In the wise words of Miss Self-Important, on the eternal question of why women who write (sometimes) about clothes are taken less seriously than men who write (sometimes) about sports:
As far as I can tell, Megan McArdle is no less serious a blogger (insofar as one can be a serious blogger) than, say, Ezra Klein, who blogs on many of the same topics. But most people do not speculate about what size his pants are and whether he can get a date in his comments section.
And, more to the point:
Fashion is closely tied to bodies and love lives, and all the other subjects that are inappropriate for public discussion. Blogging about fashion usually means blogging about your fashion--it indirectly reveals things about your body, your income, your friends--in sum, your private life. And when the snipers come out, it makes some sense that they'll take aim not at the shoes, but at you, since you have armed them with all the relevant information and personal insults hurt more.
True, true. This explanation helped me understand why, though on my home blog I upfront call myself a Zionist, the greatest fury my online writings have ever provoked have been times I've written what I thought were innocuous posts about clothes. Even writing about clothing in general, your words will, fairly or unfairly, be read as statements about your own shopping habits and proportions.
One response would be to directly reveal all of this. Which is precisely what Virginia Postrel, the writer most cited as the 'exception' woman who can write about clothes and still be seen as serious, does in the lede of her 2007 story on jeans and vanity sizing: "As a teenager, I squeezed into size-12 jeans. Over the past three decades, I’ve put on about 20 pounds, mostly below the waist. I now wear a size 6."
Once that's out there (and self-deprecatingly so - imagine the fury if she'd opened with, 'I'm a size six, and finding jeans is so hard'), the speculation can end. We know the author's size, as well as her weight history, allowing us to move onto the more universal question of sizing generally.
But, as always, money complicates things. The only time Postrel mentions cost is to point out that custom-fit jeans are, at $900, "pricey." No one would disagree there; the danger is in making any sort of statement about what a pair should cost. (As I learned after mentioning my joy at finding a flattering $30 pair, only to learn that $15 was the socially-acceptable limit.)
So, questions, for my co-bloggers and others:
-Is it possible to talk about cheapness and clothes without inviting comments on our imagined incomes or sizes? Is there a proper way to deflect these, other than, 'No, you may not have the code to my bank account, nor my size at H&M.' I know that it's possible to blog about clothing without blogging about your own clothing (far more interesting is to blog about Zana Bayne's clothing), is it always really about you, in a way that other topics are not?
-Are size and income always off-limits? Obviously complaining about how the Chanel boutique is out of the dress you want in a size zero will get you as much understanding as confessing to being a Williamsburg hipster whose parents pay for her loft, but I'm not, of course, referring to extreme cases. This being a cheapness blog, the cost of clothes relative to funds already has come up, and surely will once more. And for all I know, my major complaint about clothing - that jeans These Days are cut to show the top of the underwear or worse, is in fact a statement about my size, and women with some other build (smaller? bigger? differently-proportioned?) don't experience this.
-Gender! Obviously. The relationship between cheapness and clothes relates at least as much to gender as it does to class. Female spending is more conspicuous because we often wear our most frivolous purchases. (I'm wearing the offending not-quite-$30 jeans right now.) But must every mention of clothes, by a woman, be accompanied by a discussion of the nonsense men also purchase, or can that just be assumed?