Distribution of wealth

for contemporary culture, dorothy is one of the earliest examples of mixing high/low, marrying a simple country pinafore with magical ruby red slippers. just like today’s “It” items, the power was all in the wearer’s mind, but a lot of people are putting a lot of stock (and money) in the idea that one key accessory will make the whole outfit.

when the investment is made in the accessories, and they are then expected to elevate the clothing (this seems deceitful, in a way), then they cease to be accessories. an accessory is a subordinate item, something non-essential.

i wonder if this long-running trend is breeding a whole lot of people who don’t know how to dress themselves, because they don’t think they need to, because they’ve got the It, and It’s all they need.

on the other hand, h&m and other retailers of fast fashion* do make it possible to assemble an outfit with legitimate flair at a low cost, plus vintage or even a very keen eye can produce great style at reasonable costs.

is there any advantage (or disadvantage) to distributing the wealth to keep a look in proportion, value-wise?


editor said...

*has someone else coined this term already? to me it captures the literal speed at which trends reach customers, the appeal of the immediate satisfaction at low cost (fewer inhibitions at committing to what might be an ephemeral trend), and, on unfortunate occasion, the lifespan of the material/construction.

full disclosure: i am personally pretty passionate about (and invested in) quality accessories, and i try to keep them on par with the rest of my style/wardrobe/look, value-wise – but then again, i might be kidding myself.

Iheartfashion said...

I love a high-low mix. There is something a little tacky or trying-too-hard about a woman dressed head to toe in high end designer stuff (at least when it's recognizably designer, with double Cs or LVs all over.) For me a pair of Levi's with a white button-down from J. Crew or Gap, Tod's loafers, Cartier watch, and a good bag is a classic example.

fashionaddict said...

I feel that if I lack the lifestyle to match (the six-figure salary, the flash car, vacations in Tahiti), blowing money I break my back to earn on one designer item is silly. I'd very much rather spend on what I can afford and use my imagination to look stylish.

I also think that the hi-lo thing sort of only works if you are truly rich - when I was a sales assistant in an upmarket boutique, I learnt how to discern between the truly rich and the pretenders. So carrying a designer bag to look well-off is a thin disguise. It's also a little too aspirational

It's a bit sad for me when I see people - rich or otherwise -dressed dully, but they're swaggering cos they're carrying an "It" bag. "It" items kill the imagination. It's become an excuse for style, and that's a tragedy. It may indicate taste - or that you read enough fashion magazines - but it's not a good enough excuse for style.

editor said...

an "advantage" to keeping the look in proportion i suppose is to look like whatever you are. if you have a ritzy bag and you're dressed in sweats, you'll be perceived as a millioniare (depending on your car) where i grew up, but if you have on nice clothes and cheap accessories, you'll look poor. so you would want to decide how you want to be perceived. is there any real advantage to looking rich when you're not? i don't know. depends. anything wrong with dressing all on one even level, like a jcrew wardrobe and a $500 bag or something (just an example of an even balance in the wardrobe, value-wise), i don't think so. the credit card would breathe easier with that plan i think. :)

iheartfashion - if you're going to bring up levis, you'll win my vote every time, lol. what you described, that's not as high/low as i was even thinking - greater extremes i mean.

fashionaddict - "'It' items kill the imagination." i certainly think an argument can be made that they are often used as a substitute for creativity/style. yeah, i've seen that.

Anonymous said...

finding a balance in proportion to your wallet, or among the items themselves? what is a balanced proportion among the items? all costing the same? some things that you hope to use longer can cost more, and these are often accessories: earrings, purse, watch (shoes are a bit iffy since you really need quite a few to extend their life span. they themeselves don't necessarily last as long as other It items) and i think as iheartfashion mentioned cartier with gap and levis, that is balanced to me because all are durable in a style-sense, and it makes more sense (to me) to buy the best watch and have it last through years of levis and gap, rather than buy a swatch only to shatter the face after a year or something.
interesting question...

Candid Cool said...

I think it takes more effort to do a high low. There's a girl on Flickr's Wardrobe Remix who regularly pairs a F21 dress with her Goyard bags.

I also think it's wise to invest in accessories, they not getting as "hard" of a use as clothing. I don't mean getting the $2,000 "It" bag, but a Club Monaco, Banana Republic, Kenneth Cole New York, BCBG, Lucky Brand, etc... make really beautiful leather bags that aren't exorbitantly priced.

But this debate reminds me of Coco Chanel's love for costume jewelry & how she would wear faux pearls with real pearls.

editor said...

candid cool - i agree, accessories get much better mileage and so buying up a step or 2 does pay off, provided you aren't tremendously fickle and will lose interest with the piece after a year.

why is it that coco gets points for wearing faux with real, for mixing in some low with her high, but when someone puts in some high with her low, it typically is perceived as aspirational. interesting.

Anonymous said...

my question is: do you agree that there is a difference between elevate and accentuate ? some accessories to me are an essential- like a good watch. and i totally agree with some of the comments like a fendi bag maybe with a sweatpants outfit doesnt really work to "elevate", and people stretch it too far.

as for me, i think accessories are useful to accentuate but cannot always be expected to elevate........with the exception of my pearl or crystal necklace (my 2 favorites) which seem to dress up anything. on the other hand i have this funky orange wooden bead necklace and another orange plastic necklace that are incapable of elevating but they definitely accentuate.