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On the Utility of Rules for Dress and Fit - Page 3

post #31 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by unbelragazzo View Post

But how to apply them to dress is not obvious.
Yes, but there's some variance across cultures in what is considered optimal (varies from .6 to .8 for the ratio you mention).
That may be part of the reason we dress up - but also to embody and advance our own taste, perhaps then for the approval of others, but we don't generally set out from the beginning thinking about what others will like, any more than a musician who writes a song that represents his own creation, and then hopes that others will appreciate it, and by extension, him.
I should clarify again what I mean by rules. Clearly it is POSSIBLE to create a system of rules that will guarantee something that "looks good" to you. A very memory-intensive version would just be to categorize every possible outfit as "looking good" or not. The point of rules is to have something that's simpler to remember than that. So remembering "show some cuff" immediately cuts out all the outfits that don't show cuff, so that you don't have to remember for each individual one that they don't look good. In fact you can think about your own "taste", or your own sense of whether something looks good or not, as a system of rules working in the background, in your unconscious mind, developed by evolution, to evaluate the aesthetic quality of what you're looking at. One way to interpret what I'm saying is that you should trust this system of unconscious rules, and not just the conscious rules you have learned like, "when putting two different patterns together, make them of disparate scales".

If you concede that style is a combination of social construction and personal style (memes and qualia) then we can easily answer why rules exist. It has to do with epistemology. Developing a common vocabulary to describe something allows us to first to share it with others and second to develop our own understand of it. Why don't we always see something and the appropriate aesthetic rule pop into mind? The analogy is this - prehistoric man looks at a rainbow and sees pretty colours and a miracle. Medieval man looks at it and sees seven colours. Industrial age man knows with help of a prism that there are an infinite number of colurs in the rainbow, while the modern man knows all about wave and paticle nature of lights and even the possibility of tachyons. Has the rainbow changed? Has its beauty changes? No. But our vocabulary to be able to understand it and have a conversation about it has changed dramatically. Now the modem man has the option to stay at any one of those levels of understanding; it is still a pretty rainbow! but there will be a select few Who will be studying why light diffracts the way it does, why it the curved shape is pleasing to the eye., why in this variation of the multiverse vibgyor is the sequence of colours - why red does not come before blue, how eye perceives colours etc,

As you can clearly see that there are dozens of posts everyday where the posted clearly knows there is something wrong with the outfit - but does have the vocabulary to explain it. When he posts and asks for opinions- he is engaging in the epistemological process of going from instinct to expression.
post #32 of 43
nvm
post #33 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by F. Corbera View Post

I think that the rate of rules-adherence on StyFo is so low that it is an unlikely culprit in the high frequency of dull, weird, or disoriented looks and opinions here.

I couldn't agree more.
post #34 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by unbelragazzo View Post

I would agree to what you say here. I do think there's such a thing as "good taste", and that some people have it and others don't. When Vox doesn't like something that I like, or vice versa, I will at least look again and see if my impression changes, just like if a good friend whose taste in movies I respect likes a movie that I disliked, I would consider watching it again to see if my opinion changes.
But I don't think the existence of "good" taste invalidates 2). It may even strengthen it. I'll allow that "the rules" are not followed by most SF members, and that in general more rule-following would be a good thing. But at the same time, you won't have style like Vox just by following Vox's rules, because you would not have his good taste to guide you.
I guess one way to express what I'm trying to say is, good taste is too complicated to be boiled down to a parsimonious set of rules. Given this, at some point, if you want to have great style, you have to give up on memorizing rules and just try to develop your aesthetic sense.

You seem to have a lot of time on your hands. You must still be on vacation.

I'm not sure what you think are the "rules" but to me they are codified in manuals such as "The Suit". The beliefs of just any SF denizen does not qualify.

It seems to me that you make the assumption that most people (or at least many, or maybe just you) are able to obtain "great style". I think those with sufficient knowledge and skill to have enough "good taste" to break the rules and have "great style" are few and far in between. I don't know how you define "great style" but I think it is those individuals like the DoW or Beau Brummell, who define elegance for generations, and that is unattainable by most. The majority are better served following the rules. At one point, I too thought that I would be better dressed deviating from the rules. But I realize I am still learning quite a bit using the rules. I am not good enough to reinvent the wheel. Also, dressing is like any other skill which improves with practice and self assessment.

BTW, I am generally discussing the method in which one puts together an ensemble. Those who ask internet strangers how to tweak their bespoke items instead of engaging the advise of their makers are another issue all together. IMO if you don't trust the advise of your maker, you are probably better off finding another.
post #35 of 43
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by poorsod View Post

You seem to have a lot of time on your hands. You must still be on vacation.
I'm not sure what you think are the "rules" but to me they are codified in manuals such as "The Suit". The beliefs of just any SF denizen does not qualify.
It seems to me that you make the assumption that most people (or at least many, or maybe just you) are able to obtain "great style". I think those with sufficient knowledge and skill to have enough "good taste" to break the rules and have "great style" are few and far in between. I don't know how you define "great style" but I think it is those individuals like the DoW or Beau Brummell, who define elegance for generations, and that is unattainable by most. The majority are better served following the rules. At one point, I too thought that I would be better dressed deviating from the rules. But I realize I am still learning quite a bit using the rules. I am not good enough to reinvent the wheel. Also, dressing is like any other skill which improves with practice and self assessment.
BTW, I am generally discussing the method in which one puts together an ensemble. Those who ask internet strangers how to tweak their bespoke items instead of engaging the advise of their makers are another issue all together. IMO if you don't trust the advise of your maker, you are probably better off finding another.

poorsod, I hope I'm not coming off as idle and arrogant as your post makes me sound! I'm back from vacation, but things are a little slow around here in the summer sometimes. I certainly would not want to assume that I am able to obtain "great style", much less pretend that I am the only one. This was the first thing I wrote in the thread and it's how I genuinely feel:
Quote:
Originally Posted by unbelragazzo View Post

What follows is my humble opinion, meant to be an observation of one person still near the beginning of his sartorial journey, but I hope having learned some things that may be of use to others.

I want to stress again that I'm not advocating trying to break "the rules" (which I guess I agree are as you define them...I was mostly thinking of something like Flusser, but if you want to include The Suit by manton I see no reason to exclude Vox's Practical Combinations thread, for instance), or claiming that they are useless. If you just want to look professional at work and generally presentable, a few rules of thumb and sufficient conservatism may be all you need.

But most of the people that come here and stick around are interested in more than that, and have an intrinsic interest in clothing and style. Some of these (by no means all), in my view, get bogged down in what is "SF-approved" without cultivating their own artistic sense that motivated them in the first place. I am not asking for more orange trousers. I'm saying that it's possible to have stripes of different scales combined together and still have the patterns not look good, even though this is one of the "rules' of pattern matching. I think that style enthusiasts, even those as lowly as myself, should try to look at something and appreciate whether it looks good or not, without having to ask Manton. Further, that appreciation leads to a more satisfactory interaction with style in the long run.
post #36 of 43
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tropicalist View Post

If you concede that style is a combination of social construction and personal style (memes and qualia) then we can easily answer why rules exist. It has to do with epistemology. Developing a common vocabulary to describe something allows us to first to share it with others and second to develop our own understand of it. Why don't we always see something and the appropriate aesthetic rule pop into mind? The analogy is this - prehistoric man looks at a rainbow and sees pretty colours and a miracle. Medieval man looks at it and sees seven colours. Industrial age man knows with help of a prism that there are an infinite number of colurs in the rainbow, while the modern man knows all about wave and paticle nature of lights and even the possibility of tachyons. Has the rainbow changed? Has its beauty changes? No. But our vocabulary to be able to understand it and have a conversation about it has changed dramatically. Now the modem man has the option to stay at any one of those levels of understanding; it is still a pretty rainbow! but there will be a select few Who will be studying why light diffracts the way it does, why it the curved shape is pleasing to the eye., why in this variation of the multiverse vibgyor is the sequence of colours - why red does not come before blue, how eye perceives colours etc,
As you can clearly see that there are dozens of posts everyday where the posted clearly knows there is something wrong with the outfit - but does have the vocabulary to explain it. When he posts and asks for opinions- he is engaging in the epistemological process of going from instinct to expression.

I agree with all of this. I think we're saying the same thing. My idea is that we take as primary whether something is beautiful or not (the rainbow, in your example), and then try and come up with why it is beautiful, and then apply that to other things. And these things can be learned from other people. But the aesthetic sense is still primary. For instance, say we looked at a rainbow and decided, "that's pretty, all rainbow-shaped things must be pretty" and then claimed that the McDonalds "golden arches" represented the height of human artistic achievement. The inference we drew at the beginning, that all arched things are pretty, was wrong, and we later use our aesthetic sense to find a counterexample. We then go back and try to come up with different rules that better capture what appeals to our aesthetic sense. But the final goal is always to come up with something we find beautiful, not something that conforms to some rules. Again, I'm not trying to say that rules are useless. But they are not a goal in and of themselves.
post #37 of 43
At the risk of pursuing a fruitless tangent, let me remind us all that, so far at least, we've largely avoided qualifying what the "rules" actually are, or how their purpose has changed over the years.

The standard assumption in the OP's logic is that style is a purely aesthetic expression, and that "the rules" are simply aesthetic suggestions -- to be considered, or rejected, depending on the personal tastes of the dresser.

To whatever extent this is the case today, it certainly wasn't for most of the time in which the "rules" existed. Indeed, for much of history, dress was proscribed by the occasion. The "rules" were, fairly literally, rules. Regardless of how they came into existence, to break them was to commit social indecency. A proscription such as "no brown in town" may, to the modern eye, appear completely arbitrary. But, arbitrary or not, that rule was socially enforceable for many decades. Back in the day, a London professional wouldn't have dared to assume country dress in the city. Only his social superiors had the leeway to try such a stunt, and even the gentry had to proceed with caution. Reaching back even further: in ancient Rome, a commoner would never have worn the color purple. That color was reserved for the imperial ranks. There was no real aesthetic reason for this distinction; Tyrian purple is no more or less flattering to the patrician complexion than to the plebeian. Rather, the rule existed because purple was considered to have deep symbolic and religious meaning. It was believed to be invested with a certain power and character. (Indeed, the word "invest" traces its origins back to the Medieval clergy, in which to "invest" was "to clothe" in special attire. This usage drew from the Latin vestis, meaning "garment.")

Society has largely taken on a more egalitarian character in present-day America, as it has in much of the world. And the fluidity of movement from one location (or job, or circumstance) to another has rendered a lot of the old country/city distinctions fuzzy. Even such conveniences as year-round indoor climate control have done a number on the old proscriptions of dress. Formality gave way to changing practicality, as it always does.

Even today, though, there are occasions in which dress is proscribed. A "black tie" event calls for black-tie dress. A club or restaurant that mandates coat and tie will not serve a patron who shows up in shirtsleeves and jeans. If a wedding calls for suit and tie, appearing in t-shirt and windbreaker will not suffice.

In none of these situations, historic or present, did the "rules" exist for purely, or even primarily, aesthetic purposes. The freedom to pursue style as a purely aesthetic exercise is a very recent phenomenon.

None of what I've said here probably makes any difference to the OP's central argument, nor is it indended to do so. Rather, I'm making this point because I'm noticing a conflation of various concepts -- "style" and "taste," "rules" and aesthetic theories, etc. -- that does disservice to this discussion.
Edited by Jackie Treehorn - 7/6/12 at 5:51am
post #38 of 43
Thread Starter 
JT, I think we can usually arbitrate between rules for aesthetic purposes and rules for social propriety (although the case of no brown in town could be considered both). Within what is socially acceptable, there are still plenty of choices to make, even for black tie. However I agree that we're not always wearing what we're wearing because we like it best.

But your discussion is also useful for pointing out that what is aesthetically pleasing to us is not all hard-coded. For instance, I can't see red and green without thinking of Christmas, or purple and green without thinking of The Joker.
post #39 of 43

There is a misconception when you say that style is not a science.

The misconception is: there is different types of science, with different approaches. You treat science as the natural sciences, infamous for the precise results, rules if you will, but style should be seen as the human sciences, with no precise results, just glimpses of the true.

Therefore the "rules" could be a theory of style and hence they are a simplification of the real life, a method that can help us to understand it.

post #40 of 43
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Victor Elfo View Post

There is a misconception when you say that style is not a science.
The misconception is: there is different types of science, with different approaches. You treat science as the natural sciences, infamous for the precise results, rules if you will, but style should be seen as the human sciences, with no precise results, just glimpses of the true.
Therefore the "rules" could be a theory of style and hence they are a simplification of the real life, a method that can help us to understand it.

I'm an economist, so I'm sympathetic to this view. I wouldn't view social (at least economics) and physical sciences as different types of endeavors entirely, just with modeling error of different orders of magnitude. Every model is a simplification of reality, and therefore, wrong. I'm fine with thinking of rules as an estimated model of what looks good. All I'm saying is that what's on the left hand side is what looks good, and we're trying to estimate that.

But at the same time I'm realizing that I'm making the argument that this aesthetic sense can be developed, just as you can develop a finer taste for books or food. So it's not exactly just a "whatever you like, you like" idea. Good taste is cultivated.
post #41 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by unbelragazzo View Post

JT, I think we can usually arbitrate between rules for aesthetic purposes and rules for social propriety

 

Can we, though? All available evidence in modern-day society, up to and including on this forum, would seem to indicate the opposite. As M. Corbera puts it in his "Thoughts on Coherent Combinations for the Beginner" thread (a great read, and germane to this thread), very few people here seem to draw such distinctions. Instead, they select random garments based on purely aesthetic criteria, combining willy-nilly items that the "rules" intended should be separated, or separating items that the "rules" would suggest belong together, regardless of occasion. It is precisely this disregard for origin and context -- as provided by the "rules" -- that can lead people astray, ironically enough, on aesthetic grounds.

 

This is because, even if rules didn't originate for aesthetic purposes, the garments that followed from the rules are often aesthetically correlated. For instance, checked tweed suits and densely woven, tattersal-patterned shirts look good together because they were designed to be worn together, for the same occasions. One was created expressly to be paired with the other, and aesthetics were taken into account when the design was done. Pairing a fuzzy tattersal sport shirt with a smooth, worsted business suit doesn't look bad purely because it violates a "rule" about town and country; it looks bad because the shirt was not created to be worn with the suit, and so the textures of the two garments clash discordantly. In this case, the "rule" gave rise to the design, and, even if aesthetics is our only criterion, the combination still fails.

 

Knowledge of the origins and nature of the "rules" can lead us to make more informed aesthetic decisions, and ignorance of same can have a deleterious effect on style. Like it or not, the clothes we choose from were created according to the rules. Even if we choose to disregard the rules, they are still woven (as it were) into the fabric of our garments.

post #42 of 43
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackie Treehorn View Post

Can we, though?

I think of what you're describing are more aesthetic rules - by rules of social propriety, I was speaking more to, don't wear shorts to a wedding, in England don't wear a regimental tie that you shouldn't be wearing, don't wear a police uniform if you're not a cop, etc.. Anyway there are recent additions that are not "traditional" but follow the same spirit like wearing chambray with tweed or other textured fabrics like linen. I think most people would think chambray looks weird with a worsted suit, though it was not part of the traditional English gentleman's wardrobe. (from what I gather I have the history right in the previous couple of sentences, but I'm willing to be corrected)
post #43 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by unbelragazzo View Post


I'm an economist, so I'm sympathetic to this view. I wouldn't view social (at least economics) and physical sciences as different types of endeavors entirely, just with modeling error of different orders of magnitude. Every model is a simplification of reality, and therefore, wrong. I'm fine with thinking of rules as an estimated model of what looks good. All I'm saying is that what's on the left hand side is what looks good, and we're trying to estimate that.
But at the same time I'm realizing that I'm making the argument that this aesthetic sense can be developed, just as you can develop a finer taste for books or food. So it's not exactly just a "whatever you like, you like" idea. Good taste is cultivated.

 

I would say that the "rules" are developed by guys like us (?), that use their time to "study" style. Therefore we must first endeavor to search what is beautiful. 

Good taste is developed, through the dialectic method.  

In sum, I agree with you.

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