Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged (or Ye Be a Fashion Blogger)

Imagine this scenario: You've just gotten engaged. Your fiancé has presented you with this little trinket

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and you are thrilled to shiny bits about it. Every time you look at your sparkler your heart does a little shimmy of joy. When you meet up with some friends and share your exciting news, you are of course wearing your treasure. Now imagine I say to you, "Oooh, let me see your ring!" You blush and raise your hand to eye level and I inspect it and make approving cooing noises and then I say,

"That's really beautiful, but I would never, EVER spend that much money on a piece of jewelry."


This would take you aback a tiny bit, non? As a matter of fact, I think a lot of folks would consider it downright rude.

But I hear it aaaaaaall the time. (Or at least a variation.) I heard it again this weekend.

"Those are really great, but I would never, EVER spend that much money on a pair of shoes."

(To which I usually want to respond, "Who asked you to?")

This happens to me pretty frequently. Someone compliments my shoes, asks me where I got them or what brand they are, and then when I say something like, "Saks" or "Manolo Blahnik," that's what I get.

Sometimes it's said in tones of wistful, wishful longing. But more often it's uttered with that chilly contempt most people reserve for politicians whose views they find particularly heinous.

What is that? Are they defending themselves or condemning me? Or both? And who asked them, anyway? What am I supposed to do -- lie about my shoes?? I don't get it. I mean, I really feel that way about the diamond ring. Yes, it's absolutely gorgeous, and I'm happy for everyone who has one. And I am completely uninterested. Just not my style. But pretty much every married or engaged woman I know (I'm 42 -- I've looked at A LOT of other peoples' engagement rings) has one and I have never once said the above.

There are a lot of things I would never spend "that much money" on. Great big four-bedroom houses -- not interested (even small two-bedroom houses -- I'm an apartment gal). Big lumbering SUVs -- puh-lease. Brand-new state-of-the-art shinycool cell phones that you have to stand in line to buy. Golf clubs (sorry, that's a hobby that completely eludes me). Any sort of computerized gadget that requires a joystick. Gambling in Vegas (gambling anywhere, really). Season tickets to any sporting event (seriously, kill me), much less traveling cross-country to a game held in a "Bowl" (seriously, kill me now). Zippy English sports cars whose second home is at the mechanic's. Eighteenth Century furniture (death by curlicue, anyone?). Purebred dogs or cats (I'm pro-mutt -- go to the pound!). Vacations to Disneyland or any of its offspring. Ginormous flat-screen TVs that take up an entire wall of your living room (I don't need Surround Sound McLaughlin Group, thanks). And so forth.

You know what I would spend "that much money" on?

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(Roger Vivier. I don't even know how much those sandals cost. And I don't care. Oh, mon dieu... the beauty! My heart actually stopped when I saw them.)

Or this:

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(Alexander McQueen. God as my witness, I would step over your bleeding body to get my hands on this dress.)

You know why? 'Cause it's my money and that's what I love.

Guy Trebay published a really thought-provoking article in the New York Times this weekend about the general scorn and disdain in which fashion is often held by so-called cultural arbiters. Now, I'll grant you -- I'm not exactly saving lives here. But if I described what I do to someone and substituted the word "art" for "fashion" ("People consult me on what art to buy," "I help people organize and maximize their art collections," etc.), it would never occur to them that what I do is frivolous. People are impressed by art historians. People are puzzled by fashion historians. But I defy you to find someone as interesting, articulate, intelligent, respected and engaged & engaging as my hero Harold Koda, the curator of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

But for now I'm not going to bother trying to impress you with my theories of fashion's cultural, historical, and sociological relevance, although I believe them fiercely.

I spend a bucket o' money on my wardrobe. I admit it. I don't happen to believe that is a moral failing, but some people seem to. Why do you think that is?

It's not going to stop me, of course, and most of the time it doesn't even give me a moment's pause (well, unless I'm paying my credit card bill, but that's a different topic). We all have our quirks, and that's mine.

Just please - stop judging me & my shoes!

Photos: Kiamedia, Style.com, Net-A-Porter.com

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lauren said...

There seems to be a stigma attached to dressing yourself well. Sadly, I feed into this, and feel awkward walking out of the house 'properly' dressed, even though I enjoy fashion. I'll also mention that I'm 17, and I'm sure this has a lot to do with it.
However, I personally see nothing wrong with spending money on the things you love. The problem with fashion is that it is something you wear daily, something you show off, even unintentionally. You don't have to go out of your way to get noticed, which people assume is your purpose, and are insulted. Therefore labels get attached, "materialistic", "self obsessed" etc.
Spending money always gets translated into an off centre moral compass, for reasons that are beyond my mind. In a society raised as consumers, spending your money "frivolously" is frowned upon. I'm interested in the logic behind this.
Anyways, I've digressed. I agree, it's your money, it's your passion, and there is no need for people to treat you rudely because of that. Now if only I could gather up the courage to wander out in heels...

Anonymous said...



I have lived through that scorn many many times! All my girlfriends have become the typical fashionable housewives, and I have yet to marry. I am 33 for anyone that is curious. I love louboutins and choos and blahniks (sometimes) and esp Guiseppe Zanotti. My business also permits me to travel to places like Japan, Italy, and France where I explore the artisan created styles and designs and then return excited to display them in the US and are judged by how much they were.

"Where ever did you buy those shoes, they're so interesting!"

"In italy"

"wow. How much did you spend?"

"That's not important...blah blah blah etc etc etc"

ANd then it ends with me being so pissed off with the situation that I resort to changing the subject.I don't judge that you've wasted away as a mom and gained 20 pounds while I strain to keep my size 3 figure and have money reserved for fine apparrel while they are buying things for children. I don't judge them! Hell! I've even bought designer onesies for the toddlers and dresses for the older kids on events and birthdays! Can you really judge me for putting an extra effort into shoes and clothes and jewelry?

This all just reminds me of the truly amazing episode of Sex and the City "a woman's right to shoes"

Girl! I wear my silver Manolo Blahnik Sedaraby heels with pride and I damn well won't let them get stolen physically, or allow you to steal the pain and the sweat and the effort I went through into purchasing something I love! The satisfaction of wearing those heels you've longed for the first time out is just undescribable. It is none less than pure ecstacy and I am sorry that you have not experienced something so magical. Maybe if I'm nice, and if you have the same size, then I'll let you try them on and walk around for a little bit, but that's only just a "maybe"

Anonymous said...

Take out the word shoes and put in jewellery and I get the same response. Said in whiny voice " no one needs that many rings" well that is true but I enjoy stones immensely. They give me a great pleasure looking at the colours , I do not buy them for others to look at or to be ostentaious. So once again we agree. I have no engagement ring or I have hundreds depending on how you look at my collection. I feel almost that way about shoes and other clothing . And for sure I agree about your description of life in the city. We have no van's no bungalow's , Horrible I know but no lawn, LOL ,no fancy stuff. Just a simple loft style of a house , sorry folks I like small and artsy. Very few people understand our house in fact , "what is a Mezzanine doing hanging over the living-room?" is what I hear a lot , I mean who would be dumb enough to put in a room that cannot really hold say a bed or a TV? LOL , well I did ,since I designed the house. But to all of you with nice diamond rings I apologize to you I am sure you love your diamond as much as I love my gold & colour stone rings & things .Just please try not say "HOW much is that all worth?" it is not conventional but it is my life and choice K

VIverras said...

There's an article in this month's Vogue that's on this very topic, about women who buck the societal stigma attached to looking as though you've expended some effort on your appearance. It made me sniffly, seriously, just to know there were other women out there that felt the same way I do (even though I'll never be able to have vintage Valentino gowns in my closet, waiting for the perfect place to wear them. *G*)

Holls said...

I get the 'shoe nonsense' all of the time too, but I am an art dealer.
AND I sell the kind of contemporary work that can actually be resold at auction, and makes its way into museums, not neo-hudson river school or wanna-be impressionist crap thet isn't culturally significant.
I get way more deranged and unthought-out flack about that than I ever get about my Louboutins.

Rhiannon said...

I can't decide whether that was genius or poetry. Both, I think.

Alexandra said...


KarenG said...

Oh, I so agree with everything you said. First off, why do people think it's okay to even ask how much you've spend on something? Such rudeness!And secondly, when did it become so politically incorrect to spend money on oneself? My husband and I don't have a fancy house, and our (one) vehicle is 10 years old. But, we don't have children and we travel a lot. We've been places that our friends will never see. Because that's what we like to spend our money on. Our friends have newer homes and newer cars, and most have kids. I certainly don't judge them for spending money on those things.I think it's all about envy, and like lauren said above, it (absurdly) gets turned into a question of morality.This is also why most of my friends don't know about my perfume hobby :)

Princess Poochie said...

I get the same thing about my shoes. When people ask about the cost I usually say something along the lines of "An obscene amount." No excusing it or myself away.

That's why I don't have kids. I'm selfish and I like spending my discretionary income on me.

Deal with it.


Karen said...

God, people are rude.

I don't like that diamond ring myself, but then it takes all kinds.

I don't make a lot of money, and I admit I don't spend much on clothes. I spent more than I probably ought on digital cable with DVR, a Netflix subscription, and DVDs to own. My brother looks down his nose a little at me. Sometimes it makes me feel guilty. But my best friend has said, "You don't grant yourself a lot of luxury, Karen--this isn't that much in the general scheme of things," and he has never allowed me to cut this stuff from my budget.

No, I can't justify buying Blahniks myself. But I thank heavens that YOU do, Spy, because I get to come to your site and dress vicariously.

We all make our priorities in life. The least we can all do is respect others' choices.

GOD, people are rude!

Colombina (Marina) said...

A M E N !

jonniker said...

I actually see it as a moral failing on *my* part that I don't spend that much money on clothes/shoes, not the person who does. So if I ever make a comment like that, it's usually self-deprecating, because God knows, I spend money on other ridiculous things.

I wish I could get over it and spend the money on clothes and shoes, or worse, if I had ANY IDEA what I was doing in that area. I HATE that I'm constitutionally averse to taking care of myself, like it's wrong, which it isn't.

Anonymous said...

I will never forget the time we (my dh & my kids) were visiting my in-laws in another state. For amusement one afternoon they took us to the Mall of America. We were a pretty large group--my MIL, some SILs & BILs, & their kids. When we bopped into Nordies, I couldn't resist a quick look at the handbags. "Oh My GOD!" exclaimed one SIL (who is actually a very nice person). "I can't IMAGINE spending $350 on a purse!" My husband leaned over and whispered in my ear: "She must not have a very good imagination!"

Anyway, the rest of them all chimed in with her. They all boasted loudly that they'd never spent more than $50 on a purse in their entire lives. They walked around the dept, gawking at pricetags. "Why looky-here, this one's ONLY $275!"

Of COURSE I didn't go to the shoe dept with them! And all I could think of was that these people would STONE me if they knew how much my underwear cost.

These people--all of them-- have a lot more money than we do... and some of the things that they spend it on are things that we just aren't ever going to be interested in spending on (like SUVs, and the huge TVs--we don't even get cable, that's how weird we are). I'm not a shopaholic or a spendthrift. I was just brought up by my mom to believe that buying certain items cheap (like bathing suits, shoes, purses) is a false economy, and that everybody deserves to have some items of beauty and quality.