Happy Mortal

This life, well-lived.

Your Personal Fashion Police

Huki police, 1955

I recently went to sell some of my clothes at the Buffalo Exchange in Seattle’s University District. I took with me two full bags of clothes–shoes, shirts, pants, sweaters. Before the woman behind the counter sifted through the goods, she informed me that she would only be taking what the store currently needed, and that the store only traded in the most current styles. Fine with me.

I left the counter, browsed, and came back to find that she had only selected two items. A pair of shoes and a cardigan from Urban Outfitters. I got $22 store credit. Fine with me. Before I left though, she said, “You have some good basic styles, but we are looking for the most current versions.” This was not fine with me.

I don’t care about the clothes’ fashion classification, but it seemed she was trying to make me feel better by giving a stamp of approval.  Don’t feel bad, the Buffalo Exchange employee says that your clothes have good basic style. Well guess what? Your mom has good basic style. We just can’t accept her because we trade only in the most current versions.

This mild annoyance got me to thinking about where we get our sense of success or failure when it comes to fashion. I’m not talking about function, like, “these underwear prevent my burlap shorts from giving me a rash.” I’m talking about the social cues that lead us to say “damn, these burlap shorts look fly! (This rash is so worth it).”  And don’t tell me that you came out of the womb with a fully developed sense of what looks great. I have some photos of your feathered mullet  (your emo fedora) to prove it.  So how about it? What are the voices in your life that help you decide what (not) to wear?

Built in liner


  1. Great questions. For me, the great irony is that Buffalo Exchange doesn’t actually deal in “the most current styles” because they are a second hand shop. They actually depend on some sort of timing differential between styles, or they depend on different folks enjoying different things at different times.

    Which, leads me to my next “point”: the idea that there is one set of “current styles” has to go. Now more than ever we should realize the power of playing dress-up. You catch a vision or want to say something and you dress it.

    Most of the voices in my head that talk to me about fashion come from other types of art. Photography is a big one, whether fashion blogs and photos or period pieces, certain colors, composition, lines and the overall feel can inspire me.

  2. Most of the voices about fashion in my head and life are negative ones. (Good girls don’t wear those things, you look like a slut, you look unattractive, you’re too fat for that, you need to dress to show off your figure, you’re prettier than you dress). Unfortunately I think girls and women are more likely to hear these voices from childhood up through adulthood. Either from real people, or the media. So for me, enjoying fashion and becoming the person that I want to look like means ignoring every voice I ever literally heard through my life and listening to my own.

    I really love fashion magazines, but more for inspiration than for mimicry. Especially british and australian ones. I love mens fashion magazines too. I adore the look of slight androgyny. And The Sartorialist is a must have. I love that it portrays people with so many different senses of what fashion is.

    I also love to listen to my own inner interpretation of the zeitgeist. (“What? The 1940’s should be in right now? Ok.”)

    And for the record, I’m trying to be a positive voice in the overall stream of negative ones toward women. (And I’m lucky to have a husband that does the same.) :)

  3. Ha! Great comments. Love the point about Buffalo being a second hand store. Also really resonate with “playing dress up” and the point that fashion speaks.

  4. Inspiration over mimicry. Love it. To me this connects to your point about positive and negative voices in fashion. We can’t help but be influenced by current trends, and those things to which we have access (e.g. Australian fashion magazines). But mimicry implies a posture of fear and unawareness to me, while inspiration implies a posture of affirmation and increasing awareness of our influences.