Look At Those Clothes!

Musings on style and fashion

It’s Ugly, Isn’t It?

Ugly 1 002Can you guess what the photos in this post have in common? They all show things that I and possibly someone else (she who surrendered them) thought were ugly.

I used to be pretty sure I knew what clothing I liked and what I thought was so ugly that I couldn’t possibly like it,  look at it again, or be happy that it existed in the universe, never mind wear it.

But once I started to do a lot of shopping (read “thrifting”) about 10 years ago, my ideas about ugliness gradually began to change. Very gradually—perhaps a year or two ago came the wish to intentionally remain open-minded when my sneering inner monkey took one quick look at a garment or hat or pair of shoes and responded with “UglyUglyUgly—yuck! Who would ever buy that?!?Ugly 1 004

“Wait a minute,” my inner Paris Gray would say, rather severely at first. (She is the most intellectual of my fashion sub-personalities, and rather hard on the rest of us at times.) “Someone did buy that, or it wouldn’t have ended up here. Therefore, someone, at some time, thought it was beautiful.  Is not their judgment perhaps as valid as yours? (I needn’t remind you, need I, that you are certainly not the most intelligent or tasteful creature in the universe. ) Tell me now, do you really think it’s ugly, or are you just afraid of it? Unused to it? Lacking the means to evaluate it properly?”

After trying to hide from the formidable Paris behind a clothing rack, I would grudgingly return to the field and give the offending garment another look. Sometimes I confirmed that I did indeed find the poor thing ugly, and I would proceed to justify my opinion.

“The color is not strong, it’s lurid—a misbegotten joke of a color, an insult to nature, an affront to the dying skills made possible by the Industrial Revolution. And the fabric is nasty [slippery, harsh, stiff, thin, cheap-looking …], to say nothing of the cut—mercy, it wouldn’t hang right on an angel!”

Ugly 1 008And so on. But sometimes I would have to admit that indeed, the “yuck” response was coming from one or all the causes Paris had mentioned. And I learned to keep the monkey on a leash with a banana stuffed in her mouth and wait and look and think (Paris does all these things with enviable aplomb) long enough to realize that sometimes what I had thought was ugly instead represented an edge that I could push past to find myself in rich new territory.

Pushing past the ugly edge has made things I thought I hated for their ugliness—the color orange, uneven hemlines, the bottom of a shirt showing beneath the hem of a jacket (I could go on)—become part of my happy clothing family. And reminded me that in fashion, as in other endeavors, she who judges too soon ends up with a small world indeed.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it may become necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.

—Miss Piggy






Categories: Look What We Found at the Thrift Store!

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2 replies

  1. Excellent the way you describe the whole thought process around ugly vs. unfamiliar. I think I need to refine my ugly thinking. : )


    • Ah yes, refining our thinking–a lifelong process, that, despite my belief, when I was a little shaver, that I’d have it all figured out by the time I reached an age of sophistication and maturity, say 13. But that milestone passed without any appreciable increase in either of those qualities (quite the opposite) and then I read Hamlet, and things got deliciously and sometimes maddeningly complicated, “for there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” And the whole comedy/drama of our lives can play out in our closets …


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