How important is the opinion of others when it comes to your clothes?

by Sylvia

Grace jones
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The amazing Grace Jones. Photo credit

Style is very personal. Still, many women seem to be motivated by choosing clothes so they will be acceptable to others. I know that when I was growing up, the opinion of others of what I wore was very important to me. Which clothes you wore also determined in which ‘group’ you belonged. However as I have grown older, I care less about what other people think and rather go with my own instinct and style preferences.

But still, when I’m in a shop, I sometimes find myself wondering if I really should go for a particular purchase. This usually concerns the more riskier items, like the dress I showed you recently. You realise when you buy an item like that, that it will not appeal to everyone. So how important is it to buy wardrobe items that are deemed stylish by a lot of people?

I suppose that is what celebrities often ponder as well when going to special events. Many play it safe and go for elegant black dresses. They will never make it to the best-dressed list, but at least they will not be on the worst dressed list either. But some celebrities take risks. They will sometimes pay off and become the style star of the event, while at other times, they may end up on the worst dressed list ,since their choice was too fashion forward. This happened to the most amazing style icons like Cate Blanchett and Gwyneth Paltrow.

But let’s face it, most of us are not celebrities, so we don’t need to fear that we are being outed as worst dressed. Yet, many of us would like to get compliments for their outfit and like to be been seen as a woman with style who ‘never gets it wrong’. So what to do?

Here is how to play it safe:

  • Don’t choose too much bold colour
  • When in doubt go for the trusted black and white combination
  • Don’t go for shapes that are a bit outside the norm
  • Go for clothes that perfectly match your body type and choose an outfit that flatters
  • Keep it simple

And here is what the risk takers do:

  • Go for unusual shapes
  • Go for styles that are not always the most flattering but are certainly the most interesting
  • Pick bold colours and pattern combinations
  • Go for the latest fashion items
  • Go out in something completely unique

Which camp are you in?

As for me, I feel I’m part of both. There are certain situations where I like to play it safe. In business meetings for example, I usually opt for something neutral, that I know will not upset anyone. I will do the same if I’m in a bad mood or feel less confident and don’t want to get noticed too much.

But I also really like to take risks. I like to wear outfits that are different or come up with combinations that others haven’t thought of. Or wear a hat when I know that noone else will. I need to be in the right state of mind, but when I’m confident and in love with my outfit, I don’t really care what anyone else thinks. As long as I feel good about myself in the outfit, then that is all that matters. In those situations I delight in wearing something that noone else has and the clothes, jewellery or hat may even become a topic of conversation.

I would love to hear your view on this. Do you care what others think about your clothes?

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Suzanne

What an interesting topic. I have so many feelings about this. When you are young and in school the most important thing in the world is to “fit in”. But as we mature and become more confident it is fun to develop our own style and to be truer to our core selves. The key word is confidence though. Some of us never quite feel brave enough to be a style leader and playing it safe is more comfortable. But I think if you have a lot of self-confidence and are not afraid to be different and if you wear any outfit without being self-conscious (Lady Gaga) I think you come across as a trend setter and people (even the ones who would never wear the look you have on) don’t question you. There are many things that complicate this though. Certain social groups have “rules” that you must not break if you hope to be a successful part of them. I am thinking of country clubs or even a college fundraising board I worked with. I did not dare show up to a lunch/meeting without a suit with a skirt at the top of my knee and hose with closed toe pumps! And if I wore denim to the club – I would not have gotten through the door. One club was so snotty that there were certain dining rooms you could not be seated in if you did not seem appropriately dressed. It is exhausting! Then I lived in a neighborhood where labels and status symbols were absolutely worshiped – and certain women had “dibs” on a brand. Sandy carried LV bags so no one else was suppose to. Barb had Gucci but switched to Chanel and Connie had Tiffany’s so none of the rest of us were suppose to wear Tiffany jewelry. It was ridiculous and even writing about it seems so stupid. Then one of Sandy’s relatives went to work for Tory Burch so she switched to that brand and everyone was in chaos! LOL! And she got the next season’s clothes first so she was always dressed wrong for the weather! I remember she met us for lunch once in November and she had on a nautical navy and white Summer outfit with sandals and a raincoat while the rest of us were in wool and boots and were still freezing. That is how silly we women can be about fitting in and dressing to impress others. Now these women have all lost their homes to Foreclosure and none of them are even in the same state. Sorry I went off on a rant! I guess I think everyone should stay true to their own values and dress in a way that makes them happy – unless you are having lunch with older ladies who scare you! Then dress to make them happy! Because it was totally worth it. I met the most amazing people – people who get written about in Vogue – so it was worth the trade off.

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Sylvia

Oh, those social rules you describe sound complicated Suzanne! I would struggle with that. I have never come across a situation where brands were important, and I’m happy with that. I guess that it is sometimes worth it to follow those rules, as long as you are aware of why you are doing it and don’t lose your own sense of style in the process….

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Greetje

Your story of the silly women and the brands, Suzanne, shows that no matter how much or how little money you have, there will always be a social climate. And how true to yourself are you to choose for yourself and not follow rules you think are ridiculous. It takes confidence. Which is the nice thing of getting older: you usually get more of that.

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Terri

I want to believe that I am a risk taker, but this is a tricky question. I know that in the workplace I dress according to commonly shared standards. And I know that at home, I don’t stand out particularly on the street. I think dressing to fit in can be a wonderful thing too. We have the ability to turn heads, to make others feel comfortable by our appearance. We also have the ability to make others uncomfortable…and sometimes that is for a good purpose.

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Sylvia

Thanks so much for your feedback Terri!

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Greetje

As I think that clothes reflect who you are or which side you want to show at a particular moment, I care about what others think. But only so far. I cannot please everyone and I don’t want that either. I am like you. When I am taking “risks” I have to be in a confident mood. Because when you are confident, you can pull it off. Your whole appearance says : “hey, this is me, am I not looking great?” Most people will feel that and automatically agree. If not, too bad. I now better armed (mentally) if somebody does not like it. It is just not his or her taste. And even when somebody says nasty things, I tell myself that it tells you what sort of nasty person he or she is. But it does not make my outfit bad.

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Sylvia

Very true Greetje!

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Heather Fonseca

The only person I try to please other than myself is my husband. It’s not so much that I try to dress for him as I often will not keep items that he hates. We are together a lot, so if he doesn’t like something I won’t wear it around him, which means I won’t wear it very often. I do try to dress more conservatively when meeting clients as well, other than that I don’t worry about other peoples opinions too much. My feeling is if I feel good I must look good, and if someone doesn’t like it well they don’t have to look do they?

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Sylvia

Yes, I can definitely understand that. My husband does not usually express strong opinions about my clothes, but if he REALLY did not like something, I would probably also not wear it when we go out.

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Tangobabe

Interesting topic and post, Sylvia. And as always I appreciate you being you and being transparent and honest; I love that in people!

I recognize the difference one’s state of mind can make on the choices one makes that day; making yourself a bit less visible or daring to be different.

I don’t see myself as a risk-taker, but then again I also don’t feel the need for that. I just try to dress in what I think looks and feels good, so I stay in my own comfort zone, so to speak. Maybe this sounds contradictory to my style, since I like ‘more is more’ (bright colors, patterns, lots of accessories, flowers in my hair, hats, etc.), but this does not feel risky to me.

Nor standing out, nor fitting in seems my main goal. More: trying to look my prettiest self…I think…

Being an insecure person and a pleaser I CAN get very upset by criticism and harsh words. I wish I was more like Greetje, in that perspective;-).

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Sylvia

Very well expressed Anja and I think that is totally what you do “looking your prettiest self”.

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Joni

I can also see myself in both categories. But I’m often bored with the “safe” choices I make. I’ll take a risk as long as it is flattering on my shape. As a pear I feel like I have to at least get that part right or I end up looking quite dumpy. I’ve played it safe for most of my life and just now really wanting to step out so to speak. I’ve noticed that I care less what others think of how I’m dressed if I just don’t look at them. Then I won’t notice if they’re looking at me with disapproval. ;)

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Sylvia

Yes, that’s how I feel too. I want to make my outfits more interesting or exciting, while still looking modern and elegant and not goofy.

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Seeker

Well Sylvia you just touched a point very sensitive to me and I feel really related to this issue.
Living in a small village in a small Island where everybody knows you and also working in a government department it’s not easy when you like to make the difference.
So I think I can fit in both categories, with a nuance, “what I would like to do” and “what I do”.
Right now I’m being in a self crisis, but some time ago I was a mood dresser.
And if I was in the mood, feeling confident I was able to take many risks (except for hats that I had to feel very brave to accept people staring at me).
So “what I would like to do” is to make my looks elegant yet interesting and modern without thinking about people’s surrounding me approval.
“What I do” can be a different call. But that doesn’t mean I still don’t try to achive that.
Right now as I already said I’m in a crisis……

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Sylvia

Hi seeker, It’s not something you achieve overnight. I would say, take babysteps to where you want to go. Make little changes every week, and before you know it, you will realise that you dare to be even more creative. As you know we are hear to help you in the style forum. Good luck!

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Seeker

Thank you so much Sylvia for the support.

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Kathleen Lisson

I separate criticism into two parts – people who do not like what I am wearing and people who do not understand what I am wearing.

I DO listen to friends who do not like what I am wearing because it isn’t flattering to me (too big, small) or if is a shade that makes me look sick or less beautiful.

If people don’t like my outfit because it is not their personal style, than I thank them for the feedback and move on.

I value the experience of looking at hundreds of different fashion blogs over the past year. It has taught me that people have all types of different styles. I really used to think that people dressed a certain way did not care about fashion. Now that I see these same styles on fashion blogs I am aware that what looks best to me does not necessarily look best to everyone. I am also aware that people do not always wear clothes to look their best. Clothes also have an artistic function.

Kathleen

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Greetje

I agree Kathleen. But even if friends whom I respect for their fashion opinion, criticize me, I try to “weigh” what they say. Is there truth forme in their remarks? Or is it a taste difference. Usually you feel immediately if they are right.

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Sylvia

Very well thought of reply Kathleen. Thanks for your feedback!

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Petra

This is soooo interesting. My very best (gorgeous) friend who is 45, and who looks 30, bless her, finds she has to now dress “younger” and a tad “sexy” in her very professional job, to compete with other younger women. This is so crazy because she is not acting her true self, which is to dress in modest, silky, comfortable (but designer) clothes and it really winds me up. I like to push buttons and surprise people, in a nice way! but unfortunately only in a small way because I lack confidence, so sometimes it looks a bit silly because I haven’t got it quite right, but I am still trying!!! I think it is hard for a woman to dress for herself. And I think it is all about confidence in any given situation. I love this topic Sylvia!

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Sylvia

Yes, I’ve heard that kind of thing before. Not nice! If possible, I would encourage her to stay more true to herself. It’s a losing battle if you try to be something you’re not and will ultimately lead to a lot of stress…. As for yourself, we are all evolving with our style. Even though I dress for myself, I always take the occasion into account.

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Tangobabe

Very well spoken, Sylvia, and I totally agree!

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