It’s my opinion that all clothes are costume, that by getting dressed in the morning you’re choosing what character you present to the world. What it says about me that I tend towards the Romantic-era poet dying of consumption and also being too sad look, I don’t know. Other personas I have donned include flapper clown and (to quote a sweet-faced middle schooler who was filled with joy as she looked at me) queen of the damned. One guy I know wears a leather jacket so much that it might actually just be his second skin and when sleep-deprived enough he admits it’s because it makes him feel like James Dean. Our clothes tell a story, whether we want them to or not. My take on the whole situation is that you might as well take advantage of it.
Wildfox makes clothing for the Cool Girl, capitalization very much intended. It’s impossible for me to visit the Wildfox site- an event invariably preceded by a depression spiral that’s led me to believe I should start wearing pastels- without hearing Amy Dunne’s monologue from Gone Girl echoing in my head. The girl that I imagine Wildfox designs clothing for comes from a similar status as the designers themselves; that casual California luxury that allows you to spend $150 on a sweatshirt without thinking about it too hard. She’s thin and tall and probably white, with straight hair that falls into the perfect beachy waves upon command. She’s fun at parties and her boyfriend works in Silicon Valley. Her instagram account has a bajillion followers all waiting to see the next picture of green juice or her making a funny face that just manages to avoid being ugly.
She doesn’t exist.
I mean we all know that, right? In our heart of hearts as we surf through whatever social media strikes our fancy, we know that no one’s life can be so one dimensional and simple. No one’s biggest worry is protecting the reputation of raw veganism. The cool girl image is shown because it’s easy, appealing, because sometimes you don’t want to confront the fact that life is complicated while you look up the best way to apply glitter eyeshadow. It’s appealing because we want to believe that even if we’re messed up and weird, somewhere out there there’s some magical fairy who’s living the kind of life we were all promised from Disney Channel. Maybe we got into a fight with our significant other, but the Cool Girl just posted a video of her boyfriend narrating the way she does her makeup! We might eventually give up on curating a wardrobe and order eighty plain t-shirts from Amazon, but Cool Girl found an authentic Yves Saint Laurent at the thrift store!
We all want to live the life that the cool girl has, and it’s not too much of a stretch to think we can accomplish that through dressing like her. The disappointment only comes when it’s time to put on the clothes and you realize that, theoretically, baggy patterned sweatshirts covered in pink flamingos mainly just make you look like a Bubbe in South Florida. In a bad way. And that maybe mini dresses don’t work when you’re five foot nothing, Marguerite.
I think it’s then that the other part of the Cool Girl equation kicks in- we all hate the Cool Girl. We follow her and give her money and wish to be her, but at the end of the day any girl who tries to be her will be dismissed. The lynchpin of the Cool Girl identity is not trying and so by it’s very definition the moment you’re aware of your own identity you lose. It’s the One Direction Dilemma (aka wait, if my not knowing I’m beautiful is what makes me beautiful, then does you telling me I’m beautiful then render me hideous?). People who prefer their psychological dilemmas to not be based off pop songs might call it a Catch 22.
There’s nothing wrong with Wildfox’s clothing. It’s charming enough, though some of the slogans do seem a little like stuff your mom would post on Facebook in terms of generic non-offensiveness. Slogans like “Never Say Diet” and “Pancakes Made This Body” ring hypocritical when the largest size available is a size twelve, and shirts with segments of butchered Spanglish feel uncomfortable on a site populated what seems like exclusively by white models. It also, in the opinion of the author, feels strange for an “essential” plain black t-shirt to be priced at $62, especially one that’s 47% polyester, 47% rayon (the remainder’s spandex) and about as whisper thin as a shirt from Target.
I’m biased against Wildfox. They’re clothes made for the kind of girl I’ll never be. It’s casual and colorful and playful in a wholly uncritical way, everything that I in all my formal bow-blouses and fishnets look kind of like a goth librarian next to. I’m biased because I discovered Wildfox when I was a 13 year old ball of self loathing and there are few things you can wholly love that you discover at that age, because a part of me is always going to want to be the Cool Girl. There’s nothing about them that’s worse than what you’ll find at Forever 21, though at a markup that makes my head spin and with the added prestige of being favored by the famous. It’s nothing you can’t make yourself with a couple iron-on letters and a thrift store t-shirt and I think that’s really the most I can say.
Price Range: Too high. This is not an investment buy, this is something you could make for yourself over the weekend. You could even copy the slogans word for word, considering they read like they’ve been plagiarized from those magnets with housewives drinking wine.
Available: Available on the company site as well as Nordstrom Rack.
Vibe: Her name was butchered by well-meaning parents who wanted her to be unique, probably something like Tyffani or one of the five million variations on Caitlin. You went to highschool with her and now she’s sent you a friend request on Facebook. She believes in girl power but thinks feminism is an ugly word, thinks Chipotle is “exotic”, and somehow has managed to have two beautiful, well-scrubbed children in the time it took you to get a job that offered insurance. You discover that she runs a successful lifestyle blog where she doles out recipes for quinoa-beet cupcakes and scolds any parent who doesn’t love their little Timmy enough to cut the crusts off his rutabaga kale gluten-free sandwiches with a hypo-allergenic knife that costs more than your rent. You end up hate-reading the entire blog, then cry about how you’ve failed life over a bowl of ice cream and Bailey’s.
Budget Options: If you don’t feel like going through the effort of ironing on your own slogans on shirts from Target or the thrift store ($5.00-15.00, depending on the price of the shirt and the iron-on letters), then just go to the clearance section of your local Forever 21 (same price range as DIY, but quicker and less personal). It’ll fall apart in a month or so, but it’s so cheap it doesn’t matter. A benefit of DIY of course is that you can put whatever the hell you want on your shirt; I’m currently waffling over whether I want to use the iron on letters I found at JoAnn’s to spell out LUDDITE or THIS SHIRT IS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT. I’ll probably make both and it’ll still cost less that Wildfox’s plain black t-shirt.
(All images credited to Wildfox. I am simply a emotionally distraught gremlin only capable of taking unflattering selfies.)