Aspirational Vs. Inspirational

Yes, I have a lot to say about Bohemia today.

I read a lot of magazines. I will name them not. But they annoy me. They sell me things I cannot afford and they sell me the notion that the only way to live is to be rich, rich, rich but with the tastes of Bohemia. Also, that women need to be thin, thin, thin.

I don’t subscribe to these magazines. They come to our home, unsolicited. And I throw them across the room after reading about people who had just bought a penthouse, and were surprised to discover a beach home that they just “had to have.”

Today I discovered a quote that explains an actual theory behind this philosophy: it comes from Andy Warhol, and his mission for Interview, a magazine about the high/low differential: the “difference in the classes: the ultra-rich and the ultra-bohemian.”

It’s messed up crap that doesn’t speak to most of America.

So, I live in Marin County. The “high” ones are the anorexic ladies who lunch at the club and flirt with the tennis instructors. The “high” men are the financial wizards or tech-loving outdoorsy people or the landed gentry who come here because it is just too damn beautiful. Us townies who were actually born here and grew up here? Yeah, not so much luck settling here. Most of my childhood friends have moved.

I was reading the NY Times “Vow” section tongue-in-cheek on Sunday at my in-laws. The story was quite gripping until the mention of the bride’s family, who have a “second home” in Bolinas, here in Marin. Bolinas is not only outrageously expensive, it’s incredibly exclusive: Martha Stewart was banned from buying property there.

Why mention that? Why say “second home in Bolinas” when it’s not a necessary detail readers need to know? I asked my MiL about it.

“Oh, my husband and I love to read about these stories. We think we could apply a few of the not expensive details in the story to our events and that makes us happy.”

In other words, the very rich have tastes they learn from the bohemians that the middle class then adapt into their own lives.

I know there is a lot of criticism about lifestyle blogs, but this is the very reason I love them so much. The main tastemakers are fashion-oriented women who can curate their own styles. Like Pandora’s Box or Atlantic Pacific. By following them, we get to bypass the “aspirational” and move straight into “inspirational.”

For example, this outfit was directly inspired by Blonde Salad.

What say you: do you like this movement of relative nobodies suddenly dictating style based on their own talents and instincts, or do you prefer cultural “gatekeepers” to limit style from the higher-ups, like Karl Lagerfield (who cribs from bohemia) directly to the rich, then filtering down to the masses via hip-hop stars, and actresses and H&M? Do you aspire to a wealthy aesthetic? What inspires your style?

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Aspirational Vs. Inspirational

  1. I may have said this before, but it fascinates me how much time you spend worrying about how you compare to the rich and famous. I guess just because I don’t worry about that at all. I do worry about how I compare to the people immediately around me, my coworkers and friends, and how the childhood I’m giving J compares to what my parents gave me. Famous people, and the very wealthy, just seem too far away (literally and figuratively) for me to worry about. But I guess where you live, these people are NOT far away. That seems like it must be really hard.

    • I think, Deborah, the difference between you and Jjiraffe is that she does lives very close to these people. They are ALL AROUND HER, where she lives and where her kids go to school. The Bay Area is an incredibly expensive place to live. The people who raise their kids here are either doing extremely well for themselves, or they are doing okay and making big sacrifices to stay close to family (like Jjiraffe’s family is doing). So her day to day life is just very different than yours, in that she is constantly coming face to face with people who have millions and millions of dollars just sitting liquid in a bank account, and you can see it on them, no matter where they are.

      Living in San Francisco I have to come face to face with the fact that most families who live here can afford to buy a $1-2 million dollar house. That is just the kinds of lives they lead. If they can’t afford that they leave or the escape to the lower end of the city, like we’re being forced to do. We could move, sure, but it’s so much more complicated than that. Our families live here, my partner grew up here, we don’t want to be pushed out by the rich all around us, but it’s hard not to be affected by them, not to be constantly reminded of what they have and what we don’t, especially when you need what they have just to live comfortably here.

      I think it’s just a totally different place in the world, one that you can’t understand if you don’t live in the thick of it. I wonder all the time if it’s worth it living where I do, I wonder if the benefits outweigh the struggle. I honestly don’t know the answer, at least for our family, it’s something I’ll probably wonder about my whole life.

  2. There are some very rich and style conscious people who live around here. I’m typing this in cut off jeans and a T-shirt, and I confess I went to the Y today in the same clothes I went in yesterday. My house is decidedly “grad student” furnishings, with some “grown up” pieces thrown in because the grad student couches disintegrated. Our artwork on the walls is watercolors painted by my husband’s grandfather, and some other random things. I think I’m a-stylish. 😉 Then again …

    I love “the very rich have tastes they learn from the bohemians that the middle class then adapt into their own lives.” Reminds me of Miranda’s line about the sweater in “The Devil Wears Prada”: “But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise. It’s not lapis. It’s actually cerulean. And you’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent… wasn’t it who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.”

    • Justine: I almost posted that clip!!!!!!! That scene is exactly what I was trying to describe. Although now the process seems to be becoming diffused: instead of just Anna Wintour watching collections sold to the wealthiest, then inspiring the designers who sell to Macy’s, and yes, Casual Corner, now there are these fashion bloggers democratically chosen by popularity who are involved. The one piece I didn’t talk about is the inspiration of the haute couture designers, which this season was “London punk in the 1970s” grunge, neon worn by Bushwick hipsters. Or: non-conformist artists and musicians and, well, bohemians.

  3. Wordgirl

    Hi jjiraffe — first I can’t believe you’ve been so kind to my blog; thank you for that — I truly, truly mean it when I say that your kind word have been a kind of infusion into the whole blogging endeavor. I owe you an email.

    I’ve been dying to comment on your previous post about Girls because I have been in a love/hate relationship with that show as well — I’m wondering if I can articulate what I’m thinking here…I may end up writing a post about it — I’m so inspired…and ON CUE Z IS UP FROM NAP.

    Damn it. Just as I fire up the computer.

    Curses.

    More later…

  4. I’d love to be able to afford a home in the beautiful neighbourhood we live in so my kid can grow up here. It’s a comfortable enclave of SUVs and treelined streets close to all the best schools. The neighbours talk to you, the kids play out front and the parks are clean and free of garbage and needles. But like in Esperanza’s case, the houses are all well over a $1M and we just can’t swing that right now. So as much as I would like to see me walking my kid to the park in an Eileen Fisher outfit and Tom shoes, chances are I will have to take my old dog haired covered ole Lululemon ass to another neighbourhood.

  5. I don’t understand couture. Never have. I like the idea of fashion and style being democratized by independent bloggers. A couple of weeks ago on NPR, I was listening to an interview with the author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion http://www.amazon.com/Overdressed-Shockingly-High-Cheap-Fashion/dp/1591844614/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1340826260&sr=1-1&keywords=overdressed. I understand her point, but she irritated me too because I like having the option not to spend a lot of money on clothes. I like the freedom of being able to buy a shirt here or a skirt there, and if it lasts only a few seasons, oh well. I can’t bring myself to pay more than $50 for a pair of jeans.

    I’m quirky. I don’t get the chevron thing going on, and I’m still trying to figure out why so many people love anthropologie. I buy clothes that appeal to me.

  6. I have more 🙂 I’m not sure if I could pick out what a style-conscious person in NC would be wearing. I think they might carry a Coach bag, but I’m not sure. What is interesting is fashion in the blogosphere – and I don’t mean fashion bloggers. I commented on another blog last week that I don’t feel like I fit in with a lot of bloggers I read because they all dress a certain way, seem to love the same stores and are all crafty, DIYers. I am none of those things!

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