One consequence of being in my profession is that I’m always paying attention to what people are wearing. Whether I’m shopping in stores, running errands, walking down the street, waiting in line at the airport, enjoying a dinner party or arriving at yoga, I notice the outfits worn by the people around me. 

And, yes, I evaluate the outfits I see. It isn’t a conscious effort, but I find myself making mental notes about things that I’d like to try myself, replicate with one of my clients, or share here on YLF. 

Of course, my thoughts aren’t always positive. Sometimes I don’t like what I see, and I find myself thinking about what it is that isn’t working in the fit of an individual item, or in the combination of an ensemble. Or I might question the appropriateness of the outfit for the setting.

But even as I’m evaluating the outfits around me, I’m very conscious of two things. First, fashion and style are very subjective. Sure, there is a general consensus on what’s in and what’s out at any given time, but even so, my opinion is just that: an opinion. My clients and longtime readers of YLF might value that opinion, but there are also people who don’t. Mine is only one way of viewing the world.

And second, while I evaluate the outfit, I never judge the wearer. It is so easy to fall into the trap of jumping to conclusions about the reasons behind an outfit that seems inappropriate, unfashionable or unflattering, but I don’t go there. I don’t know the person. I don’t  know their circumstances, and I don’t know what motivates them to dress the way they do. My private thoughts on their outfit have nothing to do with what they are like as a person.

I’m sure most of us have caught ourselves making snap judgements about people based on what they were wearing. A while back I found myself doing that and really wanted to get out of the habit. So these days I have a little mental trick to keep things focused on the outfit and not the wearer. When I’m evaluating an outfit, I imagine that I’m seeing it on a mannequin. That way I am free to formulate an opinion about the aesthetics without making unfair and inaccurate judgements about the wearer.

Hong Kong on the Streets

Hong Kong on the Streets

Observing street style: Tokyo and Yokohama in 2012.