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Published:December 17th, 2006 04:35 EST
Are the Fashion Aware...Selfish?

Are the Fashion Aware...Selfish?


Fashion is an interesting concept indeed. Vogue published an article in their recent November issue on why we feel compelled to scrimp on some items, yet splurge monstrously over our budget on others (not necessarily so for the quality). Those who devote their lives to the fashion industry do so by facing the risk of being seen as shallow, perhaps a bit superficial, or even selfish. Runway shows have more glitz and glamour and good ol` advertising than your average BET video. Yet we clamor for them like soccer moms for the hot Christmas toy.  While we subject ourselves to credit card debt and visual bombardment, a faint voice wonders from time to time if we are losing the grip on reality. Sure, being able to piece together various designer`s collections to create one of your own (the closet) allows for a certain degree of shall we say pride. Perhaps the power is in the idea that we have let ourselves lose control, sacrificing to the fashion gods. 

Believe me, I know of few satisfactions in life that match up with the thought of stepping out of my abode knowing I look fab, even the cause for envy. There are so few certainties in life that when we finally know something, even if it is revolved around appearances, we suddenly feel secure. Dare I add, happy? If we aren`t breaking laws, minus the occasional fine line of Bad Taste, then who is to keep us from that happiness? 

Television today is riddled with shows like How do I Look? " or What Not to Wear " that may either represent a burgeoning entertainment industry, or a conscious America finely tuned to the difference between those who can regularly afford D&G, and themselves, who wouldn`t know D&G if it were thrown at them. 

Unlike popular opinion, the fashion sophisticates rarely give a hoot if you are in this class genre or not. Chances are if your personality does not speak for itself, not even Chanel can save you. Okay; we may argue that it`s at least worth the shot. After all, Chanel is Chanel! But aside from the completely affected, we`ll still be your friends. If you express an interest in altering your style IQ, most certainly your fashion savvy friends have or will aid you in this exploration. In my humble opinion, walking into a designer boutique where everything is consequently out of my price range and perfectly laid out is less fun than hitting every thrift store in town and finding the buried " treasures that someone was dumb enough to give up. Besides, oftentimes we buy expensive items simply to say that almost no one has what you have " and the same can go for thrift items. 

All of this is all well and good, but that doesn`t really answer the question about why we choose to live so based on appearances. Surely one has wondered from time to time if the trend items in your closet were really worth the money that probably could have been better spent on a vacation to Milan itself.

Couldn`t you have donated at least the monetary equivalent of one outfit to a starving community in Africa? Moderation is indeed key when shopping, but how likely are we to spread the wealth? Is it because we are Americas, or because we are obsessed? 

Positive psychology is a recent trend in the field; when introducing the course at Harvard, attendance jumped from about 350 to 855 in one year. The basic idea behind positive psychology is this: the pursuit of happiness. Who is, why are they, and how do we get there? Are we basically happy; if not, do we have the power to change this? Psychologists are studying the affects of certain exercises " on our happy outlook. Nothing like a day the gym, these can be as simple as listing three good things that happened each day. Through surveys and other such tests, the classes are also being examined to see if money really does buy happiness. The verdict? Almost too soon to tell without skewed results. 

But the very idea leaves one to ponder. Obviously Americas are grappling for a sense of wellbeing. Contentment and happiness are on the minds of young adults these days. Afraid that a year without school will leave them behind in the rat race, it is the rare child who decides not to attend college. The resumes of high schoolers and entry-level applicants are becoming more extensive, as we exert more energy into making ourselves appear as appealing as possible before our Jimmy Choo`s are spotted. Competition is fierce. Some young adults look to their baby-boomer parents and ex-hippie relatives and see them divorced, in a dead-end job, or without a retirement (backing) in sight. Struck into fear, those entering the work force have doubled their efforts away from this sort of future. In fact, one could say that young adults are doing the exact opposite of everything their parents may have done in their day. Drugs are faux pas; college is our choice and not the man`s ". 

In addition, where baby boomer`s advised frugal-ness, young people of the modern world advice splurging on yourself, because only you can ultimately make you happy, and you are the one most worth it. Perhaps fashion and all that comes with it is the new security blanket. Security for who we are, security to prevent the deadbeat future-spouse, and even a little social security, for even the most retired and tired trends can be sold on eBay. 

So while fashionistas alike undergo a degree of scorn for investing so much time into what some see as purely appearance-based, it can be argued that these people are missing the forest for the trees. Television series harping on the concept may not be a simple trend, but an alteration in the way Americans view themselves and the world around them. As positive psychology suggests, we are in control of our fates, and ultimately, our level of happiness. 

It is no longer wrong " to selfishly style ourselves if it brings even the most fleeting sense of self-esteem. A day in a gorgeous black trench with peacock lining a la Diane von Furstenberg, or a night networking " in Naheem Khan can prosper if properly directed to a successful job interview or important first impression. Employers and even potential dates today want the finished product of ourselves. 

Long gone are the days when women looked for rock-and-roll projects " to save. Men, too, view successful women less and less as a threat. Those who do what makes them happy, against all odds, are admired as strong and independent. We know what we want, and we want it now. And if that lies on New York Fashion Week`s hottest runway? Its one step to realize what is it that puts a smile in our hearts, and another to go for it with all our confidence.