Every so often I glance through the glossy fashion magazines like Vogue or Elle. It gives me the same sense as when I read anthropology books: I’m looking into a very different culture and lifestyle. Recently, I read an article by a Korean-American woman grumbling about the twice-a-year beauty treatments she “has” to get, and about all the creams, lotions, cleansers, and other things that she “must” use.
My response was not sympathy, or agreeing that standards of beauty are terrible things and that the power of social norms must be broken. My response was “So stop doing that, stop using that stuff, and just go with the basics.” OK, she lives in NYC, so air quality and winter weather are more of a problem for her. On the other paw, she doesn’t have the “zero to natural mummy” dryness that everyone fights out here. And her job may require using all the cosmetics and having the beauty treatments, since she is a professional fashion and beauty writer. If that’s the case, then why fuss? It is part of her job. Like courtesans having to look beautiful and having to stay current on all sorts of political and economic matters, so they can entertain and discuss at the level that they are hired to do.
The clothing gives me the same reaction, although budget also comes into play. “Eight hundred dollars for a white cotton shirt?!? No lace, no beading, no fancy hand-worked trim? Ye doggies.” OK, paying a lot for a high quality leather skirt I can sort of see, because I know that high quality leather costs real money. But then I’m not the kind who can wear a leather skirt well. Form fitting and Alma do not play nicely together, and I don’t want to have to do all the upkeep required to keep a high-end leather skirt in good condition. Other women do, and good for them.
That’s a different world, where a person’s job depends on wearing the current styles, knowing the current trends, and conforming to certain standards of culture. I keep track of some of it, just to be up on culture. Sort of like I am aware of TV shows and what is popular in the gaming world, even though I don’t game and I avoid most TV. (I’m more cognisant of pop-culture than some teens and pre-teens I know. That’s . . . well, I don’t quite know what to make of it. They are in very snug niches, and seem to like it there. *shrugs tail*)
I’m not sure I’m in anyone’s market niche, unless “Victorian lady explorer academic” is a marketing category. And it doesn’t bother me. I can piece together what I like to wear, what I need to wear, the music I like (or need), and the books I want (or need). G-d bless the internet and technology for making it possible to find medieval and renaissance music, faux-Victorian clothing, good walking shoes, and more books than will fit in my house!