[image from Jezebel.com]
I realize that through all my recent posts on the various accoutrements* of "doing" a vintage look (the undergarments, the hair, the heels), I might be giving the impression that I'm trying to make myself over into some sort of airbrushed pinup ideal. In fact, the truth is that I'm distinctly uncomfortable with the idea of looking too "done."
I recently tried to do a look that was over-the-top vintage. False eyelashes, girdle, padded bra, high heels, the works. And I hated how I felt, sort of like a fembot/drag queen version of myself. I know that some women say that they feel "empowered" when they get all sex-kittened up. That's great for them. But I have to admit, I'll die a happy girl if I never hear someone say she feels "empowered" by things like this again. (I believe that empowered is the most overused - and erroneously used - word by modern women. But I digress.)
I guess what I'm saying is that I sometimes find the art of doing vintage at odds with my feminist ideals. If anyone else tried to tell me that I had to meet some exacting set of beauty ideals to be a part of a subculture, I'd tell them where they could go. But there's something about the standards of vintage beauty that can have me losing myself at times - feeling overly done, out of sorts, and not measuring up - as much as I desperately try. When it stops being fun and starts being another excuse to beat up on ourselves, there's a problem.
So, on to the solution. Personally, I try to temper a more "done" look with some down-to-earth elements: unpainted nails, geeky glasses, scuffed ankle boots, polka dot tights. That sort of thing. I guess I see it as sort of the anti-Dita Von Teese philosophy. While she's gorgeous, she admits to going to extraordinary lengths to get her look - breast implants, fake beauty mark, corset tightlacing, etc. She makes a point to never be seen wearing anything less than a full vintage look. She proclaims that she lounges around in vintage slips, not t-shirts. Running to the store in jeans is not an option for her.
That's great for Dita Von Teese. I admire the woman's commitment and I just adore her in general. I have to remind myself, however, that she makes her living by virtue of looking the way that she does. I think we everyday vintage-lovers could stand to be a little easier on ourselves. (And hell! If Dita feels like it, she should also be easier on herself. Screw the Hollywood/burlesque status quo.)
And - at least for me - another thing that ties into all this is that pesky notion of "authenticity" that I see showing up so often. In other words, that to "do" a certain era authentically, it has to be done a certain way. As though there were only one genuine way of being a woman in the 40s of 50s, for example. But more disturbing is that often this notion of authenticity carries with it a certain amount of judgment - against tattoos, jeans, straight hair, whatever. I must admit to finding this strange. I mean, is the joy of vintage dressing in authentically, realistically, rigidly reproducing an era gone by? For me, it's not. It's in celebrating the beauty of another era and incorporating it into my life in 2010. Some days that means victory rolls with torn jeans and Chucks. Some days it might mean doing the whole shebang - heels, crinolines, and all that. Other days I might just stay in my flannel sock-monkey print pajamas. Who knows? The beauty of being me is that I'm still myself in all of these get-ups. And so are you! After all, at the end of the day - the only one who has to live in your skin is you.
What do you think of all this? Do you strive to be more like Dita everyday? Or are you content to incorporate retro looks into a more modern look overall? Do you ever feel uncomfortable with the standards of vintage beauty?
*I also just realized that the plural of accoutrement is . . . accoutrement. Not accoutrements! (Right?) I hope you'll allow me this crass Americanization.