On Modern Fashion Etiquette
Not Ms. Manners. Or Ms. Miuccia. Just @heymrssolomon. But here’s what I know.
I recently shared this story from The Cut on the new rules of etiquette that I deemed one of the useful things I’d read in forever. And then my lovely friend Rose @thecreativeclassicist did what she tends to do — i.e, be lovely — and forwarded me some of its famous-people sidebars (Amy Sedaris, Lauren Santo Domingo) and said: “You should write one of these.”
Actually she should. But actually she’s busy. And I was getting on a plane where I had 3+ hours to get some thoughts together. And so I did. Because she really got me thinking.
Without further ado…
“Good manners is the art of making people comfortable. Whoever makes the fewest people uncomfortable has the best manners.”
― Jonathan Swift
Remember that getting dressed — in anything but the most basic or a uniform — is vulnerable. Even if you are not someone who “gets it,” please understand that getting dressed isn’t “just clothes” — it’s a way people explore who they are. Sometimes with great urgency. Always act with that in mind.
Putting yourself “out there” doesn’t signal the end of all decorum. Whether someone is actively on social showing looks or just dressing experimentally IRL, doing so means they’re exploring who they are, and isn’t an invitation to drop the politeness you’d deploy in any other context.
Stop being judgmental. It’s daily work. That doesn’t mean saying, on IG: “This reminds me of a really basic stock image, but hey, if that’s your thing, no judgment.” It means really looking inward and working on yourself. We all have to, because fashion truly is subjective. Of course you’re allowed to be discerning about what you like. But we should learn to understand that one way is not “better than” another. There is an inherent snobbery in not working on this, and that’s rude. If you find yourself being judgmental, try what I do: Say, out loud: “(Rachel,) wtf? Who are you to judge? Cut it out.” Then give yourself a little, actual hand slap.
Observe your words. Internal and external. If you find yourself using really big emotional words around fashion and style, like “it’s awful” or “it’s atrocious” or “the worst styling” or “why the hell” etc. it’s possible you’re taking yourself too seriously, being judgmental about something subjective, and being unnecessarily hurtful. Ask yourself whether you’d be OK with someone saying those things about you or your friend, sibling or grown child in the same context.
Try not to have parties that require people to dress up in the summer. No one wants to get dressed in summer. Picture this: It’s hot, you’ve been hanging by a pool all day, you’re at the good part of the book, someone brings out a pitcher of ice cold margaritas. But now you have to shower and put on a dress.
Respect the situation. When in doubt ask, “Is there anything specific you’d like me to wear or not wear?” Jeans still, today, inherently, signal casual. So do sneakers. And hoodies. (It’s the very reason we love them, the friction they give dressier things.) Yes, even dark, dressy jeans. Fine for a creative workplace. Not fine for important work meeting with people you don’t yet know. Or honestly, an event where someone is trying to honor someone/something or older people are present. If that’s all you own, totally different. But otherwise, put on, say regular pants, for a new client meeting. Not a big strain.
When you see someone at an event or non-event, don’t make a passive aggressive comment about what they’re wearing. It sounds so obvious, but maybe you’re unaware. So if you’re saying anything like this (I’ve heard all of them), cut it out:
- ”Wow, you got all dolled up.”
- “Going somewhere after this?”
- “Wow, that must be what’s in style now.”
- “That’s some sweater.”
- “That’s a lot of yellow!”
- “I suddenly feel underdressed.”
- “Are those space pants?”
- “I could never wear something like that.”
Unless someone asked for an opinion, don’t critique, even if you think you’re being helpful. We’re just here sharing looks. If you don’t like what someone’s wearing, the response is not to tell them, it’s to look at something else.
If someone asks for an opinion, and you want to give one, use the sandwich rule. Start with what you like. Then fold in what can be improved upon i.e. “maybe you could try a…” And then add something else positive. If that seems like too much work, then you were not meant to respond. Look at something else.
Share generously. Jeez why not? You see something that you love, that you find valuable, it only takes a moment to pop it into your story. Chances are if it interests/informs you, it interests/informs others. And you also help people starting out to get seen. And that’s very good manners.
Also, credit generously! If you are not even sure if you got the idea from X or they got it from you, say “I think I probably got the idea from X.” There is nothing worse than not crediting the precious ideas of others. Credit everything. That means mention the person/context in a caption, and tag the source. Ideas are very valuable in fashion and it’s not cool to be “inspired by” without a tip of the hat.
Diversify your feed — if you don’t actively seek to diversify your feed it’s the equivalent of being cliquey. Then the algorithm hooks you to all people who know each other — and you’re like the cheerleaders. Don’t leave it to the algorithm to find people to follow. Seek out writers you like. Look at people who look nothing like you. And see who they follow. Your feed should look like grown up inspiration. Not your high school lunch table.
Don’t favor or respond differently to people because of their following — that’s like yucky social climbing and just gross. Give the same level of response or non response to all but your true friends, who are your favorite people, IG or IRL, no matter the numbers.
ART, LOYALTY + MAKING A LIVING
If you discover something because it’s on someone’s feed, buy it through one of their links. I’ve screwed this up and I’ve learned. If they don’t have a link to the specific one you want, ask them for one.
If you go into a store and discover something you want, but don’t get any help, then take a picture of it and ask someone you have a relationship with to get it for you, so they get the commission and you stay loyal.
If you go into a store and someone helps you, that commission should be theirs. If you go back later and buy it on their break, make sure that’s clear.
If you go into a store (say, Marc Jacobs) and you totally help yourself and at the register they ask if someone helped you, say yes and point at whoever smiled at you and gave you a good feeling. Marc Jacobs doesn’t need to make a living as much as that individual does. They likely would have helped you but you preferred to shop alone.
Also, don’t misgender them. I am working on this. Assume “they.” Point and say “They helped me.” This rule applies to this whole list and the world and is not fashion-specific, but it’s worth saying.
Speaking of retail stores… I notice some people do not make eye contact or acknowledge security or mall cleanup persons. I wonder if it’s because they feel embarrassed? Make eye contact, say hello, say thank you. If a person looks sharp, say you look sharp. Be normal.
If you shop online and ask questions (via chat, IG etc.), thank that person for the help and ask if there’s a way they can receive commission. Often it’s by your entering a code when you purchase.
Respect that styling is an art form and a career. A serious one. You can put clothes on. You have an eye. You are not a stylist. Don’t call yourself a stylist. (Honestly I don’t say “I’ve styled this different ways.” I’ve played with it! I’ve experimented!) If critiquing the styling (of a fashion show, TV show, etc.), remember that this is someone’s art and career. Don’t be a dick. And don’t be a dick and then say something about freedom of speech and your right to express your opinion. You don’t have the same intense duty to inform as in, say, a surgical ward. You’re not trying to stand up in support of refugees. The world doesn’t need more vitriol. Try and keep some perspective.
Anything I missed? That you’d like me to address? Drop it in comments or ping me on IG @heymrssolomon and I will update this!