(quick) fashion questions: ugly = beautiful?

(center image via etsy’s storque)

i’ve been pondering the idea of ugly as beautiful again (something i’ve brought up here before)…

it’s sort of all stream of consciousness, these thoughts and my jotting them down. maybe you can follow along?


what it is for me:

-it’s this inner push inside of me, an unstoppable attraction to some things that which might repulse some other people, particularly when it comes to clothing items.

-some of it is about a love of the wabi-sabi inherent within objects, the imperfectness of some things, certain things, specific things.

-sometimes this means something once loved but later and vehemently eschewed for something else “new” and “trendy”.

-sometimes it means going against what’s “new and trendy”. embracing what’s ugly in comparison. just because. but it’s by all means honest. i’m not going to really embrace something unless it actually, factually resonates with me.

-sometimes it’s just happening to like something that no one seems to like. or that very few do. but that i just do.

-i see it sometimes manifesting itself in my championing things like my undying love for all things acid wash, oversized crazy-ass clip earrings from the 60s-80s, weird grandma clothes that no one else wants. and very much especially with my sometimes becoming intermittently obsessed with seeming incongruent color schemes or pairings, ones your average folk might find appalling or socially unacceptable.



i suppose i am talking about any old ugly thing really, but something that’s perfect in it’s ugliness. something so ugly it becomes beautiful. something on the edge of good taste, something good or bad depending upon when and where and amongst whom you happen to be standing.


so i wonder:

-is this about a quest for the novel? the new? the next? something i haven’t seen yet? something that hasn’t been seen in a while? seeing something (possibly something old) in a new light?

-or is this about being contrary, setting myself or consciously/unconsciously pushing myself to the outside, where i admittedly feel more comfortable? is it just being contrary for the sake of being contrary?


because, ya know, it’s all relative, really. this ugly/beautiful thing.

beautiful and ugly in the eye of the beholder, and so on.

one man’s trash, is another’s treasure.

or is it?

are some things just truly ugly?


other people also feel this way, i know. other people love those same things. like the written note above…some can appreciate the same things. other people are into their own “ugly” things.

maybe YOU are one of those people. maybe we all are those people?

so, again, i wonder (i’m always wondering!):

-why? what’s the common thread? the driving force that forces us, compels some of us to love that which is “ugly”?

-is it a certain kind of person that can see the loveliness in things, no matter how other people see them? a person who can see things differently about that which is different? does that person think differently from the “norm”? are they special in any way, or not at all?

-or is society/culture collectively fickle and changeable…thinking that which is old is passe and ugly when it really may not be, but just seem so in relation to the new(er) and the mod? (answer: yes, duh!) is it just part of the endless unrelenting cycle of culture, style and trend?

-as with an earlier question up there, is there a way to definitively define “ugly” or “beautiful”? i know studies have been done to try and determine these sorts of things. but beautiful and ugly are such subjective terms, so inherently changeable depending upon who’s doing the viewing and digesting and contemplating and judging…


care to add any thoughts?
do share!


  1. Teenysparkles

    Hi, I’m new to your blog, but have just recently started following after becoming a w_remixer. Firstly, thank you so much for starting wardrobe remix! And then to your questions above? One can only philosophise…I personally love ugliness in that it is essentially imperfect. For me, imperfection is perfect human-ness and frailty..which reminds me that we are vulnerable. In this busy, perfection striving culture, vulnerability is sweetness. (I should admit I am a lapsed lazy perfectionist)

  2. Jocelyne

    I am definitely attracted to “different” things. As the years have gone by I have gotten better at editing my selections of “ugly/weird” things I pick out. I’ve been shopping at thrift stores ever since I can remember and have gotten really fast/good and at it, It must be approaching 20+ years now. I used to just buy the weirdest things I could find but now that I don’t have the model body (damn aging) I used to in my 20’s, I look for things that will best flatter my body that are still fun and interesting. It’s always an adventure and so much fun to have no clue what you will find.

    Btw, not sure if you know or not but that quote in that book photo is from a Devendra Banhart song called Noah. The song is beautiful. Here is a link to the song on youtube, I couldn’t find him preforming it so it’s a funny fishtank documentary which used the song, whatever works 🙂

  3. Franca

    So many questions! I’ll have to think about this some more, but just wanted to fire off a quick note. When I was in Berlin last summer, the Museum of Things (post about it <a href="Museum of Things“>here)had a special exhibition about good/bad taste, in which 19th century rules of taste were applied to 20th century objects, housewares and toys and memorabilia rather than clothes. I’ll see if I can find some more information about that exhibition. It was absolutely fascinating, and it persuaded me that there are things that are truly ugly/wrong/bad taste. Which is not to say that they might not become fashionable at some point, but probably in an ironic way. Irony has a lot to answer for.

  4. Sally

    I certainly believe that ugly/beautiful objects and garments are defined solely by personal taste. But I also see certain outfits or pieces of clothing that get tons of attention for being daring, amazing, and unique and I think, “It’s not actually appealing, it’s just not-boring.”

    It seems like style bloggers in particular feel pressured to do different and outlandish things with their personal style. And that pushes boundaries, and being a true explorer must be absolutely exhilarating … but sometimes I wonder if that pressure gets out of control. Encourages people to just wear the ugliest or weirdest thing possible for fear of looking boring. A gross exaggeration, to be sure, but something I do ponder.

    My dad is an architect, so my sensibility is generally very stark and clean. I know just the kind of ugly you’re talking about, Tricia, and I find that I am drawn to it solely in prints. The louder, brighter, and more psychedelic, the better. But in construction and form? I err on the boring/classically pretty side.

  5. Sandra

    I do think it boils down to personal taste… because yes, maybe I’d classify something as ugly but someone else would say it was beautiful. Lately I’ve been really surprised at what people find beautiful, for example, in terms of fabric design, the winners of contests are never really the ones that rock my boat. Artist jodigreen from flickr once shared with me “People like stuff that isn’t challenging to look at.” “People” in that case I think she meant “the general public.” Maybe things most people would say are “ugly” are just too much of a visual challenge? But some people prefer that challenge, and are attracted to eye sores?

    PS, while I might have a penchant for what-other-people-may-deem ugly clothes or sofas or knickknacks… I wouldn’t say it was an across-the-board “taste for ugliness” – it sounds horrible, but I can’t say I’m overly attracted to ugly people for instance, you know? Or I’m not fond of ugly/trashed landscapes, etc. Which seems then that I only prefer unusual “material” items, and yes I’d say in that case it is primarily the novelty or irony or “challenge” of the item that attracts me.

  6. Susan

    Ugly vs. beautiful…To whose eyes? I think of a person we all may consider conventionally beautiful but with such a horrid personality, they become truly ugly. I think it’s like that with everything out there. To the naked eye, it might be unpleasant, but dig a little deeper, see how it makes you feel, and then it can become truly gorgeous and fascinating. There is a very old, abandoned factory in my neighbourhood, surrounded by pricey homes. It could be considered a blight. Broken bricks, no windows left, a missing roof. But it is so different, so architecturally interesting and stark and forlorn, I find it gorgeous and hope it stays. Power to the misfits!

  7. sarah

    Tricia – a book on my long, long, get-to-eventually reading list that you might want to check out: “On Ugliness” by Umberto Eco!

    I personally think that a lot of this is subjective and constantly changing. You, for instance, have caused me to reevaluate colour and prints; that’s why I come here: you stretch my thinking. I’ve been told that my own aesthetic is “weird” by a lot of people, but I don’t really think it’s all that unique or different. I’m not sure mine is even “settled” on a single kind of idea; maybe it won’t ever be, because I like to push at the edges of what is and isn’t attractive to me and to see if I can appreciate more of the world that way. I like that in fashion, too; in fact, I often find those pieces that are just on the border between attractive and unattractive are the most compelling and interesting, and end up being the ones I wear a lot and keep forever – perhaps because I’m eternally trying to make up my mind about whether or not I like them!

    Still, I wonder sometimes if there are any universal values for human beings, among them, the aesthetic. I go to the University of Washington, and every spring our quad, which is lined with majestic old cherry trees, bursts into an incredible froth of pink blooms. Our campus is flooded with visitors – from other cities, states, even countries – who come every year to take it in. A professor of mine asked rather poignantly last spring, if we couldn’t take this as evidence of a universal conception of beauty. I have to say, I found the argument rather persuasive.

    But of course, I do not know where I would even begin to draw those lines between beauty and ugliness. Maybe when I read Eco I’ll have a better idea of it!

  8. Buttercup Rocks

    Fashion-wise, I think youth has the power to transform a basically hideous garment or accessory into something quirky and hip. I wore things as a young ‘un I know I definitely couldn’t get away with now. Though I do still bring items into my home that I know others think are questionable (if not downright frightful) and I think they integrate just fine with my surroundings. Perfect, harmonious, “good” grown-up taste is anathema to me. I like to play to much to stick to the straight and narrow.

    I inherited a streak of Liberace-esque kitsch from my paternal grandmother – but whereas she would decorate an entire room like it, I’ll just have a few choice items here and there. I inherited from said grandmother a Swiss sunburst clock from the early 60s. It wasn’t one of those funky retro numbers that are all the go now though – it was a huge rococo thing in brass and cream enamel. I loved it for sentimental reasons, but I also just loved it for its tacky, flamboyant self. A friend of mine summed it up perfectly when he said, “Of its type it’s exquisite. But its type is absolutely horrendous”. Somehow that made me love it all the more.

  9. danielle

    sometimes i boil it all down to this overwhelming blunder:

    someone must look at something like a buick le sabre and think, man, that’s a beautiful car.

    i think, really? who in the hell thought that was a good design. it perplexes me. especially american culture. our commodity based society has thrown out the time tested rule of design and function as one. we make some ugly shit. and i think there is no if and or but about it. there is ugly stuff. and there is beautiful stuff.

    clothing is super hard because it’s solely contextual.


    some things I come across and just think, how did *this* happen? what mind made thought of this and made it real?

    and then I think, well, I better rock this because I can. If nothing else it will make me laugh all day.