Good Taste Doesn’t Always Mean Good Style

by Leandra Medine
April 8, 2014
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But it can mean a very reliable opinion on the latter

kate-moss-face-corinne-day-1990

I bought this pair of white suede platforms at the end of last summer and I was sure I was going to wear the hell out of them. They’d really well compliment a pair of peg leg jeans in their spectacularly gargantuan glory but they’d also serve as the most effective trick under flare leg pants, creating the illusion that I am 6 feet tall when in reality, I am absolutely not.

Still high on my purchase, I met a friend for a coffee and, of course, showed her the shoes to which she explained that she hated them. Not only that, though, she was determined to explain that in just a few weeks time, I would probably hate them too.

I appreciated her honesty but respectfully disagreed. They were white! And suede! There was absolutely no way they wouldn’t become a pillar of my wardrobe. And in any case, I didn’t care very much for the way that she dressed herself, which was obviously a marker for her taste, wasn’t it? She was often found in loose fit, uneven hemmed lace v-necks and cropped palazzo style drop crotch pants that would have been decent had she forgone the damn v-neck and opted not to wear them with knee high socks and high top sneakers.

So what would she know about white suede platforms in conjunction with me anyway. Am I roiiiiight?

Fast forward three months though, and not a single wear.

Fast forward six months. Still not a wear.

Now fast forward to about three weeks ago and you can find an image of me regrettably stuffing the never-worn platforms into a black garbage bag titled “Stuff to Sell.” And just like that, the lace v-neck wunderkind of yore was right. I was going to hate them. I did hate them. So, that got me thinking about taste, style and the difference between the two because ultimately, it turned out, you can totally trust a person’s taste without agreeing with their style.

It’s just, why is that — or maybe easier to answer is, how is that?

When considering taste, it’s important to break down the experience. Humans receive the anterior through sensory glands, right? Sometimes they’re delightfully digestible (pun absolutely intended) and sometimes they’re repulsive. What you find repulsive, I might find delightful and vice versa. Often too, we may even agree on the way taste makes us feel. Take chocolate for a moment — is it safe to call it a universally accepted comfort food?

I’m going to do it anyway.

I love chocolate.

So do many women, as evidenced by the not-backed-by-stats spike in sales near Valentine’s Day and approaching menstrual cycles. But just because we all like chocolate, doesn’t mean that we eat it the same way. Or even that we eat it as frequently as, say, a man might.

Make sense?

Now consider a woman and her perception of what makes an outfit good. I, for example, may absolutely love the way Kate Moss looked in a photo shot by Corinne Day, where she is wearing white Birkenstocks and loose fit white jeans and a cropped vest top that was accompanied by dangling fringe trim topped off with yarn balls. I can appreciate why she wore it, the point she emanated and the reason it worked but that doesn’t mean that I should wear it, too.

And see, just because my friend may not wear clothes the way I do does not mean that her taste — her opinion on style, and her understanding of why something does or does not work — is off. Because, really, what was I thinking with a pair of white suede shoes, anyway?

REPLIES
  • http://mafaldadotzero.blogspot.fr/ Mafalda

    I had the same problem with Acne Pistol Boots, I absolutely adored them on other people, but I wore mine 3 times. They just weren’t me. So when I realised that 450€ were actually sleeping in my closet, I sold them. Good taste doesn’t always work.

    Mafalda ❤
    http://mafaldadotzero.blogspot.fr

  • http://alcessa.wordpress.com/ alcessa

    … I have seen so many exciting high heels (and other kinds of shoes) on you here that I sort of expect to have my blood pressure happily raised by most of the shoe pictures you post. :-) So when those white H-and-Ms had quite the opposite effect on me (nothing to do with my style, though. I am wearing similar sandals (blue Birkenstocks) right now), I was really baffled as to why this was happening. I guess I have grown to see you as a perfect wearer of exciting, sexy shoes and in that moment wasn’t able to accept something more … ironic. Down to earth :-) But, I also happen to believe that such alienation effects are necessary when presenting more than just omni-pleasing surfaces.

    Also, such musings as mine might be relevant when concerning fashion bloggers, not private persons behind the blogs – I’d like to think that people who know you personally are able to produce more differentiated reactions (or even none at all) to your styles. “I wonder why I don’t like your H & Ms” sounds quite simplistic to me and is not really aimed at you, while your friends’ reactions will/should or might relate to “real” you. No?

  • Nia

    I think she might have just influenced the way you perceive them. It sometimes happens – you are euphoric about something and then someone tells you something negative and pushes you down from heaven :) Or you should have worn them the first days of the purchase frenzy. If I don’t wear a new piece in the immediate days after the purchase, I often realize my feelings to that piece have “cooled down” and vice-versa, if I wear something immediately after purchase those pieces find a easier way into the core of my wardrobe :)

  • lavieenliz

    I had the same thing with these sequin pants…never again lol

    giveaway on my blog!

    http://hashtagliz.com

  • Ali

    Oy, so true. There actually are a lot of stylists dressing horribly but knowing well what works on others. I count myself to one of those who wear clunky ass stuff; but I’m really good in curating things/clothes when I’m not personally involved…

  • Charlotte Fassler

    One of my best friends who has cultivated a style very different from that of my own is one of my favorite people to shop with. Her opinion is honest and sometimes harsh, but everything she has urged me to purchase over the past few years still remains in my closet. I think there is an interesting distinction between personal style and a keen eye for style in a more general sense that you really hit upon here. This friend has a very astute and trained eye whereas some of my other friends, while i may agree more with their dress have very one-dimensional taste that can’t see outside their own sense of style.

  • http://thenouvelliste.com kate

    Leandra-
    do you think had your friend not put an effective kibosh on the shoes in question, would you have still suffered from buyer’s remorse and distanced yourself from wearing them? Just curious, as I too have have purchased something and absolutely loved it, only to have the opinion of a trusted person crush that apparent beauty.

    thenouvelliste.com

    • Leandra Medine

      I do! I was so sure that she was wrong when she criticized them. I used the way she conceives style as a proof of concept and think I tried harder to wear them BECAUSE she’d said it but at last, she was right.

  • Marissa Klurstein

    I often toy with the stupidly overcomplicated question “Do you like it?”. I am the girl who wins the fashion lottery shopping the Opening Ceremony sale, when everything everyone else deemed “too bright” or “too fashion” or “weird silhouette” or “that is straight up crazy” is left on the racks, seemingly waiting to find an appreciated home in my overstuffed closet. But then sometimes I too find these above inflammatory statements circling in my intuition, leaving me with no choice but to ask a friend what she thinks. The response is usually “omg so you” or “ummm, not my fave”. Oftentimes, while I’m leaning against the dressing room wall waiting for the text response, I don’t know which response I’m hoping for. Secretly I think I always hope for the latter, since 1. I like to prove people wrong and 2. I have only child syndrome and like to wear things other people don’t “get”. Ok, enough quotation marks.

    I do think I’ll trust my friends taste more now. Advice much appreciated, Leandra!

  • http://www.fancyalterego.wordpress.com/ Heather P.

    I’m pretty sure we all have at least one purchase like this in our closets!

    Mine is a pair of burnt-orange corduroy pants. I bought them super on sale this winter, and convinced myself they go with “everything” in my closet – they really don’t. Aside from the fact that they’re a tiny bit snug, I’ve never worn them out of the house. Not once. I’ll keep them around for fall, but if I don’t wear them then, they’re out the door.

    Best of luck selling the shoes!

  • http://www.yaelsteren.com/ yael steren

    I tend to think that good taste and style do go hand in hand. For example, I love Olivia Palermo’s style and I think the reason she is so successful with her style is because she has good taste in clothing. Perhaps the shoes you purchased were so bad (sorry!) that even your friend (who may not have the best sense of taste or style) recognized they were a poor choice! If you had said that this has happened on more than one occasion with this particular friend perhaps I may feel differently. If anything, I would say that I agree with Charlotte’s statement about the “distinction between personal style and a keen eye for style in a more general sense.” Anyway, those are just my thoughts! : )

  • Diane

    This is exactly why I prefer to do my “serious” shopping on my own. I want to hear my own voice when making investment purchases and not be influenced by the opinions of others. This way, if I screw up (and boy, do I ever), I have only my self to blame!

  • http://instagram.com/gabranimal Gabrielle

    This is the EXACT opposite of the amazing feeling I have when I tear the tag off of something new and un-worn from my closet months & months later post purchase. Why was I saving it? But then I put it on and it feels so good. Queue phone call to my mom – “just took the tags off of that _____ shirt I got from Barney’s a few months ago yesssss”

  • http://www.livingzbeautifulmix.com Zuma Ayriyan

    When Olsens twins wore these shoes in black, I could not believe my eyes. How could they even consider?! And then, there is Kate Moss who can make everything look so so so cool. Now I want a pair too. Hmm, wonder who I would look like? Mary Kate or Kate?.. Oh, what am I thinking?!..
    ~Zuma
    http://www.livingzbeautifulmix.com

  • http://www.visceralmaze.blogspot.com/ Anu

    that is so true. But I think there is something about people who buy those suede platforms too. Out of those never worn purchase, one of them being a hit and maybe a trend eventually, which we call them trendsetters! I think having a good taste usually does not translate into being a risk taker or being in forefront of fashion either. But for everyday focus like me, having a taste is definitely better suited than being a risk taker for sure.

  • Ai-Ch’ng GB

    I hear you!

    And, I haven’t suffered that, ever since I gave up pain for comfort and moveability.

    At the risk of sounding like my father, I now only wear whatever is comfortable – meaning, I only buy/wear it, if I can run/sit on the floor cross-legged/jump/squat in the shoe/top/pant/coat/skirt (lest you begin to wonder if I am referring to that horrible trend of exercise clothing as outer wear).

    Sticking to my mantra of “always comfortable, never skin-tight or revealing (short stretchy skirts, tight stretchy skirts/pants – ugh, not for me), and always in deep and strong colours, textured with weaving and embroidery, fringed, soft baggy leather… so – not at all plain or Normcore or Normbore”, I’m often perceived as weird and un-stylish… but that’s all right, because I always, always feel comfortable. And that’s all that matters.

  • http://fashionmusingsdiary.blogspot.fr/ Miss J.
  • http://www.clippingimages.com/ Clippingimages

    Artistic and exceptional indeed.

    http://www.fotoclipping.com/services/

  • girlinmenswear

    Ah…I saved up all my money for this cropped leather Mulberry jacket in pastel pink and covered in fringes with a big rose gold belt. I never wear it except to photograph it on my blog. Firstly it cost me so much money that I am terrified that someone will spill red wine on it or I will dirty it, and Secondly the truth of the matter is, it just doesn’t really work with the rest of my wardrobe and I don’t actually look very good in pink…or fringes for that matter…Ah, and then there were these thigh high white Topshop boots, but that’s another story…
    http://www.girlinmenswear.com

  • Brie

    i have had this same convo with my friends. they like my “style” but sometimes i wear something off-putting to them and that’s okay. i, ahem, hate some of the things my friends wear, but that’s them! they choose it for a reason just like i chose to wear a black fringe cardi with ankle chains on my boots. style, like music, tattoos, the food you eat, is such a personal thing that it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, really. i love all the outfits you post on this site but that doesn’t mean i should wear most of them.

  • http://sedapop.blogspot.com Carolina Petrosky

    Right-on! For paying a good service to style and chocolate!
    sedapop.blogspot.com

  • https://www.etsy.com/shop/amatoriaclothing Amatoria Clothing

    Actually, I could see you wearing something similar to this outfit.
    What you’ve touched on is the key to being a successful fashion buyer. When I look at line sheets, I select things not just because I would wear them, but I think someone with different style aesthetics would wear them. I am not a girly dress type of girl. However, I can appreciate when one is pretty and flattering and would look great on someone who likes that sort of thing.

  • http://thoughtsofglam.com/ ThoughtsofGlam

    clothes are so versatile and can be styled hundreds of ways to reflect different personalities. A plain white shirt can be worn dozens of ways and look completely different. It is not just about the article of clothing but also about the person wearing it. That can set off very different vibes to those who are looking at the outfit.

    http://www.thoughtsofglam.com

  • Bryony Dodds

    I really want to see these white sandals

  • Tamara

    i can’t stop giggling because last week i bought 2 pair of white jeans (one is this AMAZING coated white jean from zara with corset lacing up the calf…and white birkenstocks…i am literally counting the minutes until it’s nice enough to wear them…

  • LilyP

    I get so caught up in that seeing a photograph where something just absolutely WORKS, want to run right out and buy whatever it is, but then, I have to remind myself that same thing, doesn’t mean it’ll work on me too! great post!

  • Claudine

    Thanks for this article! It makes so much sense to shop with what I now call the Sober Attitude. Whenever I go shopping (or window shopping) I take care to admire items that turn me on, yet quickly put them down and remind myself to go for the more sober, wearable pieces. You can’t always trust in your emotions, since the euphoria of finding the item makes you put it on a pedestal—once acquiring it but never really seeing yourself in it.