Recently, one of my dreams came true when I was given the opportunity to write about Mindy Kaling and Karl Lagerfeld in a piece. While I would have never thought in any ether that there would be some semblance of a connection, there is one -- a quite plausible one, in fact. Bear with me.
The argument arises from an idea, well, that isn't very old at all. Kaling said recently in an interview with NPR that she dressed for women -- because dressing for men wouldn't be very fun at all. Here it is, in its entirety.
Like most women, I dress for other women. If I was going to dress for men, in general, I would just be wearing a fitted black T-shirt and tight jeans every day. Of course, this is my unscientific research done by working with male comedy writers for the past eight years. They just tend to really like -- this specific group of guys -- really simple, clean lines, things like that, but I don't. So I dress for women, I wear all of those things, because I like looking at it. It makes me feel happy and excited to wear it.
And Uncle Karl?
Dress for yourself and the man you love (if there is one). Women dressing to impress other women -- forget about that. Forget about that. It's a very bad way of thinking."
I've got to go with Lagerfeld on this one -- at least somewhat. As someone who dresses for themselves, and always has, I find this notion of women dressing for women, and what's more, for men, curious. But where are all the people who wake up in the morning and put on what they want regardless of what other people think?
At its core, I'll concede that what Kaling is referring to has merit and isn't quite as literal as what she makes it seem. Essentially, what she's saying is something believed to be tried and (often) true: Men have shallow and little interest in what a woman is wearing unless it's sexualized or revealing, and the things she wants to wear are things other women appreciate, but whose effect is lost on men. I get that. Sadly, I think a lot of women get that. Thus, I admit that her sentiment of dressing for an audience that seemingly appreciates what she wears is well-intended, at the very least.
Lagerfeld's seems to be, too: the idea of love being that there is someone in your world who accepts you for you. This type of love that I imagine he's referencing is one where there are no buts or any statement that resembles, "Yes, except when they wear..." Dressing for them, therefore, shouldn't be different from dressing for yourself: You wear things you're comfortable with and feel sexy in, and as they love you, they wouldn't want it any other way.
The underlying message of both Lagerfeld and Kaling's opinions is rooted in appreciation and the tiny applause we hear when someone comments on an outfit, look or piece -- akin, maybe, to someone recognizing an accomplishment of yours at work, or an athletic performance. As humans, we want to know someone is responding. We're constantly seeking and giving feedback and our opinions and technology will have made this even easier than it was yesterday. Still, whenever I see blanket statements like this, I can't help but be a little wary. Fashion and style, if you care about them, are about dressing in a way that help you feel good about yourself, and helping you achieve your objective, whatever that may be. Maybe it's comfort. Maybe it's empowerment. Maybe you're aiming for experimental, expressive or sexy. But whatever the case, our clothes are what we present to the world, and can be telling of who we are. In this way, tailoring that to an audience because we'll know we get a response is something I'm not quite comfortable with.
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?