WIWs: Double-edged display

I am back to reading a few blogs, and notice my response to a certain genre. What I Wore posts or Instagrams are fraught for me. Sometimes I snarfle them like a little box of truffles and sometimes it's an eye roll and my god why did I waste ten minutes of my life on this?

My favourite WIWs often include handicrafts: a gorgeous piece of knitting or a jacket made from recycled fabric.

Usually, there's a chorus of admiration, a kind of gospel song call-and-response, but for outfits, not Jesus. Like finds like, so the rockabilly gals celebrate sequined skirts in another corner from where Duchess of Sussex devotées purr over lady coats, and never the twain shall tweet.

Sometimes a WIW is so utterly anodyne that I feel relief-dipped boredom. I lived in a version of what she's wearing—sleeveless cotton top, jeans and sandals—all of our blazing-hot summer:



Not all of us are sharply put-together. But then again, some are:

Sophie Fontanel on Instagram

And that's more inspiring to me, because Sophie says it's all vintage stuff!

But I've got to be careful. Like that little box of truffles, over-doing WIWs can do damage—so I pick and choose.

I don't read WIWs that are heavily oriented toward sponsored goods. Whatever the price point, the heart of that, if it has any, is consumption, display, and a stoking of the need to repeat the cycle. I can't tell you how many times I've read the comment, "I need to look for one of those." And yeah, where did  Sophie find that pink skirt?

The wearer poses prepared for scrutiny and positive comments, except for one woman who posted a hilarious WIW on her mistakes. (I wish I could find it again.) The WIW image asks to be assessed, just as text asks to be read. (My perspective is lost on anyone under 35, who cannot remember life without intense documentation.)

WIW devotées say they learn how to dress. I haven't found that so; even if the subject has the same build, she usually has a different lifestyle, budget or taste. The "How to Wear" feature in The Guardian is more useful to me.


One of my favourite bloggers said that as a result of reading WIWs, she realized she'd fallen into an unconsciously competitive mind-set and used others' purchases to justify her own—and so, she cut it out.

Once freed of the keeping-up urge, a reader can revel in the lustrous silver lining of WIWs (and What They Wores, shot by street photographers): an assertion of wearing what you dig.

The people Scott Schuman shoots for The Sartorialist display a colour sense that feels both "Why not?" and "Oh, wow!" I will pause to study, purely in the interest of research, a shot like this:

Photo: Scott Schuman, The Sartorialist
The teal and yellow! The red briefbag! And I do like the look in his eye.

I enjoy WIWs less than spontaneous shots of a person going about his or her life (and I grant that a WIW can show the very same outfit).  In some cases, the Instagrammer is paid to shill a brand or vendor, a tactic transparent as one of a certain First Lady's evening gowns.

And from that, I will certainly look away.












Comments

Laura Jantek said…
WIW and OOTD posts strike me often as amusing. Look at the poses , the artfully cleared background etc. BUT what are these folks off to do??? Walk to gym class? Lunch with friends? Mop the floors??? Street style shots much more fun! Especially from countries other than my own. If I do spend time on these IG accounts it usually reminds me to wear stuff I already own! Biggest challenge for me is to wear what we’re my work clothes every day now that I am retired. Work clothes were not formal— university setting but one still wore work clothes and changed when one got home. So enjoy your blog
Madame Là-bas said…
I find that I am disinclined to read WIW posts that are sponsored. As 65-plus woman, my needs are quite simple. I do enjoy travel packing and capsule wardrobes but the investment in a basic wardrobe can be significant so I'm not changing my basics every year.
I enjoyed your vintage shopping in Paris posts and my daughter (consignment queen) and I visited lots of small consignment shops.
I've never mastered clothing blogging myself because I'm self conscious and lacking fashion photography skills. I do like to be reminded to look at what I already own.
Unknown said…
I've been thinking about the blogs I read a lot lately. Yesterday I found myself wanting a marigold tote, and then I thought why not a wine tote? Wine is "in" isn't it? The blue one was such a good price as was the pink one and the green looked so rich over at "x's" blog... I don't like the way I am left feeling dissatisfied with what I have and wanting MORE!

The WIW posts seem so vain to me. My favorite blogs, like this one, feel like girl talk over a cup of coffee. -Lily
Duchesse said…
Laura Jantek: I've written some posts on the transition to a retirement closet (see "retirement dressing" in menu sidebar), but the one thing that never really made the leap successfully were work trousers, those deliberately boring ones that I wore with various jackets. I ended up donating all of them. Now I look for either jeans or a narrow, ankle length pair of trousers I don't feel "officey" in.

Mme Là-bas: I wrote about Paris consignment? I've forgotten. The only thing I remember buying in a Paris consignment shop was a pair of gloves. I am completely with you on not turning over a wardrobe. Basics are just that, no need to rebuy unless they look worn.

Lily: You describe the effect perfectly. There is no shame in being stimulated by beautiful objects and even wanting them. (Otherwise we would just use plastic bags, no?) It is when we no longer enjoy our own entirely wearable things that we edge into an acquisitive state that ends either in too much stuff or scary expense, or both. I know a few women for whom money is absolutely no problem. One buys very judiciously. The other one was told, gently, in Hermès, "You already have one of every model. Come back when there's something new."
LauraH said…
I gave up on all other blogs a while ago and don't miss a one. There was a time when several of those blogs were helpful but that time has passed. Now I look in my closet and I have plenty to wear and I've figured out the how-to-pack game. So it just got tedious...looking at a woman posing in clothes she bought and then a chorus of approving comments. As you say...call-and-response. It began to feel like being part of an ego trip. And I definitely noticed the should-I-look-at buying-that feelings that got stirred up. So I'll pass.
I agree with Mme La-bas - my needs in retirement have changed, as have my wants so I tend to view these with a large grain of salt as so many of them are really just advertisements or they smack of "LOOK AT ME"!!!!!
I much prefer street shots which show some creativity and aren't all pulled from designer collections. I may never want to dress like some of them but I can admire their vision and confidence.
Mardel said…
I did love this meditation. I occasionally still look at WIW posts, but follow only those who also post other things that I find interesting or beautiful, and not just objects, or whose blogs are more esoteric or interesting. None of us is one thing only anyway, and I admit that I can be tempted across a line if I spend too much time oggling and not enough just living. I do wonder what is left when life is too thoroughly documented and curated however.
Like many, I found such blogs useful at first, if only to counteract a kind of middle-aged and up dressing that is frankly garish. Thus looking at "French style", "strict" and a type of artists' and creatives' dressing that is not artsy-fartsy...

But they do eventually lead to coveting things one doesn't need and a look-at-me game on the part of the posters. There are gaps in my wardrobe, and I'm trying to find good things either new or second-hand that are good quality and meet my needs - especially a winter coat, something I never find attractive, but is necessary in a cold-winter climate. And skirts that aren't pencil-skirts (useless on a bicycle). But I've also given away several items that were too large or that I never wore, and will be taking some worn cotton items to our borough's recycling centre.
materfamilias said…
I have mixed feelings about this post because I agree with you in large part and, while I have a few in my IG roster, I visit very few blogs (fewer than 5 with any regularity) that feature What I Wore.
But I post my own "Outfits" (photographed in a poorly lit hallway mirror as I head out the door -- there's really no other spot in our condo that would work unless I wrangle my husband into photo-taking, and I can't care enough to make that happen). Why do I do this? Nothing to do with vanity or income enhancement (no monetising on my site), nor am I inviting either critique nor flattery (although being human, I'd prefer the latter to the former).
The way I dress is part of what matters to me, a small part, but an undeniable part of the life I'm choosing to share (selectively, yes, but still) on social media. I like to think that sharing occasional images of What I Am Wearing contributes to a fuller representation not only of me but also of women in general, women of a certain age more particularly (with the obvious "caveat emptor" that class and race and sexuality inflect my wardrobe choices as well). I worked in an environment (academic) which was inclined to judge as superficial a woman's interest in her appearance, and I still feel apologetic and embarrassed (to cringing point, sometimes, during a bout of 2 a.m. insomnia) - but also just a teeny bit subversive at daring to be an ordinary Senior (officially now! I have my orange transit card) who posts a photo of What I'm Wearing, despite my short and solid frame, mussy curls, and unenhanced skin. . .
For what it's worth . . .
Duchesse said…
materfamilias: When I wrote that WIWs that I like often include hand-made pieces, I was specifically thinking of your knits, and almost mentioned those posts. You also show things you have owned for years, blended with new finds, another approach I appreciate.
Duchesse said…
lagatta: Sometime I'm just curious about a peek into another lifestyle—what a Swedish or Indian woman around my age wears. Sometimes I get captivated by a person with really remarkable taste.

I have already written (and been roundly criticized for doing so) for my intense dislike of Advanced Style hyper-eccentric subjects. But that's simply my taste and there's room for everyone.

Coats! Thinking you may mean the kind worthy of our -20C blasts. Am sure you know 100,000 Coats and Jeans on St-Hubert.
I don't like that style either, but I was thinking more of overdecorated clothing one might find at certain shopping malls - bloggers from the US speak of Chico's but I've never seen it - don't think it exists in Canada.

Yes, I'm thinking of armour, not beautiful woollen coats - I had a second-hand mostly cashmere one once, a beautiful style, and later an Oxford grey loden coat. But I can't even think of that until I'm sure the moths have been finally eradicated. I can put pullovers or socks in the freezer compartment, but not a coat! Probably bargains this year at that shop, with the war zone on St-Hubert.

I have a friend in India (Kolkata) who is a history professor. She is from a Hindu background, but like many of her colleagues, prefers to dress in the salwar kameez, associated more with people (men and women, though the styles are different) from Muslim backgrounds. She finds that outfit much less constricting than the sari, beautiful though saris are, and also far more appropriate to her city's torrid climate than Western dress.
Duchesse said…
lagatta: I find both the salwar kameez and sari beautiful in their own ways, but am especially fascinated by the various sari styles, the regional variations. Many of my fellow travellers when in India had salwar kameez made for them. Sometimes tourists buy saris there, but I wonder how many of them ever got worn once home. I had a colleague years ago who always wore a sari, both at work and home. She was a Quebeçoise woman with no ties to India. She just liked them.
Liz Rice-Sosne said…
Well, I am an idiot. Before I understood what this was post about, I had to look up two acronyms WTW and OOTD. I find this blogs somewhat myopic. Then again I cannot seem to blog anymore at all. I have a poetry blog and I hung out with poets - but I cannot currently seem to write anything at all. I liked having a circle of friends who wrote. If I did write, I would like to writ about a variety of subjects. But how does one classify and hashtag a "variety of subjects?" That is a real question, desiring an answer. Thanks.
Liz Rice-Sosne said…
Whoops didn't review my post - mistakes.
Duchesse said…
Liz Rice-Sosne: A good guide to using hashtags: https://coschedule.com/blog/how-to-use-hashtags/
This will give you ideas for tagging your poetry or other interests.

I don't use hashtags because I do not post on the social media platforms where they are used- Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.
Liz Rice-Sosne said…
Thank you for the info. You mentioned somewhere the Sartorialist. Might I assume that you are familiar with Ari Cohen's "Advanced Style?"
Duchesse said…
Liz Rice-Sosne: I have written about "Advanced Style" here:
https://passagedesperles.blogspot.com/2011/03/50-style-eccentric-elegant-and-space-in.html

Please take a screen shot of the pearls in the "Wild-Dyed Draw" post as I no longer have the image, and a screen shot will give you an acceptable image.
Liz Rice-Sosne said…
Again, thank you for the screen shot info. Worked well. I wonder if you would not see Ari's work differently today?
Duchesse said…
Liz RIce-Sosne: I looked at recent posts and had the same response about eccentric style, for which Cohen has a fondness. I liked the choices of some, but the more costumey in the assortment (June 20, 2018 for example) are not pleasing to me... but then, my exemplar is Jane Birkin. And as before, I applaud women for wearing what pleases them.

re his newest venture, a tee-shirt, I would never plaster my chest with the message "Not Dead Yet"- and I wonder if the back says "But Repent Anyway, Just in Case".
Liz Rice-Sosne said…
Ha! As a little girl, I was made to wear Brooks Bros boys clothing. All 3 of us were made to do so - 2 girls, 1 boy. I hated it. I love clothing, although I am not a clothes horse. I found the brand Flax Designs in 1987 or so. Because I loved it so much I opened a store. Great price points and fabulous materials. Conservative. Unfortunately, the owner sold out and it is not the same today. The weave of the material (linen) made it. Although I tend to dress conservatively, I love Ari's women. I guess I see them as art. I have the book of Tziporah Salomon, someone whom he photographs a lot. Unbelievable!

You might like the brand Elizabeth Suzann (I hope that is spelled correctly). It today is my favorite brand.

The posts with the most