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Emily Popek

March 6, 2014

In defense of 'ladies wearing pretty dresses'


Here’s a thought experiment for you: Imagine that you meet a young woman who says she’s “really into fashion.” How does this influence your impression of her? I’m betting that, if asked to describe her based on that comment alone, you might choose words like “superficial, shallow” or “vain.” 

Now replace the word “fashion” with “architecture.” Suddenly she doesn’t seem so superficial, does she? 

And yet, is our appreciation of architecture really so different than that of fashion? Certainly architecture also serves a functional purpose, but the same could be said for fashion. And it is not as though we admire the curving planes of a Frank Gehry building, or the elegance of a Victorian mansion, because of its functional utility. No, we enjoy great architecture because it is beautiful, or striking, or provocative, or graceful. We appreciate its aesthetics. But for some reason, when those same aesthetics are manifested in fabric instead of steel and glass, it becomes frivolous. 

You could argue that dedicating one’s life to aesthetics is not as “important” as, say, saving the whales. And maybe it isn’t. But I shudder to think of a world with no artists; with no one who is free to add beauty to our lives. And while I am most definitely not an artist, fashion gives me a way to express myself. And I’m a heck of a lot better at it than I ever was at drawing, painting and all the rest.  

When I was growing up, I always struggled to translate my vision into a painting, drawing or other medium. The final result, however aesthetically pleasing, usually fell short of what I had set out to do. But I can put together an outfit in my mind, and more often than not, the real thing looks just the way I imagined it would. That feeling of mastery is something I could never have as a painter. And I have to say, it feels pretty darn good.  

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Emily Popek
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