Let’s talk about vanity

This morning, I told my friends about a new pair of trainers I’d treated myself to. My innocuous comment resulted in this blog post when my friend admitted she hates her trainers. “The ones I have are bright pink,” she told me. “I know it’s vanity really, but I just hate pink.” She went on to say: “I feel conscious of them the whole time. I don’t need that much headspace taken up by my shoes!”

Well, quite.

There’s little worse than feeling self-conscious or irritated by what you’re wearing. When I did my style experiment back in 2015, I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. I felt so self-conscious and uncomfortable the entire day that I couldn’t fully concentrate on my job.

In order to focus, to do the work that matters to us, we need to be comfortable. In a physical sense, yes (I hark on about comfort a lot when helping clients declutter) but also comfort in our own skin. And that includes paying attention to what we wear.

“The way we dress is a silent way of communicating with the world. It’s how we tell people who we are before we get the opportunity to speak. And, historically, women haven’t always been given that opportunity.”

As someone who sees the value in personal style, I will debate anyone who says that caring about how we look is pure vanity. Besides, why can’t we admire an outfit or our make-up in the same way we’d admire art or a pleasingly cohesive design? The way we dress is a perfectly valid and creative way of expressing ourselves. It gives us confidence. It’s a silent way of communicating with the world. It’s how we tell people who we are before we get the opportunity to speak. And, historically, women haven’t always been given that opportunity.

Besides, who are these people accusing others of vanity? We have long been shamed for caring too much about our appearance, or for caring too little. All with the intention of keeping us small.

“She doesn’t make an effort.” “She’s high maintenance.” I don’t often swear on this blog, but I’ll make an exception today: it’s all bollocks. And let’s not forget that what’s considered attractive changes. The only way we can ‘win’ is to dress for ourselves.

I think the word ‘vanity’ is thrown about carelessly by those wanting to undermine others. But there’s nothing vain about wanting to feel comfortable and confident in your own skin so you can get on with the vital business of tearing down the patriarchy.

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