Privilege Blog

What Is The Point Of Style?

There’s that moment when you stop what you are doing, and think, “Wait. What’s the point?” When you need a corner to come back to in the face of questions. This isn’t always simple. I can’t find satisfaction in situational answers. I want what my software friends call, “the root cause.” I want the answer that doesn’t pose more questions.

So what’s the point of style? Here’s my personal answer. I can’t know what the point of style is unless I ask myself, what’s the point of life? Really. I mean, that’s the source. Life is the root cause. And, as I am not religious, I come up with only two answers.

Life is short. Life is unbearably sweet. But it ends. I can only assume that life itself is the point. And those feelings that cause us to keep living. Joy. Joy and all its minions. The point of life must be to bring joy to yourself. Or to others. Both would be good.

Of course, in the living, not so simple. Style is not something you say to yourself alone. You say it to others. Which means it’s part of the social contract. Which means you may not want to wear that pink boa every day, despite the joy of blush and rose and magenta and the branching patterns of feathers. Obligation may be involved. Social codes, sometimes complex, may be speaking loudly in the background. But it is possible, if social contracts prevent your style from bringing you joy, well, it is possible that it’s time to reconsider. Change isn’t the end of the world.

I write about a certain kind of style. But I want to be clear. High WASP? What I say is true. But it matters only inasmuch as you are amused. Or you enjoy a certain kind of persona, a certain kind of commitment to a certain social contract. This kind of look. And only if it makes you happy. I’m telling a story. No strings.

Right then. Carry on.

24 Responses

  1. Ahhh….my favorite picture from his blog. I dream of the day I can dress so effortlessly.

  2. Being stylish and getting joy out of it is a gift of joy you give others. It's like saying, "You are important enough to me that I'll dress for you!"

  3. What a great post…

    I love the connection of style to the social contract, which is ever so true. But I would also add that style unites you and separates you from that which is different. It is in those unifications and separations that we learn to find our identities, from the days of jr. high when jocs and cheerleaders hung out with jocs and cheerleaders and band members hung out with band members. A part of our identity is significantly defined by that which we are not…

  4. Elle – I agree. I know I bought my Doc Martens as a way of red-lining part of the "You Are A Mom" social contract.

    And I wish I felt that my style made others happy. That's something to work on. I know that woman in the picture makes me happy.

  5. Hello HighWASP,

    At first blush, the question seemed innocuous. But you speak of deep and complex truths with a confident take-it-or-leave-it attitude that I find very engaging.

    I'm very glad to have encountered your blog!

  6. Yes, let me say first, I am certain Jan possesses incredible sense of style!
    I love what you said about joy. It IS the point, is it not?
    Another amazing post, my dear!

  7. Thought provoking post! I agree, I think our styles develope from where our lives have taken us, and also from where we hope to go. Every social setting require a standard of dress and the image that we choose to present can 'make or break' us. I hope that my style conveys a certain respect for myself and others.

    Lastly, I wanted to leave a note about my blog: You can click on the follow blog at the top, OR and I've been remiss about adding this, I've add added a "following widget". I'd be honored if you follow, and I'm a follower of your blog as well!

  8. Well said as always. I'm still trying to find my style. Twenty six year old meets mommy. Those two girls just cant meet in my book.

  9. Your posts always get me thinking! I agree, life is all about JOY and I think our styles project what makes us joyful. Hopefully that does agree with our lifestyles. I think mine does!

  10. This one is deep Miss Privilege, like its author. We've not previously thought about it as a contract per se, more as something one does, hopefully without tons of time or attention.

    Bu then… there are those days and nights (generally the nights) with special occasions where one revels in the anticipatory excitement, the afternoon spent looking through magazines, the shopping expedition, the actual procurement of the perfect party frock, all of it.

    Fabulous post, and very intense.

  11. Really truly excellent…style as a social contract. I will be thinking through that for a while.

    So LPC, are you copyrighting? At least through Creative Commons-I think you should.

  12. Too much thought goes into it, I get a headache. Not enough thought, I give others a headache LOL!

  13. Hasn't style always been a social contract between woman and the world? My 9 year old son seems to think so. The other day he told me that he really likes it that I spend time looking at fashion and trying to dress pretty. It's what mothers are supposed to do, he says.

  14. When I was younger I chose a certain style to either fit in or stand out. Now I don't think that way anymore. And I guess, I don't think about style either.

  15. You guys are the greatest commenters. No one should think about style if they don't want to – as long as their job or presence in the world doesn't suffer in any way as a result. If you do have style requirements in your life, I think the best thing is to find some simple patterns and follow them. Princess, I love the description of the anticipatory dressing. I think that's what Angie's son is responding to. He's defining his idea of a beautiful woman. As long as the woman enjoys the process, doesn't feel bullied by it.

  16. Speaking of The Satorialist, he is coming here for a book signing in a couple of weeks and I hope to get over and meet him and have him sign my book. :)

    Also – looking foward to some pics from you of preppies you spy while out and about. Do send anything you get!

    And coincidentally re: Hyannis….those pictures I took in Hyannis (or Hyannisport)..were right before I drove down to the Kennedy compound. It's blocked off but you can see their homes (a bit) from the road. The next day Ted Kennedy died in his home there. It felt so weird being there 24 hours before he died! So right after I left that place was mobbed with press.

  17. This is a good way to approach whether or not to "waste time" worrying about how you look when you could be using it to "cure cancer." I was raised in the counterculture and have gone back and forth between enjoying style as an extension of art and thinking of it as a literal waste of time and energy or even a sexist issue.

    You make it seem innocuous again, part of life's joy. I think that's what I've always known in the back of my mind. Maybe the cynic in me just won't let me enjoy life. Thanks for the jolt.

  18. You are more than welcome, Diana. And TPG, one day, I will send you someone. I am plotting.

  19. I just found your blog today through your comment on Penelope's blog. I LOVE it! I love the photo in this post, but one does not seem able to find these kinds of skirts any more, have you noticed? It seems hard to find any decent dresses in larger sizes the past few years, except those at knee length. Heavy women need mid-calf length, and those are just not available any more. Everyone seems to have switched to slacks or short dresses. I think a lot of women have switched to slacks because of the fashion industry shortening hemlines to an unattractive level for overweight women.

    I agree with you about the social contract idea, and that is the reason I always put on my makeup even when friends visit my house–to show them that they are important enought to put on makeup for!

    Paloma Pentarian, on Women's Wisdom

  20. You know, I read this a couple of days ago, and I'm still thinking about it… (I love that woman on the photo, by the way. Clearly, she's got it.)

    Isn't the point of style to please yourself and others? (And therein lies the dilemma?) Hopefully, both goals are aligned, so that you're getting joy *and* meeting the norms of whatever social contract you happen to be affected by. And of course self-confidence plays a huge role, of course…

    Anyway. I get jumbled up in the mess that is my brain.


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