Is there any more shaming judgement one might make about our choice of clothing? (I think it's worse than ill-fitting, out-of-date, or cheap-looking.)
Yet while many of us live in fear that a clothing choice we make might be deemed over-the-top, others welcome the attention they get, the double-take they cause. The judgement that they look costumey rolls right off their back. Interesting, no?
As a child I definitely got the message that you should not dress in a way that calls attention to yourself. That kind of style was inappropriately flamboyant (read unmasculine), anti-social, even narcissistic. Of course, the term costumey to describe someone's personal style (or merely their outfit of the day) is very much in the eye of the beholder. What looks costumey to you might not look costumey to me, and vice versa.
The word costume itself suggests role playing (i.e., not being oneself -- as if each of us had only one), hiding, and/or trying to be something one isn't. But take it a few levels deeper and what is this really about? Our own anxieties about how others perceive us and our inability to control this? Our own discomfort with expressing to the world who we really are? Fear of being singled out, bullied, or not fitting in?
I think of my vintage blogger friends and acquaintances, most of whom have written about what it feels like to look different in a world of conformity: pictures taken without permission, being challenged for one's choice of attire, or not having the ideal body type for the styles they love and being judged negatively for it.
Today, it seems that more and more people (and not just women) are sewing from vintage patterns and wearing the results. Or they want to wear them but don't know quite how to pull it off without looking like they're going to a theme party.
There are so many bloggers, whose vintage style I greatly admire. Do they look costumey? Maybe sometimes. One might also call them trend-setting, creatively inspired, and confident.
I also think of some of the amazingly dressed people I often encounter at the Chelsea flea market, like journalist Lynn Yaeger (in fur below) or exotically attired Timothy John, one of photographer Bill Cunningham's favorite subjects. Every time I see them I think, Wow, they look amazing! But sometimes I wonder what it must be like to be stared at all the time or I judge them as superficial -- as if the way they dressed was all they were about.
All clothing is costume when you think about it (in fact the word costume was often used to mean a women's attire just a few generations ago). And to reiterate: one person's costumey look is another person's authentic self-expression.
But I'll go back to myself: I would feel too conspicuous dressing like any of the above on a daily basis. It works for the odd Cathy photo shoot, but even Cathy is usually in sweatpants, wife beaters, and flip-flops. In my normal life, I don't want to stand out. I want to look neat and color coordinated: nice.
Readers, is this just my own neurosis or can you relate to what I'm talking about?
Do you ever live in fear that something you wear might be labeled costumey by others?
Do you live in a place, or work in a setting, where dressing as "eccentrically" as you might like would not be welcomed and might even jeopardize your job or personal security?
Do you have fantastic vintage accessories in your closet -- mink scarves, Forties pancake hats, platform shoes worthy of Carmen Miranda -- that you fear ever being seen in public wearing?
Costumey dress style: YEA or NAY? (for you, or for others)