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Look at the outfit, not the face

#NOFILTER - Chonx Tibajia (The Philippine Star) - November 29, 2013 - 12:00am

We’ve developed a kind of self-perpetuating insecurity that stems from our simultaneous loathing for and fascination with online peacocking — that genre of behavior typically characterized by selfies, OOTDs, and advertent humblebragging. So much has been said about the psychology of it that my brain just shuts down every time someone starts to rant about the so-called “Me generation” and its narcissistic tendencies. It’s an internal kind of Batman-and-Joker dead-end struggle — we say we are tired of it yet we remain obsessed with it; we swear on our Twitter accounts that we hate Facebook because it is full of it (selfies, I mean), and yet we continue to pursue it on Instagram and Pinterest; we say we’ll never do it, but occasionally we find ourselves spending precious time clicking on filters, trying to find the one that lights up our faces just a little better.

I envy people who can do it shamelessly, without having to hashtag #selfie or #OOTD after every post, as if that implies that they’re doing it ironically, or just to mock the concept. I have an aunt who posts at least seven selfies a day, same hand-on-the-hip pose, same pots and kettles in the background, just different clothes and varying degrees of smizing — and she’s well beyond the “millennial” age bracket. It’s not a generation thing anymore. It’s not even a fashion thing. Sharing “looks,” for many, has become a way of life.

Meanwhile, pretty-young-things, male and female, feel the need to cover or contort their faces and over-filter their photos before posting — reluctant peacocks afraid of being judged by their own kind. In 2007, personal style blogger and former commissioning editor of Dazed Digital Susie Lau of Stylebubble.co.uk posted: “Some have the advantage of striking resemblances to models that, though they doth protest, in my opinion helps a great deal in their ability to wear certain outfits. Some have a penchant for the jolie laide (ugly pretty) features that work for them than being picture perfect.” She describes her blog as an open invite to view her love for fashion and how she expresses this through her style, but implores, “Look at the outfit… not the face…”

And she means this literally. Lau avoids showing her full face. In her earlier posts, she would photoshop an X over it. Of late, she’s been artfully shy, posting photos of herself looking down or away, or obscured by lens flare — anything but staring straight at the camera. The outfit is the star and various print and online magazines over the years have taken notice.

Fast-forward to 2013: style bloggers abound and Lau’s manner of creatively circumventing her insecurities is practiced by hundreds, even thousands of people, if we count Instagram users who use their accounts to document their personal style. But the story is still the same and insecurities are still intact, passed on from Me generation to Me generation. “Am I pretty enough to wear this?” is not the question. It’s the shadow that says “Am I pretty enough to share my photo wearing this?” cast by a cloud of Internet clutter that keeps us from hitting that post button. Why we even care is not something we need to answer — ever. It’s just something that needs to be dealt with. Batman and Joker. Insecurity and vanity cannot exist without one another.

Fashion journalist Suzy Menkes wrote: “The world changed when fashion, instead of being a monologue, became a conversation.” You share your OOTD and you don’t just share a look, you broadcast your point of view, what you love about yourself, and what you hate about yourself — it’s an open invitation to your world. This being the case, there is really no need for self-deprecating hashtags and disclaimers, no point in being shy or faux shy.

If, like Lau, you find yourself in a photogenic, post-worthy outfit but are afraid to share it with the online world, think about this: you’re wearing it now, in front of actual people, in full HD, with zero filter and without the help of those Japanese-made mobile phone apps that lift the face and have “beauty shot” options. If the thought does not succeed at terrifying you, it can be liberating. Just post the damn picture. Everybody and their aunt is doing it and if this makes you want to do it too, the fact that people may get annoyed is just a small price to pay in exchange for a moment of self-expression. Your followers might roll their eyes, but they’ll live.

AM I BATMAN AND JOKER BATMAN-AND-JOKER DAZED DIGITAL SUSIE LAU OF STYLEBUBBLE FACEBOOK FASHION INSTAGRAM INSTAGRAM AND PINTEREST LAU SUZY MENKES
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