Just read a line on style icon Carey Mulligan: “She’s got great taste; carefully avoiding anything above the knee, tight…” Buck, Joan Juliet. “The Talented Miss Mulligan.” Vogue. 2 September 2010. http://www.vogue.com/magazine/article/the-talented-miss-mulligan. 30 September 2010.
As a lawyer, it set the wheels of my analytical legal mind in action as to what exactly is the definition of “good taste.” Is it subjective or objective? Can it be loosely interpreted by each individual’s own sensibilities, or do certain established standards apply to define good taste? Are being sexy and having good taste synonyms, antonyms or both? Is the good taste of one the obscenity of another? After all, there can be art form in pornography as well.
For some, an above-the-knee short (or very short) dress is taste. For others a tight fitting (even better if skin tight) dress is taste. For yet another demographic it’s chest-baring dresses, and for others if a woman wears all the above rolled into one it is the epitome of style and sex appeal. Conversely, for some (not necessarily the puritanical ones) it could have the opposite “turn off” effect.
Believe it or not, there is law on the issue of interpreting what I will call “good taste,” for the purposes of this blog. It is outlined in a 1973 Supreme Court case, Miller v. California. No, I will not belabor you with the case as we are on to something more important and interesting here.
The Court analyzed whether a certain form of art (style/fashion are forms of art) would be offensive to an “average person” applying “contemporary community standards.” I question the test, as the definition of “contemporary community standards” has significantly changed from 1973 to 2010. As a lifelong observer and student of style and fashion I have observed that any style that is not form fitting or body baring to some extent is not appreciated by the “community.” Loose clothing, no matter how stylish, is considered matronly and homely. (Right about now I can hear Stella McCartney, Alber Elbaz and Nicolas Ghesquière scoff!)
As a personal observation, and nothing against the opposite sex, I have noticed the tighter and shorter my clothes are the more admirable glances I get from my darker halves. I could run around in the most stylish and tasteful Balenciaga or Prada dress but somehow fail to pique the interest of men.
So, if we follow the above logic is it appropriate to deduce that our “community standards” adhere to a blatant exhibition of a woman’s curves? Unless a woman succumbs to such exhibitionism will she not be considered stylish? Is that in keeping with “good taste?” Has there been such degeneration in our society that style and taste is all about body-baring sex appeal?
The sad part is that we are talking about “community standards.” Most of us human beings are gluttons for approval and such approval will obviously come from a “community.” And to please that “community” we will continue to comply with the “acceptable standards of the community,” i.e. body baring tight clothing, conformity and lack of imagination!