Is Fashion and Makeup Creative or Conformist?

The deeper I go into the the blogosphere, the more I see two types of blogs: fashion and makeup. Perhaps I’ve just had my head in the sand, but I’ve never been a big fashion or makeup follower. I’ve never been big on makeup. I rarely use more than CC cream, lipstick, and mascara. I like clothes, but following fashion often triggers my body image issues more than anything else.

Yet a question kept nagging me this week: is fashion and makeup creative?

Personal expression

One of the main things I love about travel is people watching. People in different places do different things. I still remember watching a man walk up the Upper East Side in a full on purple suit with matching hat and shoes. It was unusual, bright, and yet, delightful. 4 years and I still can’t forget his outfit.

Clothing and makeup as forms of personal expression are one of the oldest forms of personal expression. As small children, we fight our parents for the right to dress ourselves. We get into arguments about makeup as teenagers.

Fashion and makeup is a way of creating our identity to the outside world. It’s not just about who you are, but how you want others to see you. It’s a form of visual expression and communication, not all that different from a painting or a photograph.

Political and social change

I may wear jeans every day into work, but my usual outfit today was highly transgressive 100 years ago. Women protested for the right to wear comfortable clothing. We may think of hippie clothing today as just a style, but much of it came as a rejection of corporate culture and consumerism. A little later Glam Rock used makeup to help bring in new views of gender and androgyny. Each in its own way used fashion and makeup as a visual alternative to the status quo.

In many ways, this reminds me of science fiction and fantasy used to project a new social or political vision. Just like 1984 or Brave New World, these movements critiqued the status quo and showed a new potential reality. While the books used the page and imagination to show dystopias, these people were using their bodies as canvases of a new reality, some even risking their own lives in the process.

The dark side of fashion and makeup

Ominous sign

If there are so man positives, why am I even asking the question? Because in trying to sell goods, there’s an impulse trying to feed off of our insecurities. It’s the trendy side, the side that tells us what we should look like, what we should want. It’s not about what makes you feel good, or how you want to look. It’s about making sure you conform.

The collateral damage can be your creativity.

What does the dark side of fashion and makeup look like? Here are some that I and some friends have found to trigger our insecurities:

  • What to and not to wear at your age
  • How to dress for your body type
  • 8 ways to make your face look slimmer
  • The right way to use or wear…

This might seem silly, but all of these send messages that stifle creativity. They tell you that it’s wrong to wear something because you don’t have the right body or it’s no longer age appropriate. They create arbitrary rules that confine you.

Are there limits? Of course. Creativity doesn’t allow you to walk into (most) offices naked or wear blood on your face. We live in a society that requires limits to freedom for the safety and security of all. But if you’re worried about leaving your house in a leopard printed skirt because “you’re too old to wear that”, will you be willing to face your fear on the page or onstage?

So how can you embrace the creative side of fashion and makeup without getting sucked into the shame and negativity? Here are some tips I’ve found helpful.

1. Ditch the magazines

I can’t say anything for most blogs, but many of the main stream magazines play on insecurities. They rely on advertisers who want you to buy more products. If they can make you believe that their product will make you look and feel better, they will sell it that way. Studies show that media consumption can increase body dissatisfaction.

Hesitant? Take a look at your subscriptions. How do you feel after reading them? Do you feel better or worse about yourself after reading them? Do you feel pushed to buy new things you don’t really want or need? Let your gut guide you.

2. Reclaim your style

Suit up

It’s easy to follow the norms of society when it comes to fashion and makeup. But when was the last time you really thought about your clothing? Does it represent you? How do you feel in them? If you say yes, then awesome! If not, it’s time to reclaim your style.

For me, I am lazy. I don’t like to shop and hate spending hours trying to figure out what to wear. I’ve been drawn toward minimalism for a while, but minimalist style became my ethos this year. I focused my wardrobe around classic basics in simple colors and let my accessories be big and colorful to add punch. I don’t do heels, but man do I love a good pair of boots. Dressing like this feels comfortable and easy. I know it’s right for me because I feel good in these clothes.

You may find my wardrobe boring, that’s ok. Look through your closet and makeup, what do you love? What are you ambivalent about? My rule of thumb is if I haven’t used something in a year, I probably won’t use it again. Clean out what you don’t want anymore and start making space for the ones that truly reflect you.

3. Find inspiration

I may no longer read fashion magazines, but I still find plenty of style in my life to influence my decisions. I love that the internet allows me to get inspiration from around the world, not just my backyard. Some places I look for inspiration include:

  • Pintrest
  • Movies
  • Street style wherever I am
  • Instagram

Of course, there could be boards on Pintrest or Instagram feeds that are just as triggering as many mainstream publications. Choose the ones that provide inspiration rather than rules.  Because I have struggled with body image, I make sure to include people of various shapes and sizes. Make sure you find content that helps you instead of hurts you.

At the end of the day, not everyone is into fashion or makeup. For some people, they just want clothes that will fit well and allow them to go to and from work without much fuss. There’s nothing wrong with that. It says nothing positive or negative about your creativity.

However, if you feel bound up by social rules and expectations for how you dress and present yourself, then it’s time to reconsider the role fashion and makeup play in your life. What is creative for you about it? What isn’t? Being able to answer and stand by these questions will help you when you tackle larger creative projects in your own life.

How do you express your creativity in fashion or makeup? Share in a comment below! 

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