We’ve all experienced this moment before: When someone walks into your coffee shop or shuffles next to you on the train and you notice that they have something on that’s... questionable. They’ve mastered how to wear the ugly-pretty trend and it has scandalized you. Maybe it’s a pair of clunky orthopedic-looking shoes with their dress, or Hammer Time-inspired pants. And your knee jerk reaction is to mentally scrunch up your nose and shake your head “no.” Fringe Fanny Pack Girl has been judged, and the verdict is not in her favor.
We all do it, whether we want to think those thoughts or not. It’s an instant reaction and we chide ourselves for being so close minded almost immediately after. While the “aw no” reaction might take some practice in squashing, it’s important to remember that style is all about being subjective, and our definitions of it change all the time. There’s no right way to look: It’s all about playing with ideas and finding new ways to bring beauty into our lives. For example, how many of us swore up and down that we’d never ever get on the fancy sweatpants trend, or more radical yet, the granny chic trend? Now how many of us have something Ethel-inspired hanging in our closet? How many of us have fondly resembled a retirement home curtain in a dress, and looked damn good while doing it? What we like constantly changes, and what we deem "pretty" and "ugly" is constantly going on the fritz, too.
To grow ourselves out of those “ew” knee jerk reactions, I think we need to get comfortable with taking something previously thought of as ugly, and realizing what its style appeal is to get down with its elements. You won’t develop by constantly sticking to what’s safe — you need to get uncomfortable and fidgety in styles you’d never thought to try on before! Trust me, it’s not as painful as it sounds. It’s even, dare I say it, fun. Stick with me here.
In 2014, the fashion world went crazy with something called the “ugly-pretty” trend, challenging us to do just that. Beautiful, delicate gowns were paired with clunky end-times-proof sandals, kitschy embellishments have been stitched all over tops and flirty frocks, patchworks made their way onto coats and pants in a loud way, and puffer jackets have grown into Michelin man size proportions. When hearing these descriptions, one’s instinct would be to recoil slightly. Maybe even more than slightly. I mean, it’s hard enough to look cute in winter without putting on a coat that looks like it’s trying to eat you for your nutrients.
But that’s what’s so great about this ugly-pretty idea! It encourages you to break out of your previously conceived notions of what it means for something to be "ugly," and to play with those pieces with zero judgment. It’s been created to encourage you to shake up what your idea of beautiful is, and to help you move that line of “ugly” a little further down the road. Sure you could wear a beautiful dress on a Saturday afternoon — the fashion world says — but why be so safe all the time? Why don’t you put on that dress that feels like a meadow, but then juxtapose it with masculine shoes or a punk-inspired acid green fur stole? It seems downright wrong and against everything you stand for... but it looks kind of... pretty? Wait, oh my god, it looks gorgeous!
And in that moment you feel your idea of “ugly” get smaller. You feel yourself become a little more open to styles and looks outside of your own because you’re treading water outside of your own fashion sense. You can understand the other side now, because you've crossed over, even if it's for a moment. It’s the same reason why it’s important to have a source of style inspiration that's completely radical from your own particular style: It encourages you to get comfortable with ideas that are different from your own, and it slows down the judgmental instinct down to a crawl.
While you might not be comfortable with wearing a fanny pack over your dress or trying on high waist pants with a thrift store approved pattern, I say that you should try it. Embrace this new trend and work something into your style that would normally make you cringe. It’s not about changing your look completely — it’s about keeping what you’re already comfortable with and peppering in a few small pieces that go against what you like. Because chances are, if you try it you’ll probably end up loving it.
Having a few pieces that tightrope on the line between stylish and disaster helps you open up your idea of what is pretty and, ultimately, makes you a more accepting person. You can’t be scandalized by something outlandish anymore, because you’ve already dabbled in outlandish yourself. And ya liked it.
Images: Fotolia; Giphy