Interesting thread. You described me very well. I am complimented regularly on my outfits, and after thanking the person, I usually mention, "Oh, I got it on sale" or whatnot. I do experience a certain discomfort because I feel like the culture at large views fashion concerns as shallow, as many posters have mentioned. I also feel like people will think I have lots of money because I look nice, while my income is actually quite low. I clearly am fearing various judgments!

This is an interesting thread. Katerina, I echo what others have said about your style and I think shopping with you would be fun and confidence inspiring. The Oscar Wilde quote is super.

I do fear the judgments that people inwardly and outwardly make. I have quite a seemingly tough outer appearance for work, but I’m fragile internally. Hence I work quite hard to have a ‘pitch perfect’ work wardrobe.

Perfect thread, I agree and sign everything you wrote. Sometimes I catch myself to do the same, nearly justify myself and apologise instead to say simply Thanks. I think we do it with people whose fashion is not important , maybe I am wrong. There is no reason to apologise for sure .

Interesting thread. I think you have great style, Katerina. I have worked on saying 'Thank you' when someone compliments my clothing or appearance. My impulse was to dismiss the compliment by saying something negative about myself but I realized how that was impacting me and the other person.
Fashion is my creative outlet. I refuse to apologize for that. I also like watching makeup videos.

Katerina - I'd say this issue goes well beyond your point for me. It's almost a visual tier of who I might be compatible with. An example, I was at a religious school preparing for a fundraiser. There must have been about 20 "mommies" there. I was wearing bootcut jeans with black cowboy boots, a black embellished belt, a black JCrew Jackie shell and a black blazer with a long silver pendant. I was groomed with light make up. Every other "mommy", minus one, was in yoga pants/sweats, stretched out tee, trainers - old and beat up, and they looked like they had rolled out of bed. There was one other mom who looked great - brown straight leg cords, brown booties and a long belted leopard cardigan, great haircut and glasses. We did one of those eye locks and when we met her opening salvo was "I can see you made an effort." We spent the fundraiser together. I have so many examples where the few nicely dressed "mommies" are attracted like magnets and find commonality. It's almost like a recognition of self and other. The types of negative comments or back handed compliments are from the "other" group. I know my looking nice makes them feel badly. But IMHO, that is not a reason for me to feel badly by not dressing in a way that I am comfortable. To quote Chanel, “I don't understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little - if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that's the day she has a date with destiny. And it's best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.” But when I do get the quasi compliment - I just take it as real and settle for "thank you" sometimes with yes I adore this jacket. I always feel great when I wear it. Yes, the pin was my grandmother's - she loved beautiful and unusual things. Thanks - I'm a boot girl. Then on head over to the nicely dressed mommy across the room....

As another person who tends to dress a bit more consciously than the norm for my peers, I understand this. Sometimes I don’t want to look like I made SO much of an effort, but the truth is it’s not that much of an effort to put together an outfit that looks good for whatever I’m doing.

I have become better at simply accepting compliments with a “thank you!” And maybe a “this is my favorite jacket” or some tidbit like that.

I will sometimes feel a bit self-conscious if the compliment is about a specific item that seems expensive — that’s when I will sometimes give the, “oh, I got this at the Rack!” or some qualifier, as if to deflect any ideas that I’m spending money frivolously (even though I know I do that anyway when it comes to clothing). I am generally a pretty good bargain hunter, so I don’t mind a tiny brag about a good deal.

I’ve especially realized I do the deflection thing since getting a nicer, newer car that draws a lot of compliments — I found myself explaining that my husband talked me into buying it! Why do I feel the need to deflect or explain what I wear or drive? I guess some guilt and self-consciousness because I really don’t care for conspicuous consumption. The truth is I don’t care what the label is — I buy something for its style and/or quality.

Angie, you hit it on the head. It's easy to get wrapped up in what others think and make ourselves anxious trying to meet someone's expectation of perfect balance between being dressed up enough, but not TOO dressed up. It's impossible to know what everyone expects.
I'm done with worrying about being judged and trying to fit someone else's idea of what's exactly right and I'm going to keep on wearing what I like and think is right for the occasion. I usually prefer to err on the side of being a little more dressed up rather than down so I'm definitely not apologizing if I look fab. I figure if someone isn't looking fab, it may be because they aren't feeling fab, so I'm not judging them either.

I COMPLETELY relate to Angie's quote, " 'I don't want to look too dressed up', in fear of being judged negatively. Yet they desperately want to dress up in fear of being judged negatively. IRONIC."

I loved reading this thread. I think sometimes I was born in the wrong decade. Fifty years ago,women wouldn't think of going out to dinner or even running errands for the day without putting together an actual outfit.

I read and listen to Gretchen Rubin, the author of "The Happiness Project," among other books. She has a weekly podcast. She and her sister talked last month about using February as a daily "always wear clothes" month. It was funny to me, but very relatable. So many people now go for days without really "putting on clothes," that those of us who do are starting to stand out, and sometimes it feels awkward.

I love that this website exists to discuss clothing in such a positive, healthy way. We shouldn't have to apologize for wanting to feel good. And I have raised my kids telling them that appropriate dress is sometimes there for a certain politeness and show of respect to others, so why would we need to excuse our dress? I am tempted to say, when someone says, "wow, you look nice," just a reply like "Thank you; I wanted to look nice since I was meeting you," to see what they say.

I am working on being kind and loving and unapologetic when people notice I am dressed in something fun, a dressy blouse, a casual skirt, a fashionable jacket, or whatever. I want my clothing to make a happy statement.

Thank you for starting this discussion.

I like this thread and relate to so much of what has been said. I like to take pride in my appearance and style and it does not have to be an expensive or time consuming task. I agree it shows pride, respect and creativity. I see women on very low incomes who look fabulous and smart. I take the compliment now and try not to deflect - I don't always succeed.

But I do also believe that we should not judge negatively those who take less interest - or who don't always make an effort. I have a couple of friends who have very very little interest in style or fashion- they are dynamic interesting and gorgeous women who are more into hiking or literature or sports. The most well dressed person in the room is not necessarily the most interesting nor the most shallow - she is simply the best dressed.

I wrote a post and then deleted it. Then I read my words in Smittie's post.

I adore fashion. I have loved it since my Mother introduced me to the World of Fashion when I was quite young. It was something she and I shared.

When I went to college, I took that love of fashion with me. I was very much perceived as frivolous (and shallow). This was in spite of the fact I was taking heavy classes in engineering, chemistry, and mathematics.

Today I share my love of fashion with everyone. No one thinks of me as either frivolous or shallow. They have come to appreciate my complements. They say thank you. It is also amazing how much someone can network using fashion/style as an introduction.

Yes! I think it's also a desire to not seem like I'm trying to be 'better than' ... I, as I'm sure many of you, was raised to not put on airs, which can turn into guilt about doing anything to make me feel good!

As a stay at home mom, even putting on a heeled boot can get comments about 'why are you so dressed up' (which I don't think is intended negatively, but can make me feel self-conscious - as I'm sure I've unwittingly done to others).

Yes, agree completely with every word of Sal's paragraph beginning "But I do also believe that we should not judge negatively those who take less interest..".

Sal, I love your post! You are right that for some people, fashion just isn't something they're interested in. I myself fell into that category for many years. But I still had other hobbies that lent themselves to self-development and self-care.

I agree too with the posters who say that a certain attention to appearance is one way of showing respect for others. I go to a dance studio for ballroom dance class most nights of the week, and since I am in such close proximity to others, I make an effort to look somewhat polished, even if it means just putting on a well-fitting outfit and making sure my ponytail is neat (hair may be dirty and not suitable to wear down). I often don't wear makeup, but everything else is in place. I think it really has a good effect on others.

I know that for me, all things being equal, it is more uplifting to be with someone who is wearing a well-put-together outfit than someone who is dressed sloppily.

I am grateful that I do not have too much interaction with a crowd that would find me dressed up just for putting on a heeled boot, as torontogirl has had to deal with. I think that would make me feel very self-conscious.

Hi Everyone,

Great topic. I used to always respond to a compliment by making a funny comment that I felt would make the other person feel more comfortable. ( for example: "Nice dress.......... this old thing? I got it on sale") One day I came to the realization that if someone pays me a compliment say thank you, smile and leave it at that. You can't please everyone. Someone may compliment my outfit and someone else may question why I wore my outfit. Enjoy your clothes. Wear what makes YOU happy:)

I was brought up in Britain so my default mode is to apologise,we are not taught how to accept complement s graciously.I have been practicing saying thank you when some one says something nice rather than launching into an explanation of why they shouldn’t have complemented me but I still find it difficult to do.Glad I’m not the only one!

Another related topic we have discussed here in the past is the "What, you think you're better than me/us?" attitude that is sometimes evoked when one puts any effort into one's appearance. Not sure why some people feel judged by what others are wearing, but they do seem to.

Maybe the apologizing is a way of fending off these sorts of hard feelings.

I have lots of thoughts on this topic but just want to add that many people have the opinion that being nicely dressed is expensive. I was surprised to figure out that buying the workout wear or sports team gear is just as costly, if not more so, than buying a dressier outfit. Second hand stores are full of gems and they can be found on sale racks. Shopping at Nordstroms does not need to be any more costly than shopping at Walmart. It may just take a bit more work, but that can also be fun.

Just quickly popping in to thank you all so much for sharing your thoughts, feelings and experiences. It has been so very interesting and helpful to read all your posts and reflect. It also feels good to know that there are many people that feel similar about this issue. I will come back later to write some more.

Hi Katerina I have read and re-read this post. Do I apologise or downplay looking fab sometimes? Yes, sometimes. It is true if I say I've had something a long time or it was on sale, and sometimes I do say those things, but partly to continue the conversation. I have noticed myself insisting on the "fake" provenance of my mother's opal necklace which I have worn several times in recent years. I've been complimented on it and asked what the jewels are, to which I immediately reply "fake opals". Someone said on Saturday "You shouldn't say that they're fake". They're a really good fake says the jeweller I checked them out with! I think it's partly discomfort that I may be thought to be extravagant, and Mum was just so NOT extravagant! I don't think she could have afforded real opals and I don't know where she got them, I never asked and she died in 1999.
Overall, however, since I have been building a better wardrobe for over 10 years now especially in shoes, I think I've got better at accepting compliments and just saying thank you, or thank you, yes, I love bright colours ( or whatever it is they complimented).

Sal's post +1million. I like hanging out on YLF because it is a community of people who find the same hobby interesting, but I try not to read too much into people's clothing IRL. There's just too many factors of social signaling, environmental norms etc. not to mention people's personal circumstances on the day. I try to accept compliments gracefully, but I still do like bragging on a bargain .

Joy, such a great point. With the 'casualization' of dress, traditionally 'dressy' items can be a lot more affordable than athletic or casual gear.

And I did it again :-(. Today. Explained, that I have a lot of scarves because it is the category of clothing I really love, I am not shopping other things like that etc. etc. Bad habit - needs to be worked on.

Great thread and very wise comments everybody. I will just add, there do exist people who can look great in PJ and without making any effort for all the events-BUT I unfortunately am NOT one of them. I HAVE to be groomed and dressed up to look, feel and ACT like my best self. That's why I do it and, to be honest I fear my elder age only for potentially not being able anymore.

I used to but lately I've been eschewing false modesty generally. (Hard to do as a woman, but I've been doing it as I get older without realizing it.) I usually say "thank you" and then I may share where I got a certain item, if I think the person will be interested. My boss kind of asked recently, and I did tell her I've been upping my wardrobe game in general because it makes me happier. There are a range of dressers here, so I don't stick out too much either way.

Finally getting around to reading this fascinating thread. I've certainly seen this apologetic, even shameful, attitude toward style and fashion in women. I think there's still a strong sense that to be successful you more or less have to do it the way men do, which means devoting yourself 100% to your chosen pursuit, no distractions or compromises. Don't have kids, don't make your own breakfast -- all that is a waste of time if you want to get to the top. Have a uniform -- like Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg -- so you don't have to think about getting dressed. So we see minimalism come into vogue, this passion among a certain class of women for capsules and uniforms. Sure, it works for some people, but at the end of the day I think it's important to acknowledge that there's no one right way to do life, and many paths toward success (not to mention different definitions of success).

As far as I'm concerned, wearing clothes you love is no different than having art on your walls or eating delicious food -- if you don't have time for the things you enjoy, then what is the point? But our zeitgeist right now seems to be one of function over form...

I also tend to approach getting dressed as a form of mindfulness; my appearance is the interface between myself and the world. It is a transition between interior and exterior, self and other. If I do not put care and respect into that transition, how much harder is it for me to manifest care and respect in my daily interactions?

It's taken me a long time to get to the point where I don't feel guilt or shame about owning nice clothes, wearing makeup, etc, and I still struggle. I try to remind myself that we all carry a lot of baggage regarding our gender, class, etc; we've all internalized many unreasonable and often contradictory expectations of how we ought to be/act/look. When people make judgments, their intent is not usually to harm; I remind myself that they are struggling under the weight of those same expectations. Their judgments have little to do with me as an individual. They are, rather, expressions of confusion and frustration with a culture that has a very hard time *not* shaming women, no matter what choices we make.

La Pedestrienne, your post above is brilliant. Thank you.

Ever since the 70s, when people have made remarks like: "You are always so dressed up / coordinated / well-dressed / chic / elegant ...." (whatever), I have often replied: "Well, decorating one's person is one of life's everyday pleasures." This often make them smile--and perhaps think about it.

I think sometimes my wanting to add something after thank you is less about being self-depreciating and more about trying to maintain that verbal connection. Just saying thank you is very confident Etc, but it can also shut down the exchange. I try to say thank you and then something else, but something less about me. Like oh thank you I'm ready for spring or thank you, navy is a favorite or just something to keep the conversation flowing...

Oh, I have to say I relate to that, Brie.

Also: must admit I’m reluctant to say if something comes from Neiman’s ($$$) but do love to say something came from Target ($). I will admit that I feel sensitive about about the price of things because I believe style can be had at any price. Nice things can be had at any price.

I teach, and teachers, at least in my district, always self-deprecate regarding price. If you say you love someone's sweater, they will reply, "Seven dollars on sale at _____!" Getting something dirt-cheap seems to be the badge of honor as opposed to looking good. In nine out of ten cases, I cannot honestly say something like that. I have taken to giving a heartfelt "Thank you" when someone compliments how I look or what I am wearing. If someone pushes the issue and wants to know where I purchased something, I generally lie and tell them that I don't remember, as I would never tell others the price I paid for something (especially when it comes to shoes, bags or scarves); it would be perceived as shocking or boastful.

I absolutely relate to Brie's point - that often it can be more about connection than self depreciation. I think what you, Katerina, have said about scarves is fine - you are sharing a little something about yourself. I like to follow up a compliment with a bit of a story - "thanks, I like this too/ or I love this colour" "Thanks, do you know I've had this dress for 17 years, dresses from Portmans last so long" (to a fellow Portmans fan!) . Then as Brie said, you can move on to something about them.

What I think is self deprecatory is "what this old thing?" or "I think I look terrible in it" (though even if I do think that then I'm truthful "so nice of you to say that because I was a bit unsure of this one").

Also, wanted to share that I do want to be seen as not spending too much on clothes (as well as actually not spending that much). I'm well aware that although I spend less than most on YLF, and probably most people at work, that I would spend more than most women at church (because it is a student congregation) though that is partly because I work professionally and am older and need orthotic shoes etc (and don't like op shopping, which lots of them do). So I don't mind explaining something if relevant for a compliment (after saying thankyou) "I love this dress too, I bought it for my brother's wedding 6 years ago and I love to give it another outing" " A friend gave this to me" " I like this brand because it lasts" "I got it on sale".