Bad Fashion Idea: Halloween Edition

People, repeat after me:

Just because Macy’s sells it doesn’t make it a good idea.  Just because Macy’s sells it doesn’t make it a good idea.  Just because Macy’s sells it…what happens?

It’s not always a good idea.

Take, for example, these:

Applique kitty-and-collar T's: wrong on so, so many levels.

Quelle horreur! Applique pumpkin's candy brains are spilling out all over the place!

You may think, oh, she’s being so hard on the cutie-patooties, and they’re just fun shirts.  WRONG!  Your clothes are an outward expression of you, of your personality.  Your clothing speaks to the people around you and triggers mental associations regarding lifestyle and held values.  Don’t believe me?  When you see someone in tie-dye, do you think “hippie”, or “banker”?  Mmm hmmm.  Thought so.

I admittedly hold a pretty low regard for thematic applique and if applique is to be used, it should be used judiciously.  It’s a golden opportunity for the craptastic to take control, since people seem to misguidedly think just one more sequin–one more section of gold embroidery–one more sparkly lollipop will turbo-boost the beauty of the shirt from meh to dear baby Jesus if I can just touch it my life will be complete.  And these shirts, pictured above?  Are craptastic, though I worry that their availability in Macy’s elevates some sense of street-cred.  People, I am here to tell you, it does not.  Take, for example, the shirt with the kitties.  Aww, elegant kitties with diamond collars and nosies, what could be more precious?  You may think it’s a sweet shirt, you may think it’s Halloween-y without being creepy, but what that shirt actually tells people is that the wearer is a cat person who may have crossed the line to crazy cat lady.  Everyone who sees this will, instinctively, suspect that your home smells vaguely of salmon and pee.  Don’t do that to yourself.  And even if you ARE a cat person, do you want to tell the whole world that your house smells and your best friend is Mr. Snugglenut McPurrston?  Put the cat shirt down, and walk away.

As for the pumpkin shirt…harmless?  Not.  We seem to think that smaller appliques are more tasteful, and not as much a blight on society as the much-beleaguered Christmas sweater.

Judging by how excitedly proud she looks, my guess is she made this sweater herself.

While this is clearly a travesty, the pumpkin shirt is not far behind it as a carrier of social pox.  Yes, pumpkins are cute and yes, pumpkins are delicious, but I resist every urge–no matter how keen–to bedazzle them and wear them as clothing, with or without candy spilling out of them.  So why are they OK to wear when they’re 2-D and sparkly?

In his book Class: A Guide Through the American Status System, author and unapologetic crank Paul Fussell discusses “legible clothing” and the psychological impulse behind wearing them.  He calls legible clothing “totemistic” and says, “By donning legible clothing you fuse your private identity with external commercial success, redeeming your insignificance and becoming, for the moment, somebody.”  He also talks about items printed with images of Mozart or the logo of The New York Review of Books which say, “I am civilized” and “I read hard books”.  The pumpkin–probably about the size of a fist, sparkly and bright orange and front and center on the shirt, laughing as candy corn and lollipops spill out of its severed lid–wants to say “I am fun”.  Instead what it says is, “My identity is a gaping hole.  I am desperate to be seen as whimsical, yet refined.  Please notice me.”  It is only slightly less sad a plea for notice and identity than this, found on Etsy, blasted hellscape of poorly-imagined DIY clothing ideas:

Behold the monogram-in-the-candy-corn shirt!

Which of course does not say to the world, “Happy Halloween”.  Instead it says, “My initials are A-G-D, and I will tell you my entire name and everything else you want to know if only you’d ask, please ask, please?”  Monograms sort of freak me out in their attempt to solidify an identity–do you really need to make a distinction in the home as to which towel is yours?  Which tie clip?  Which pair of undershorts?

(Side note: but be sure to check out Regretsy, which highlights the worst of Etsy.  Hilariously.)

Maybe you are, indeed, a whimsical, elfin sort of person and so, for you, sparkling pumpkins on your shirt would be appropriate.  But the rest of us have to bear in mind that communication is something like 55% visual and 7% actual words coming out of your mouth (the remaining 38% is your vocal tone and inflection and volume and such), so if you choose to have legible clothing, make sure it sends the message you want it to send.  If I were to buy a shirt for Halloween this year, it would be this one:

Can you play "find the hidden messages" in this shirt?

Which says, “Smartass, aware of political culture, horror movie fan who doesn’t want you to get too close.  Notice me but stay away.”

All clothing is a statement about who we are and what we are about.  All legible clothing has an element of “notice me” built in as we become walking billboards for companies and our own insecurities, and I have shirts with phrases and shirts with images and bags with logos like any of us do.  We all understand things being appropriate (or not) for places; we know not to wear super-short skirts to work (or ever if you’re out of your twenties) and that a tux is out of place at a baseball game, unless you’re getting married at one.  We understand that people make value judgments about what you wear (“Those shoes are falling apart, why doesn’t s/he buy new ones?  Must be a miser, or super-lazy.”).  So we owe it to ourselves to think about what we project when we put on clothes.  Do you want to project self-confidence, or do you want to project that you’re an insecure attention hound?  Remember, Macy’s (and any store that sells such clothing) doesn’t love you and only wants to separate you from your money.  If it has to exploit your insecurities to do so, that’s fine with them.  Is it fine with you?

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15 responses to Bad Fashion Idea: Halloween Edition

  1. Amy

    This is why I like Japanese t-shirts with english words spelled totally wrong and nonsensical english phrases using letters as mere design elements. This way, you get the style impact of the graphic design, yet you get totally befuddled by the non statement. To me it’s another sign of Japanese superiority and genius. While I do feel crafty applique holiday shirts (and most home decor kitsch items of similar nature) are depressing, I try to realize that to some…they’re just “cute and fun” and then I try to breath and let it go…until the next one comes along anyway. Many times it’s the unflattering silhouette and color real estate (big and boxy and orange comprising 30% or more of your body ratio) of the garment that helps push it over the edge to “eye sore”. It’s hard to say which applique, big or small, is worse in those moments.

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    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Yes, there is a contingent of “cute & fun” that I don’t want to totally disregard, but for the most part, what is it that makes people want to display their holiday vigor at all times? And that goes for pretty much every holiday I can think of. I can forgive a lot of the holiday bling, but when your visual center is taken up by some showstopping thing? That is bedazzled AND bright orange? You’ve got to draw a line somewhere.

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  2. Burton

    I believe my biggest peeve is toward those who want to buy fashion items to be a walking billboard.
    “Hi! I paid 50 bucks for a common t-shirt so that I could have an oversized polo player on my chest.”
    Not only do I see a slave to fashion and the need to fit in, I also see a “sucker”.
    As for cats, where can I find this Mr. Snugglenut McPurrston?

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    • beyondpaisley – Author

      I couldn’t decide if I wanted to name the cat Snugglenut McPurrston or Purrston Howell III. Still not sure I made the right decision.

      You know, like I said, I do have shirts with logos and images and words. But for those who, upon reading this, wonder, “Well, she’s got that shirt with the sequinned snowflake, so what does that mean she thinks she is, the Snow Queen, or something?” The answer to that is, yes, yes, I fucking do.

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  3. JP

    Well, I would never wear a shirt with bedazzled cats (now jammies, that’s another story!). But you do have to give me a heads-up if I start to cross that cat-pee-and-salmon line. I worry.

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    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Oh, dear God, the collared sweatshirt. *sob* Tell your friend I’ll be stealing the term “Seasonal Accessory Disorder”, because it is AWESOME. XO

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  4. Aleece

    This made me laugh out loud! I think you made the right choice with Snugglenut McPurrston. Genius! And there is no doubt that you, my dear, are the Snow Queen.

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    • beyondpaisley – Author

      You are too kind. She said imperiously. LOL! Thanks so much! I should have known you’d *get* a blog about clothing, my fabulously attired friend. 🙂

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  5. Megan L.

    My mother has discerning fashion sense and worked in an elementary school for many years. I got a kick out of listening to her rail against co-workers who went nuts for embellished holiday wear and appliqued denim jumpers (lots of apples). I wonder if teachers of young children are more likely to have poor fashion sense, or if otherwise sensible women take leave of their aesthetic sensibilities after too much time in the K-5th grade classrooms.

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    • beyondpaisley – Author

      But WHAT ABOUT HOW IT AFFECTS THE CHILDREN??? What about the damage inflicted on the kids who have to look at these clothes during their formative years, tacitly being given permission to think bedazzled apples on your clothes are A-OK? All my compassion to your mother, whose sense of fashion seemingly did not diminish with exposure to K-5 classrooms. I confess, I worked in a clothing store a (long) while ago and sold my share of Christmas sweaters with “lights” hanging off the sleeves and I couldn’t help but think…you know you’re gonna put someone’s eye out with those things, don’t you?

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  6. Amber

    I will never be able to look at my mother’s cute bunny, smiling pumpkin, dancing santa claus (or any of the other array of similar sweatshirts) quite the same again……though it does explain a lot. Thanks for the insight – I think. By the way, is there a cure for this Season Accessory Disorder? Or are those strickened, doomed to live with the gapping hole identity and major fashion faux pas ’til the end of their days?

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