Peak Frump? I Don’t Think So


The Harvard Lampoon’s Alexis Wilkinson—their supposedly spunky, in your face editor, who the world seems to have placed on a Dunham-esque pedestal—has written a piece for Opening Ceremony (naturally they have a blog) about how we, the collective ladieeees of society, have reached “peak frump.” The essence of the piece is that we women just really, really need to start trying again. She’s sick of our dwindling efforts to sparkle and simply “rejects the idea” that it has anything to do with comfort. I found the piece grossly off base, not least because she refers to the Grease character who goes from frump to fox as Sally, when it’s OBVIOUSLY Sandy [damn it].

The first flaw is her description of Anastasia Steele (the heroine of Fifty Shades of Gray) as Dakota Johnson portrays her in the upcoming film. “She looks pretty pathetic—and that’s exactly her appeal,” she writes, making a stretch of a point. Especially, she says, when held up against the “sexy, smoldering” character of Christian Grey. Sure, Dakota Johnson comes off as meek and a little mousey, but to claim that “no one in their right mind should want her” as such is hilarious given how alluring she so obviously is to not just the movie’s heartthrob, but the movie-going public. I disagree that it’s simply some pathetic aura drawing the Grey character in, like she’s some pitiful puppet for him to take care of. Rather, it’s the mysteriousness of her silence that probably appeals, her complete un-showiness—so foreign to his own lifestyle. And most importantly, nothing about Steele implies that she’s merely “putting on” this pared back, basic palette for show—so it doesn’t lend much weight to Wilkinson’s belief that we’re all just trying really hard to not try.

Next, she dives into good old normcore, inaccurately describing it as comprising clothing that you would wear only if you were “going through a rough time right now,” citing Crocs as one very far-fetched feature of the look. From what I’ve gleaned from the way-too-many articles I’ve read on the subject, normcore is actually more along the lines of a Hanes white tee or a grey Champion hoodie, paired with New Balance or Nike sneakers. Nothing about it screams mentally unstable—is that what we’re now equating lack of immense sartorial effort with? Because according to Wilkinson, it is. Does an unwillingness to cover our faces in make-up every single day render us pathetic? Lazy? Loonytoons? Well that’s essentially the argument being made.

I don’t disagree with her that “not trying is the new trying,” but I don’t believe there’s anything inherently wrong with those who choose the former, or at least attempt to seem like they do. I don’t believe that reversing this try-less trend and calling for a mass exodus to Bloomingdale’s to buy shiny new outfits and get our make-up done is a worthwhile endeavor. What, exactly, do we gain from that? Other than satisfying this one writer’s blatantly superficial taste? Or perhaps winning over the guy of our dreams, as she mentions in the intro, because we’ve signaled that we now–and only now–apparently “give a fuck about” ourselves?

She acts as if those who don’t follow such a path simply don’t “give a rat’s ass,” but as someone who very often opts to not get all decked out, I can assure you that’s false. I totally give a rat’s ass; I just don’t care enough to give the same girth of ass to my face and ensemble [read that five times fast] every single day. I believe it’s important to get used to our faces and our bodies without the trappings of perfect foundation and a standout outfit. Good people can handle our splotchy skin and our occasional pimples. Good people can handle us in a pair of Gap sweats and a college t-shirt. People who are worth our time aren’t going to love us any less.

There’s a time and a place for all of those fun embellishments—and it’s certainly not everyday.

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