our shared sin

You would think that in fashion, vanity would be the deadliest sin. Of course it isn’t – it is the highest virtue in our world. We brag about vanity, we flaunt it, we compliment each other on it. Not greed either, it is not uncommon to hear “excessive” as an effusive, un-ironic compliment. We take pride in taking pride, rewarding big egos. Sloth is enshrined in the cult of “effortlessness“. Lust glosses over every advertisement.

Fashion is not bashful in declaring its unholy adoration of of unwholesome decadence, no wonder these themes are a common indulgence in magazine spreads. While it may pay lipstick-service to it, fashion doesn’t concern itself too much with the stylish possibilities of virtue. Though it is true that fashion deems gluttony abhorrent, it is by no means the worst infraction a stylish citizen can make.

No, the sin that we deny, the one we speak of in furtive, hushed tones, like addicts in denial, is Envy. Every fashion friend that I’ve had the privilege of an honest conversation with has revealed their own battles with jealousy. These rare, candid confessions elicit a kind of catharsis, because envy is the one sin we can’t share on social media. We all have to deal with it alone.

What is it about the fashion/envy axis that causes so much heartache and fear? It is because envy is the mirror image of desire. Desire, in every connotation of the word, is what fashion strives for. Flip the coin, same value: what we envy is what we yearn for.

We’re gluttons for our feeds these days. Observe what internet missives out there irk you have in common. If you’re anything like me, it’s because those updates touch on a tender spot. Almost always, the essence is: I want what she’s got. Why her and not me? We’ve all felt it, alone. It makes us act in peculiar ways. It infiltrates what we say and do. A little, every once in a while, is totally normal. A lot is devastating.

As fashion careerists, we’re in the business of desire, so envy is a recurring professional hazard – both for the envious and the envied. Figuring out how to flip it is valuable for your mental health, and your success. Because our most heartfelt wishes are unique to all of us, everyone’s strategy to deal with desire’s dangerous counterpart should be different. But because it’s a common thing we all share, my own philosophy might be worth sharing too. Here’s what I try to do.

Give yourself a break. We all feel jealous sometimes.

Edit your social media feeds to remove envy-provoking content. There’s no point in punishing yourself, following is always optional. To be honest, there are certain individuals that I enjoy following a lot who occasionally produce green-light updates for me. Depending on how resilient I’m feeling, I’ll un-follow and re-follow them. Since I can’t hide it, I’m pretty sure they know what it’s about – I’ve have some followers who behave like that too.

Achieve your desires. As you begin to gain confidence and accomplishments, you’ll notice that envy begins to fade away. Conquer desire, conquer envy. So always go for what you want. If you don’t know what you want, examine your envy. Is there a theme, a common flashpoint? Take your focus away from the envy, point yourself towards the desire, and go for it.

If you are the object of envy: be humble, be empathetic, and above all carry on doing whatever you’re doing. If you are inciting envy, it is because you are also lighting desire on fire. You’ve struck a vein of fashion gold. Run with it.


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4 thoughts on “our shared sin”

  1. Danielle, get out of my head please 🙂 Seriously, you’re reading my thoughts. I’ve thought about this issue a lot, and though I know it’s only human to feel envious, the fact that everyone keeps it to themselves makes each of us feel like lone soldiers in this battle. It’s nice to be reminded that I’m not alone!

    I’m in fashion as well, but I don’t envy other people’s material possessions as much as I envy their talent/luck/connections/etc as it pertains to their success in this cut-throat industry (and I’d probably feel that way if I were in any other industry too). So your third bit of advice resonates with me. As for the occasional envy over material things, I find it helps to step outside the fashion bubble on a regular basis and remember all that I have to be grateful for. I’m sure I have things that others wish they had too. It’s a waste of precious energy to dwell on any of it, but if we never step outside the bubble and gain perspective, envy can easily consume us. Fashion encourages a total immersion mentality though (“fashion is my life!”), so the first steps are recognizing the bubble for what it is and being able to separate ourselves from the job.

    It all comes down to having a strong sense of self, so we’re not so easily seduced by image. Fashion is in the business of selling image, not substance. I’m ok with valuing image in moderation, but if we truly value ourselves then we value substance as well, and then the envy that comes with being immersed in an image-based world loses its grip. For those who value only image and place all their self-worth in it, they have much bigger problems than envy. Thanks for the interesting post!

  2. Hi Sarah, I’m like you – the things that I want all focus around opportunities, advantages and talent rather than the material goods of fashion. If only it was just as easy as saving up and buying that brand new bag, haha.

    The immersive quality of the fashionably ambitious is so true! Having people in your life who can give you an outside perspective is so critical.

    So pleased you found the post resonated, thanks for a great comment!

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