to offer, b/ I am a "uniform" dresser. At the same time, I have so enjoyed your WIW posts, especially your sewing and knitting projects, and maybe you will even give us a glimpse of your new home. You're right, it does make a connection.

Louise @ cosmetic bee said...

What a great post! This is a very interesting topic and one that has been on my mind since I started posting outfit photos of myself. I really enjoy seeing WIW posts by other bloggers, as I like seeing what other women are wearing in real life, not what can be see in in a fashion magazine or a runway. There's always inspiration to be found from looking at other people's outfits. For my own part, when I post outfit photos, I'm always thinking about it from an artistic and design perspective, so I don't feel the need to ask for people's feedback - it's like my style diary and it's fun to share it with others.

barbara said...

Browsing through a LOT of blogs for a certain time I really got bored from the ones who only post WIW's.
I appreciate yours so much because of it's variety, but, I would like to see sometimes what you wore.
The scarf's colours are very exquisite!

Duchesse said...

louise: Can't say I'm inspired by most posts, not because I don't like the clothes, but because I already have enough stuff. It's a fun peek into other lives, like driving by an open window at night.

barbara: Thanks! I'll show my choices occasionally, but since it is mostly a uniform, not all that interesting. Also, we once had a home invasion. It was scary. I think it reinforced my desire for privacy, which I equate with safety.

barbara said...

Duchesse - I so understand.
Choices would be fine to see.
I like the idea of wearing a uniform which for me means environ the same as for you: well fitting pants, cashmere jumper and nice booties.
And, of course a scarf ravissant.

Anonymous said...

The scarf is magnificent, just wanted to say that.

Duchesse said...

barbara: Will do!

Anonymous: Thank you; it is a soft, light wool.