Last week, the imitable Rebecca Woolf of Girls Gone Child wrote a piece about fashion where she noted the huge difference between inspiration and aspiration (You guys may not know her, since she’s a blogger-who’s-also-a-mother and sometimes those bloggers get less airplay on our corner of the web? Anyway you’ll love her. Done.) She wrote about how aspiration is those spreads in Vogue magazine with $50,000 dresses, inspiration is your favorite fashion blogger who blogs about how she put together an outfit with a $50 dress she found on sale at Macy’s. Or Teen Vogue. She loves Teen Vogue.
For some reason, all week I kept thinking about this inspiration/aspiration dichotomy. I’m a huge lady mag and lady blog reader, and trust me, there is room in my life for both -ations. I like aspirational design blogs, and wedding porn, and fashion magazines. But at the end of the day, I’m an inspiration girl. I want you to break it down for me in ways that make sense. How can I make a super chic, ragingly fun wedding reception in my parents church social hall? How can I use what’s already in my closet to create really editorial outfits, that say something about who I am? How can I re-finish and re-arrange the furniture I have to make my living room work for me?
I think in a lot of ways we’re in a very inspirational cultural moment. We all have less money and fewer choices, and after years of excess, we’re all trying to figure out how to make the most with what we’ve got. And the blog-o-shere has really rushed into the gap left by print media. We’re all writing for each other about how we can do this, how we can improve our lives, how we can do more with less.
But then there is the trap. The trap of mistaking inspiration for aspiration.
I’ve wanted to meet Rebecca Woolf for a long time, because, I don’t know, she’s a young mom who’s really rocking motherhood and selfhood and a writing career at the same time. So, at Mighty Summit I started asking around to see if anyone knew her, and was up for introducing me. Heather Sphor was like, “Oh, h*ll yeah, of course I will.” But before I asked Heather, five people must have told me Rebecca was, “A glamazon”. I’d look puzzled, and ask, “Ok, but what is she like?” and people would say, “intimidating.” And I’d think, ‘Huh. Weird. That’s clearly not her personality, that’s a reaction. Why are women so easily scared of each other?” (And I’m super guilty of this, by the way, which is why I’m talking about it).
Rebecca and I got into a four hour gab fest this weekend (We got along? We can’t shut up?), and at the end we were talking about fashion. She was saying that one of her personal missions was to get women (especially moms) to feel empowered to be stylish, just because they wanted to be. Or in her words, “How much longer does it take to put on pants than sweats? I rest my case.” And that’s when I mentioned the “glamazon” thing. And she shook her head at me in this really baffled way, and was like, “I don’t get it. I’m trying to say that style is NOT exclusive, and instead people think, ‘well, she’s stylish and I can never hope to live up to it.’” Which is exactly it.
Last week, Clare said something really insightful in her wedding graduate post, which was:
In all honesty, when I started reading A Practical Wedding, it didn’t really help! I thought ‘Well, that’s fine for those people, they are all gorgeous, creative and interesting. If I try to do something creative or wear a beautiful dress, people will laugh at me, and say I am not interesting and pretty enough to do so.’ It took me ages to ‘own’ the wedding; not in the sense of it being about me, but in the sense of being allowed to think and care about crafting a wedding and marriage in which you are yourself.
And she totally nailed it. The style part of APW (and arguably the non-style part), is about figuring out who you are, and realizing that embracing that will make you chic. There is a running APW joke that Team Practical brides always look like models and have the best dresses, but they really just look gorgeous because they are happy, and have the best dresses because they do their own thing (evidence: this dress). I don’t edit for aspiration, I edit for inspiration.
So, my challenge to us today is to think about the ways we take what should inspire us, and turn it into something we can’t hope to aspire to… because it’s so much less scary that way. What do we tune out as ‘not an option for me’? Is it a stylish wedding dress (notice I didn’t say an expensive wedding dress)? Is it a stylish wardrobe? Is it attacking items on our life list? Is it trying for a great job? Living in a great city? Doing something a little more ambitious with your personal blog? Writing more? Having a braver marriage? What is it? Because my hunch is, the things we tell ourselves can’t be done are the things we most need to give ourselves permission to do. Because why not us? Why not now? Really. Why not?
So these are your marching orders today. Look around APW. What have you been deeply wanting when you read about other peoples weddings and marriages? Because I’m here to tell you, if it’s on this site, it’s inspirational. F*ck aspiration. Do it.