How much effort SHOULD we be putting into our appearance?

Hi all.  Sorry for the lack of posts recently.  This PhD and all…  The deadline is looming and well, I need to finish.  But today I read an article that I simply couldn’t resist contributing my 2 cents to.  The article posed the question: Why do some women give up on their looks?  It particularly focused on “older” women – the population of women most easily and harshly critiqued for their appearance.  I got sucked in to reading a number of the reader comments – particularly those focused on the differences between NZ and say the UK.  A number of people were complaining that kiwis look sloppy and don’t take any care with their appearance.  Others were arguing that it’s too expensive, and that kiwi women have different priorities.

Certainly there are a number of aesthetic differences between NZ and the US.  Yes, there are not as many choices here in NZ.  Yes, everything is insanely expensive.  Yes, the older NZ women do often look ghastly (in my humble opinion).  Yes, most of the college age girls I see around also look ghastly.  Honestly.  How do I even begin to describe the god-awful ugly dresses that permeate Dunedin fashion for the 18-25 year olds?

On a related note, I had one hell of a shock yesterday browsing etsy for headbands when the photos of the model were a girl with a ton of make-up on, fake tan and long blonde hair.  What happened to the [well, at least perceived – but maybe this is just me] etsy stereotype of brunette glasses wearing knitting, crocheting, crafting and thrifting hipsters?  Who was this blonde, fake-tanned so-cal girl and how dare she be on etsy?!  It was a bit of a shock for me.  Like – oh, is that how much make-up people are wearing these days?

I am coming from the alt-fashion perspective.  I’ve never really had those mainstream good looks.  I know D is my dream guy since he finds fake-tan abhorrent.  I mean, even though I grew up in MN in the late 90s – the big blonde hair and fake tan was always the ‘ideal’.  It’s the American ideal.  Big fake blonde hair, big fake boobs and fake tan.

Gross (in my humble opinion).  I guess I’m a fan of natural beauty.

I mean, I love fashion.  I admit to being both vain and pretty obsessed with my appearance.  I own a LOT of make-up (maybe I should be more specific – I own a lot of eye make up.  However, a bottle of foundation lasts literally for years – eventually I replace it because it goes off, not because I’ve used it up.  Most of my lipsticks/lip glosses have been free.  I don’t remember the last time I actually bought one).  But I just can’t cake it on every day (just seems a bit over the top for Uni).  And yes, I take full advantage of the weekend to not only barely shower, but wear jeans and a t-shirt and sneakers and absolutely no make-up.  I even regularly go to the supermarket after going to the gym – complete in my sweaty gym clothes.

So yes, I care about my appearance (very much so) but only to a point.

Do you find that you don’t put in as much effort now as you did when you were younger?  Do you wish you could put in more effort?  Why or why not?  Are women who are not confining themselves to societal norms of attractiveness and femininity just being lazy, or making a statement that women shouldn’t have to look beautiful and/or sexy all of the time?

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14 thoughts on “How much effort SHOULD we be putting into our appearance?

  1. I’m not sure if I ever put a lot of effort in what I wear. There are times I feel like I should be putting in a lot of effort (especially when I am surrounded by those who make it a priority) and I try harder then. Then there are times I just don’t care (especially when I am surrounded by those who don’t make it a priority). If I am just at home hanging out, then I really don’t care. But as soon as I walk out the door, I usually make sure I look somewhat presentable. You never know who you might run into! I don’t want to look crazy in public. I do wish I could put in more effort, but that takes time, and I really don’t want to dedicate more time. I wish I could find that balance of beauty and effortlessness. Those women who can do that are incredibly lucky.

    • I would call that MN sensibility. : D

      Finding a balance of beauty and effortless – now THAT is a plan. When you unlock the secrets to that one, please share with the rest of us!!! 😀

  2. I despise putting foundation on my face, it just feels and looks gross to me. However, I do use a little here and there when I have unsightly blemishes, which happens more often than I would like! I thought when you “grew up” you weren’t supposed to get acne any more 😦 I will typically go sans makeup and simple ponytail on most days of the week. The ponytail is a result of me being too cheap to get a proper haircut more than twice a year. I will say though, nothing beats a new haircut. It feels so good, and I’m totally ready for it after 6 months of growing!

    I do try to make myself presentable for special occasions or parties, especially if there might be cameras present. I do wish I had some more stylish clothing options, and has been on my wishlist to procure said items. Nothing fancy, but just prettier and classier things that I can wear every day and to work. It’s hard getting older and thinking about fashion, I’m totally out of the loop, but I’m ready to get a little more sophisticated!

    • I thought the ponytail was quite a trend at the moment? 😀 And haircuts are SO expensive. Part of the reason I am growing my hair out – so I don’t need to get it cut every 6 weeks!

      Sophisticated and stylish work options. I will try and do a bit more research into finding some good options because not only are work clothes the biggest fashion conundrum (in my humble opinion) but also because I, myself, will need to procure the same once I get a job!

  3. I think growing out of the hair is the reason I am a little bit bipolar about the amount of effort I put into my appearance atm. Some days I feel the need to dress up to compensate but most days I think hair looks stupid so why even bother.
    That and winter. It took a lot of convincing myself that I should bother dealing with my leg hairs yesterday, since pretty much the only time my legs are seen in public is the gym.
    Also want to buy some better fitting clothes but the have the students dilemma of no $, may have to take up belt wearing.

    • The good thing about growing hair out in winter is that you can hid it under a hat! This is my plan for the next few months. : D And yay for winter and tights wearing.

      Maybe I should do a post on fashion at the gym – because honestly I really don’t care what I look like there and I simply can’t be bothered (or afford) to buy cute stylish work-out clothes (although I really probably should – actually I saw a girl yesterday wearing a really cute sporty top and was a little bit jealous). If someone can see my leg hairs – they are looking too closely and not working out hard enough!

  4. I like your questions. Here in London, anything goes. If I head out the door to run an errand, I know I can get away with sweatpants OR high heels. A big difference in my attire here in London is the fact that my transport is my own two feet. I rarely wear fussy shoes, I just can’t get around well. I struggle with this because I think shoes really impact the whole “look”. Anyone else notice the move towards “athletic wear” for women – if you haven’t maybe you’ve been living on an island in the southern hemisphere or something! Lululemon and Sweaty Betty seem to be the new “mom” uniform in my circles….

  5. You know I have to poke fun at you with the living on an island comment! =0
    Actually I hear Lululemon is quite popular among teenage girls now as well….

  6. Well, put it this way. How often are women asked “does your appearance matter?” versus how often are men asked this question? For me personally, that pretty much says it all.

    • Absolutely. It is a big question of cultural and societal norms – what becomes accepted and then becomes ingrained. That might be another post (or more likely – another blog!) – the many problems in our society and culture and how to tackle them!

  7. For me, it’s more about how I FEEL than how I LOOK. Some days if I’m not going anywhere special and I want to wear my comfy yoga pants and a fleece, cool. But other days I’m running errands and I simply am in the mood to look cute–so I put in more of an effort. On the days I’m working I need to look put together and professional for the good of my career.
    So for me — if women are (and I hate this phrase), “letting themselves go,” it’s more about their own self perception. If they are feeling like crap and looking like crap and frazzled, then I want to scream, “Intervention!!” but because I want them to feel fabulous and beautiful and vibrant, not like a dreary sludge (which I admittedly feel like myself on some days). Oftentimes it’s easier to feel fabulous if you look your best and are wearing something that’s flattering.
    I DO feel, however, that societal messages of an ideal “fake tan fake boobs fake hair” is ridiculous. And I believe that this pressure can really be detrimental in that if a woman buys into this ridiculousness and is spending much of her time and energy to look good: getting mani/pedis, working out for hours at the gym, spending money on the right hair stylist, spending excessive energy to look “right,” then she is doing herself a disservice.
    Balance and feeling comfortable but confident–that’s my goal.

  8. I just realized that I didn’t really answer your questions! Let’s see:

    Do you find that you don’t put in as much effort now as you did when you were younger? Do you wish you could put in more effort? Why or why not? I think I’m putting in the same amount of effort. Maybe a little bit MORE as far as trying to dress professionally and hit the “right note” in the office, and this (as you know!) is not a natural talent of mine so it takes WORK and EFFORT for me to “dress right” when fashion is NOT my forte. I think I’m doing a good job of balancing these out, I’m too busy to spend too much time but I do try, so that I feel confident and so that I’m not hurting my professional growth by dressing “wrong.”

    Are women who are not confining themselves to societal norms of attractiveness and femininity just being lazy, or making a statement that women shouldn’t have to look beautiful and/or sexy all of the time? Niether. The women I know who struggle with fashion have a couple of road blocks. #1 = mental road block and mommy guilt. Some moms I know feel like, “If I’m spending money on myself I’m a bad and greedy mom, all of my resources should go to my kids not to me.” That’s a whole ‘nother topic on motherhood and pressures of self sacrifice that I will not get into at this juncture. #2 = Not enough money and time. Women who have limited resources don’t want to spend money on clothing when the car needs new tires or Billy needs new hockey gear. They don’t want to spend the time to go try on 20 pairs of jeans in the attempt to find one stinkin’ pair that fits and is flattering. #3 = They’re waiting to _____ (lose 10 pounds, get that new job, get the youngest into kindergarten) and THEN they’ll worry about “looking better.” OK those are my thoughts! Great discussion.

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    • Thanks for the great responses! I knew you could shed some insight. : D It’s totally all about balance.

      I can totally agree with #3 – this week I’ve just been bumming it in jeans – and telling myself I’ll put more effort into fashion, going to the gym, etc. once I finish my PhD – LOL!

  9. I am totally with you on this one. I do consider myself obsessed with clothes and looks, but at the same time, I am not going to freak out at being caught in my sweats at the grocery store or wherever without any makeup or slept on hair. Fashion only consumes me “when I feel like it,” I guess. And I feel like there needs to be a healthy balance between altering your appearance with makeup, clothes and hair, to going all out and crazy with the tan/hair color/cosmetic surgery. True beauty is making the most out of what you already have, even if for some of us it’s not much *spoken from a pasty white, brunette, flat-chested woman’s perspective 😉

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