Encore | Thinking About: Originality And Authenticity

While I’m taking a short blog break, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite posts from earlier in the year. This post, Thinking About: Originality And Authenticity was first published in February.

Detail: style blogger Susan B. wears gold Gucci Marmont loafers. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

I haven’t had a subscription to any of the glossy magazines in a while, with the exception of InStyle, a holdover which I’ve allowed to auto-renew every couple of years. I’d skip through all of the celebrity and breathless red carpet features in favor of the “How To Wear X” types of pictorials and articles, which over the years became more and more scarce. When I read that the future editorial direction of the magazine would be even more celebrity-focused, I knew I’d be canceling my subscription. I’m glad I didn’t jump right on it, though, as this one-page piece by Leandra Medine of Man Repeller in the March issue made it worth flipping through.

I’ve been a big fan of Medine for many years. For her quirky style for sure, but also for her smart, witty and irreverent view of fashion and our relationship to it. And I especially liked this piece, which dives into the concept of “originality” and our ongoing fascination with unconventional style.

Look at street-style photography. We often complain about how downright fake the photos from Fashion Week can feel. But we’ve been conditioned to believe that the craziest, loudest outfit wins. And here’s where we run into a problem: If you’re trying that hard to achieve originality, is it authentic? Isn’t genuine nonconformity effortless, like breathing or blinking?

The Push For Originality

As a style blogger, I haven’t been immune to the pressure to come up with outfits that are new and different and bolder and brighter and more complex than what I’d instinctively assemble. I don’t get a lot of negative feedback on my outfits, but the comments that make me question myself usually include the word “boring.” I mean, who wants to be boring? Is “knowing what works and sticking to it” just a cover for lack of imagination?

But then I’ll see an outfit or design somewhere so beautifully simple, clean and elegant, or understatedly cool, and it will evoke an instantaneous gut reaction of “yes, THIS!” And it reconnects me with what feels authentic in my style. Boring to some, perhaps, but simple, elegant, cool style is what has always inspired me most.

But the heart wants what it wants! So who are we to deprive ourselves of what the trenches of our gut say we need? Our gut is sometimes annoying, and it’s pesky, and we can get it mixed up with weird, negative voices in our heads; but it’s also very rarely wrong.

So I try to remember that one person’s “boring” is another’s “sublime.” And that even when I admire another’s quirky, bold, More Is More style, it doesn’t mean that I’m on the wrong track with my own. Style should never feel forced. Standing out for its own sake isn’t my goal. Feeling good in what I’m wearing is.

The Magnetic Pull Of Authentic Style

When I think about my authentic style, it’s rooted in a certain practicality with an infusion of a little drama and verve. Jeans and a tee or sweater. Black. A long outer layer. Bold jewelry. A standout bag or shoes. Ease. Harmony. Movement. Modernity. A little Edge occasionally. And yes, trying new things from time to time, continuing to evolve and stay current.

Here’s what I recommend: Instead of thinking, “How can I stand out?” ask yourself, “What would make me happiest? What do I need to do to get there?” And then do that.

I couldn’t agree more!

Photo above: when I do go for “quirky,” most often it’s with shoes. Photo by Tannaz Photography.

What do you like to wear that feels completely authentic?

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11 Comments

  1. August 7, 2017 / 5:25 am

    I’m glad you reposted this. I stopped reading fashion magazines a while ago because of the obsession with celebrities and—youth! If you aren’t young and a celebrity –fugettaboutit! Fashion, unfortunately, has become exclusive. I rely on my instincts these days. Even Man Repeller, who I used to love, has now changed direction…..

  2. August 7, 2017 / 5:50 am

    Very insightful post! It really resonated with me. With that said…you were the one to introduce me to harem pants….which in the hands of Eileen Fisher look more Erte than Hammer the Rapper. It was a new silhouette and I remember the heated exchanges. I ended up buying three pairs…two at Nordstrom Rack on discount as they were being discontinued. I have certain boundaries as well, but have been greatly influenced by artists like Frida Kahlo, Georgis O’Keefe, and others like Lou Lou De La Falaise and Marchesa Casati…. Each of us finds out own way! Thank you for featuring those E.F. harem pants a few years back…they have become a staple in my wardrobe. Regardless of our style, it is fun to explore new shapes..

  3. August 7, 2017 / 5:58 am

    1) Enjoy your blogging break. What a great idea to re-air (republish?rerun? ) thoughtful pieces of the past. Blogging can be so of the moment and the hard work and great thoughts can see a bit more time this way.

    2) I love the thoughts about how it isn’t always the loudest outfit. And originality vs. authenticity. It is a dualism I hadn’t seen discussed before in either the specific context of peacocking at fashion week or about more general style. It makes me feel better about loving both simple outfits and sometimes wanting “more is more” looks 🙂

  4. Susan Harper
    August 7, 2017 / 6:37 am

    Glad you reposted this! Love it! I hope you can revisit this topic again.

  5. Sally
    August 7, 2017 / 7:09 am

    Hi Susan: I quit subscribing to fashion magazines about 4 or 5 years ago. My world has moved on. I still love fashion but reading about celebrities feels vapid and fashion for 20 year olds isn’t relevant. Hence the switchover to the bloggers who represent an age group to whom I can relate. My story is jeans and tees and I’m stickin’ to it! I don’t like standing out. I like looking quietly put together. I like looking as elegant as I can in my designer jeans and tees. I don’t like loud colors or patterns or lots of bling–a big silver and turquoise bracelet, yes. A big Michael Kors watch, yes. Susan you introduced me to EF, the MK’s watches, long over lean. When I saw you posting your outfits on your blog I knew I’d found my fashion representative! I don’t find your outfits boring at all! Any way, enjoy your vacay and thanks for everything you do. I look forward to your blogs every day.

  6. Lisa
    August 7, 2017 / 7:32 am

    Hi Susan, I admit I still fall prey to the fashion magazines. Still subscribe to Instyle but find more and more just glancing at the pages and handing it to off to my husband to bring to the office for patient reading material. I’ve been relying on Pinterest for fashion ideas but even with my “pins” it’s more jeans, black tops and colorful shoes or bags. I own those Gucci shoes too! I bought the bright pink suede and wear them with my boyfriend jeans or black EF slouchy and cropped pants. Trying to stay away from the all black look though. MY DIL is from India and is gently trying to encourage me to insert some jewel tone items into my wardrobe, This summer I decided to limit my black wardrobe to just two tees. Bought some dark green, white and even some striped sailor tees.
    PS One of my daughters is coming home from Rome Next week with my navy jacket! Can’t wait!

  7. Elizabeth M
    August 7, 2017 / 8:16 am

    Susan, I have enjoyed reading your blog for some time. Your understated, classy sense of fashion resonates with me and your travel packing tips have been invaluable. I find it sad that readers feel they need to push you to be different than who you are. New, different, bolder, brighter and more complex are not what I’m looking for which is why I’ve stopped reading fashion magazines completely. I’m looking for how to look classy and put together with a basic collection of good quality clothes that travel extremely well and where the pieces play well with each other. Your blog fits the bill. Keep doing what you do so well!

  8. Linda
    August 7, 2017 / 10:41 am

    Your “boring” IS my sublime. ❤️

  9. August 8, 2017 / 12:40 am

    This post came at the right time. I am wearing a pink/cream striped T-shirt with golden sequins saying Au Secours. Not everybody’s taste. I was feeling a bit insecure over it and then I read this post. Saved. This is me and I don’t care what anybody else thinks.
    Greetje

    • Susan B
      August 9, 2017 / 4:12 pm

      I’m glad you found the post helpful! I’m always in favor of wearing what we love and what expresses our true selves.

      • August 25, 2017 / 10:02 pm

        And it is always a case of personal taste. I know blush pink is not my best colour (to use an understatement). But there are women who say the shirt looks beautiful on me and being sincere. (I surround myself with people who give it to me straight.) So.. just taste.

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