gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

Tag Archives: editor’s letter

Fashion meets a sense of self

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Once again, I’m loving Hanya Yanagihara‘s Letter to the Editor in The New York Times Style Magazine about fashion’s role in defining our sense of self, as well as the greater implications it has on how we relate to others and the world around us.

The word fashion tends to allude to a luxury not attainable for everyone, but here fashion means the very basic practice of people dressing themselves to get out the door in the morning. Not everyone pays close attention to what they wear and they do it simply out of necessity. But other people, including myself, dress with a purpose; whether that is trying to align themselves with the current trends, going against current trends, wearing what is comfortable both physically and emotionally (yes I do think that what we wear affects our mindset and emotions), making a social or political statement, etc. are all wrapped into what we decide to put on our bodies.

At T, that language often takes the form of fashion — specifically, fashion as a way of communicating not just something about who the wearer of it is, but also, and with increasing urgency, the kind of world we live in…

Despite its reputation, fashion is a democratic art: We all engage with it in some way or another (even if engagement means disengagement, rebelling against what we interpret as its rules and conventions), and it remains the single most effective way of telegraphing who we are to the rest of the world. What we choose to wear is who we think we are, or who we think we would like to be.

We’re constantly looking for ways to define ourselves and to set ourselves apart as individuals from the overwhelming world around us – to be someone. Fashion is an easy way to do that because it is perhaps what those around us notice first, after our physical characteristics. If someone has a consistent style, people who spend time around that person will assign that style to him/her as a quintessential piece of that person.

I know I like to wear things that make me feel good. At work, for example, I like to wear clothes that make me feel productive and professional. At home when I’m just lounging around I like to wear something comfortable and whatever will inspire the most hygge at that moment (something I’m always trying to achieve, but as we all know, it’s hard to attain it; rather, it happens spontaneously when everything is aligned just perfectly). I don’t always dress with a purpose, but I tend to feel better when I do.

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“But Beautiful” – Hanya Yanagihara

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As an art lover, the question of what beauty is often crosses my mind in the context of admiring art. I took a philosophy of art class in college, which allowed me to explore this question further. The primal question of whether or not beauty can even be defined in  is perplexing enough, let alone attempting to assess the level or quality of beauty. I found this Editor’s Letter by Hanya Yanagihara, the Editor-in-Chief for the The New York Times Style Magazine, very insightful. I thought her whole letter was thought-provoking, but especially the bit below.

But of all the ways in which art and design test our understanding of the world, one of the most important is how they make us question what exactly beauty is. Great art and design remind us of two things: first, that what is beautiful is not necessarily what is pleasant or pretty; and second, that the search for beauty, in all its forms, is elemental to the human condition. Every person in every culture, no matter how impoverished or restrictive, tries to ornament her life. This desire — to stimulate the senses, to remind ourselves of the wildness of the imagination — is not an indulgence or a luxury, but an instinct, one that defines us as human. What, after all, is the entire arc of history but a compendium of things — the pottery, cloaks, jewelry, houses, furniture, vessels and tapestries that humankind has always made (and will always make) to assert its presence in the world?

…to find and reveal and present beauty in all its forms, even if sometimes those forms don’t resemble what we understand as beauty at all. Beauty might be something ephemeral, made more potent for the brevity of its life…

I think Yanagihara perfectly captures that beauty is not simply an aesthetic characteristic we assign to things, but that it’s actually present in virtually all that the human race brings forth in the world. We have this drive to create something for ourselves or for others in an effort to exercise our creativity and imagination not only for a useful purpose, but also to simply satisfy our instinct to surround ourselves with what feels good.