Is there hope in Instagram for fashion?
Like any other *millennial* fashion enthusiast, it is fair to say that I spent the majority of my teenage life cutting up and collaging back issues of Vogue, Teen Vogue, Paris Vogue, Vogue Italia along with any obscure fashion magazine that I could get my hands on at the local Barnes and Noble in the suburbs.
For me, these editorials were less about clothes themselves, although it did serve as a conduit to another world; a world which was at once lofty as it was aspirational. These magazines were a visual departure from the circumstances in which I found myself (small town, high school student living in a conservative North Carolina) and was ripe with art, idealism, aesthetics and what I perceived to be cultural elevation.
So for that, I am in some respects indebted to Anna Wintour for providing a readily accessible platform for aesthetics and glamour—especially growing up in a town which had little to offer in terms of stimulating cultural curiosity.
On the other hand, editorials and fashion ad campaigns are completely unrealistic. Though I didn’t want to recognize the vast disconnect between my life and the ultra glamorous and tasteful that graced the pages of Vogue. Neither did I realize the profit motive of such publishing companies. I came to find out that life doesn’t look anything like Vogue, actually.
So I’m intrigued (and surprised) by fashion’s new and happy marriage to Instagram—a form of documentation founded in reality. Such an unremarkable medium brings fashion back down to earth, to the domestic realm which it has always occupied, even before we were reading fashion magazines.
Because fashion in truth is an intimate subject. To get a glimpse of one’s clothing is also to peer into the life of the person wearing it—to behold the pills that gather from years of wear on an old sweater, or to catch the scent of another on a rumpled tee-shirt is an oddly intimate act.
In other ways, fashion on Instagram levels the playing field. Perhaps it is a stretch, but in some ways it enables us to recognize our shared humanity. For example, no longer am I terribly impressed by a kind of hellenic ideal of beauty—once embodied by celebrities in our society— when these same figures are taking no-make up selfies which look just as unimpressive as I do first thing in the morning.
And this down-to-earth quality doesn’t seem to harm capitalism or our ability to consume. In fact, the smart brands are embracing it. For example, a Glossier ad flicked across my newsfeed recently featuring a porcelain skinned doe-eyed model with a fresh pimple, unconcealed on her chin. This is a makeup and skincare company.
OK so we’re embracing reality now.
Not that I am advocating slovenliness. On the contrary, I think one should take possession of the ensembles one puts together, on any criteria that he or she sees fit. I do think our appearance deserves our consideration and management in the same way that other practicalities in our life do.
And, I think the two worlds of down-to-earth reality and lofty aspiration can coexist peacefully and happily. We need both: our imaginations provoked, our hopes and ideas engaged combined with a realistic assessment of what’s before us.
So even as Instagram becomes a daily habit, who says we cannot save a little room to indulge our everyday fantasies?