This morning, hundreds of celebrities and, erm, normal folk alike, woke up, did their hair, did their makeup and put on a dress or outfit they had carefully selected for Melbourne Cup celebrations.
Some were heading to the VIP section of the Birdcage, some to the general areas of Flemington. Others were heading to a friend’s BBQ or an office ‘do.
In a few hours, if not already, the more familiar faces will find themselves plastered over the front pages of news sites and newspapers under the two words those on the social scene dread the most – Worst Dressed.
This year, please don’t click. Resist the urge of that guilty pleasure and have a think about what that simple click is fuelling.
It’s time we do away with the worst dressed lists, like, yesterday. We’re better than that, aren’t we?
At its very simplest, it’s mean and unnecessary.
Imagine dressing up and experiencing that rare feeling as a woman of really, genuinely feeling GOOD about yourself then waking up to learn thousands of people you’ve never met have decreed that the dress you put on with such confidence wasn’t “flattering”, “missed the mark” or “was poorly cut”. And those are just the nice remarks.
Women have enough self doubt and negative talk in our heads. We don’t need to read it from someone else.
There’s also an unspoken truth when it comes to the worst dressed lists. A lot of the time, it’s an excuse to call out the people who aren’t a perfect size four to six with the thigh gap to match. Funny that.
As any woman who sits at a size retailers and designers decide is “above average” knows, finding nice clothes can be really difficult. Hell, finding clothes at any end of the spectrum can be hard. So unless you’re at the elite level where you have a stylist who has designers who can custom make you a gown, chances are it’s going to be a challenge and a half to find an outfit you truly love. And honestly, even then it’s not a piece of cake.
People say it’s just harmless fun, that it’s just entertainment. What’s not entertaining is publicly shaming people for an outfit they wore and reducing their self esteem. So often these fashion critiques get personal, particularly when it comes to body size and shape. Focussing your criticism on the clothes themselves can reduce the nastiness, but even then it’s dangerous ground to tread.
In fact the worst dressed lists are also making red carpets and fancy events LESS entertaining. Why? Celebrities and their stylists are so afraid of ending up on said list, they play it safe. The results are boring outfits so to fill content, the worst dressed lifts are filled with those who don’t look like the models we see on the runway.
We miss out on iconic fashion moments, taking risks that make red carpets so exciting and influential, out of fear. Worst dressed lists discourage creativity and we're all the worse for it.
You're not always going to like what someone wears, I get that. You don't have to. But equally, you don't have to voice those thoughts to a wider audience or, worse, in a forum where the very person you're talking about will likely read them.
You never know how much that 'harmless' comment will affect them - and follow them.
Instead, be kind. Appreciate the effort and time that that person put in to getting ready and feeling their best on a special night. For those who have children, more often and not, the weeks leading up to and including that night have been a stress of trying to organise a babysitter, madly scrambling to find an outfit and feed, bathe and bed the kids while simultaneously trying to put on a ballgown.
Fashion is fun to talk about. It's a uniting subject that so many of us are passionate about. We can and should take an interest and celebrate what people are wearing. But there's a way to do it "critically" and "objectively" rather than nastily.
So think what you want about that "out-there" outfit. Just don't say it.
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