The Illusion of New

Posted by Jill Chivers in Fashion, Style and Shopping, Shopping in the Movies and Media, Shopping Messages, Shopping, Clothes and Emotions

Today’s post is inspired (although provoked is probably a more accurate word) from a piece I read recently in a magazine.  It was one of those paper-thin, stapled weekly women’s magazines.  You know the sort – heavy on celebrity sightings and gossip, low on quality stories over 500 words long.  I must have been in the hairdresser or doctor’s office – there’s no other way I would have been reading such a publication (not that I’m, sniff, snobbish about such things, mind).

It was a small piece, told almost entirely in pictures.  The sequence went like this:

I was especially caught by the punctuation accompanying the words Last Year and A Year And a Half Ago!  As if it were AMAZING that Last Year! she had the same handbag as she has NOW.

Is this not completely insane?

Why must Danielle Spencer, or any woman, have a new handbag – just because her existing bag is “not new? The illusion of the new is what I call this phenomenon, something I talked about during my own year without clothes shopping – in that post, I talked about how truly stylish women are not constantly updating their look.  I have a new thought about this drive and desire for the NEW.

I believe that this striving for a new look is linked to the same thinking that tells us the only kind of beauty that is acceptable is youthful beauty.  Am I the only 30+ woman enraged when watching commercials for anti-wrinkle creams featuring girls in their teens?  As if aging one moment past the age of 25 is a curse.  It’s the same kind of thinking that causes (some) women to be mortified when they feel they look their age (or to be insulted if they are told they do).  It’s as if age in itself is a crime of some sort!

Young and New is always better?!

It’s utterly insane to think that the only beautiful women are those who are under the age of 30.  Just as its utterly insane to think that the only form of acceptable style is NEW clothing.  Why is something considered stylish (or even merely ‘fashionable’) just because it’s new?  It doesn’t add up, no matter how you look at it.

I recall an Oprah show focused on Dream Jobs.  The creative director for J Crew, Jenna Lyons, was interviewed, and she made a spontaneous comment about how crazy it makes her sometimes when the only thing differentiating this year’s line from last year’s is newness.  Not actual style,  or an innovation of some sort.  No.  It’s “in” because it’s “new”.  That’s the end of the equation.

This is why being “in” is not what we should focus our precious time and considerable talents on.  Having true style that says something important about who you are, is not a constantly shifting thing driven by the desire to wear something merely because it is NEW.  Just as true beauty is not solely about youth.

In thinking about this posting and the link between the Illusion of the New and the striving for youthful beauty, I did some research on women who are over 50 and are beautiful. Not beautiful for their their age – just beautiful.

Just as true style has nothing to do with newness, true beauty is not connected to age. All of these women are over 50 and all of them are beautiful, wouldn’t you say?

Patricia Clarkson, American actress.  56 years old.  And beautiful.

Sigourney Weaver, American actress.  66 years old.  And beautiful.

Helen Mirren, English actress.  70 years old.  And beautiful

Isabella Rosalinni, Italian/American actress. 63 years old.  And beautiful.

Deborah Hutton, Australian media personality. 55 years old.  And beautiful.

Olivia Newton-John, Australian singer and actress. 67 years old.  And beautiful.

Jamie Lee Curtis, American actress. 57 years old.  And beautiful.

Sophia Loren, Italian actress. 81 years old.  And beautiful.

And that’s just a handful of beautiful women who are not young.

Just like we need to be awake to the illusion of youthful beauty being the only acceptable form of beauty, we need to wake up to the illusion of new.

The illusion, if not delusion, of our fascination with New

I was talking to a friend about this on the weekend.   She mentioned how a couple of years ago the fashion magazines/shows were all a-twitter about how the coloured trench coat was back “in” – who knew?!

In true Shop Your Wardrobe style, she looked in her wardrobe and lo and behold – she had a beautiful deep dusky pink trench coat.

And it was 10+ years old.  Not at all new.  But still beautiful.

The Illusion of New keeps us on the hamster fashion wheel

We keep running and running to try to keep up with an reachable standard – what’s “in”.  And that’s because the system has built-in obsolescence – fashion cycles are so fast now that stores are re-stocking weekly, not seasonally.  It’s time to get off that hamster wheel – you’ll only end up dog tired and dispirited with trying to keep up.  And that’s no life to lead.

If you are tired of trying to keep up with the illusion of the new, come join us here.  Our practical online program specifically addresses how you can tap into the hidden mileage (and magic) lurking in your wardrobe and re-ignite excitement for your own closet – without having to keep buying new.


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    13 Responses to “The Illusion of New”

    1. Mary Ellen Eckels says:

      Dear Jill,
      What a terrific and much-needed blog!! Thanks, Jill. I was very fortunate to grow up in a household that not only revered age, but included two very vibrant grandmothers. It was a large family, and large extended family, so lovingly cared for hand-me-downs were nothing new. We learned very early to enjoy “new-to-me” clothing and toys, even bedrooms! lol My sisters and I still will occasionally bring garments to share to family gatherings.

      Thank you, Jill, for voicing reason and sanity. I think sometimes we almost feel sympathy for the clothing industry, needing to greedily? strive for larger profit margins, creating “new” markets by informing us that ‘this is out and this is in’ and our too-vunerable psyches nod like sheep and run after the next new item or trend. We are a lot smarter than that, but marketing certainly knows how to target our achilles heel.

      Thank you for reminding us that it does all begin with how we feel about ourselves, what defines us, what defines beauty. Once those attitudes are in place, we can take off the marketing glasses and see clearly again :-).
      Mary Ellen

      • Jill says:

        Mary Ellen, hi – how wonderful that you grew up in a household that revered age… our Western culture doesn’t tend to do so well in that area, in general, does it? And two vibrant grandmothers into the bargain – what an advantage! I never had hand-me-downs (only older brothers), but my mother sewed, so I was very familiar with the idea of revamping and repurposing clothing (which could explain why I still love to do that now). So glad you enjoyed this post — and thanks for your comment here too!

    2. Jennifer says:

      Thank you so much for your thoughts – I’m new to this and I love being a part of a community that wants to stop the madness.
      I’m really enjoying what you have to say.

      • Jill says:

        Jennifer – so good to see your comment here, it’s lovely to know that you’re with us and are enjoying the conversation! Great to have you part of it…

    3. ije says:

      so true jill! one of the things i really appreciate about growing up in nigeria is not being indoctrinated and pressured to fill these narrow ideas of what’s beautiful. while there was an upper class mentality that favored getting the newest model benz or “in season” lace, there was a huge majority of the working poor who used their style to make do with what they had. as a black woman in the over 30 crowd (and less than a week away from joining the over 35 party), i’m grateful that my self-esteem isn’t as bruised as it could be from all the media messages and images that don’t include women of different shades, body shapes and ages in their definition of what’s beautiful. thanks for sharing!

      • Jill says:

        hi Ije – lovely to see your comment here, and so fascinating to hear about your Nigerian upbringing when it comes to ideas of beauty. It’s so fascinating to me how we can ourselves up with such a narrow definition of “beauty”, and how wonderful that your childhood was filled with a much broader interpretation.

    4. Stacey says:

      Hey Jill!

      Thanks so much for this great post! I really enjoyed your riff on the tyranny of age and fashion perpetuated by the media.

      Of course the mags wants us to believe we need the new bag or wrinkle cream because the advertising revenue from those products keeps them afloat.

      I’ll never forget the story of Oprah complaining to her staff that there were too many ads in her magazine and being told that the magazine couldn’t exist without it.

      I was chagrined that she accepted this poor excuse. I would happily pay more money for her magazine in lieu of the advertising. I realize now, though, that I never voiced my opinion. Thanks for letting me do it hear in your forum!

      Thanks again for this great post!

      • Jill says:

        hi Stacey — I agree with you about Oprah… I found her inclusion of the J Crew creative director in her Dream Jobs piece to be quite incongruous (considering the others were people like the Cake Boss). But I guess even Oprah is influenced by the marketing machine! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your comment – great to see you here!

    5. Jill… this post really hits home for me. even though i KNOW i don’t need new clothes to outfit my fabulous self, in the past, the allure was too strong. i’d get a beautiful free-flowing blouse to show the world just how “free” i am, instead of embracing the freedom that the real me embodies. when i decided to go on a shopping fast, i also decided to remove myself from the media that fosters that false sense of need and external identity. no more weekly mags. no more reality tv. no more online shopping…

      once you decide to shift your perspective on all this, the media just seems completely ridiculous! i, too, am appalled that oprah stood aside and let the advertisers win… at the very least, she should make sure that the ads they do print are completely congruous with her overall message.

      anyway, thank you for your sharp post! look forward to reading more from you =)

    6. Julia says:

      I’m fortunate to live in an area where it’s OK to be eclectic. Many of the people I know shop at thrift stores, where stuff will not be in the current fashion, but they’re buying and wearing stuff that works for them, not whatever is in the magazines.

      As for the purse — I have a couple of purses I’ve had for 10 years or longer, and the more recent purses are just so that I have something that goes well with each of several very different dresses. (Well, there was one that was a gift, but it’s a good one for more casual occasions and I can stick a paperback book in it if I think I might get bored.) I’m not going to buy a new purse just because whatever I have isn’t new, I’ll buy a new purse if bringing together the outfit starting with the $80 dress needs a different $30 purse to really work stunningly — and even then, I might not bother!

      • Jill says:

        hi Julia – lovely to see your comment here, you are so welcome! Being able to dress for who you are (or are choosing to be for tha day) is such a blessing. When you start to ‘unpack’ it, it’s amazing how much excess baggage we can carry around about what we “should” be dressing like. So, how utterly fabulous for you to live in an area that celebrates the unique!

    7. flossie says:

      Great post jill!
      i have a lovely wardrobe with some great pieces found in op shops, given to me and also purchased. i sorted my style out a couple of years ago and now buy stuff that really suits. Still too much i know, but all in style and all that I love…my reason for doing the year long course is that i have had to realise that “enough is enough”, never the less I congratulate my self on not being less of a slave to fashion that doesn’t suit me these days, certainly an upgrade for me which is nice to notice!

      • Jill Chivers says:

        hi Flossie, yes it’s always great to find your style and use it as your guide post and touchstone when both bringing new items into your wardrobe or getting dressed for the day. It’s a true liberation to release yourself from the fluctuations of fashion… bravo! And so glad you enjoyed the post!

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