Pandora Sykes | Fashion Editor | 1,075 day ago

Why We Really Need To Drop The Whole Phrase 'Effortless Dressing'

The Debrief: We're sick of this movement which pretends that super stylish girls just 'don't give a shit'

You carefully finish applying your eyeshadow, check your tailored trousers for creases and lace up your Flyknits just so. Then, when everything is gloriously and faultlessly neat, you chuck your head back and forth like an ageing rocker, smudge your mascara so it goes a little bit Carine Roitfeld meets Kate Moss (well you can try, yuh?) and insouciantly untuck a shirt tail. Finished distressing your look? Then and only then are you good to take on the day.

If we can track the ‘effortless’ movement back to one phrase, it would be this: ‘Oh, this old thing? I just threw it on.’ Decades of women ‘throwing things on’ has led to what is now an all-encompassing obsession with effortlessness, that spans the breadth of Gisele’s effortlessly tousled locks to Cara’s effortlessly crumpled jogging bottoms and lack of high heels (very important) to Miley’s, er, effortlessly glittery camel toe. Normcore and the obsession with looking casual and practical, definitely hasn’t helped. 

READ MORE: ‘Practicool’ is The New Wave In Fashion We’re Totally Buying Into

In short, we are in trapped in a mindset where the coolest thing is to claim that you don’t GAS*. We are subjected to endless online galleries about how to ‘nail’ effortless style – with utilitarian props like backpacks, skateboards, baseball caps and boiler suits causing us to muse on what we should buy next while scrolling in a way that is surely counter-intuitive to the effortless cause. Because let’s be honest, as Shopbop’s British-born NYC-dwelling fashion director Eleanor Strauss recently told The Debrief, looking effortless is hard work – which sort of says everything you need to know about the validity of a trend attempting a minus existence. ‘I like to think what I wear looks effortless, but in all honesty, I probably tried on around 50 outfits and was then late for work,’ she admitted to us. Such honesty is also to be found in Scandi supermodel Hanne Gaby: a mainstay on the streetstyle scene, she’s open about the fact that she plans her outfits during Fashion Week.

READ MORE: How To Do ‘Airport Chic’ If You’re Not A Victoria’s Secret Model 

Perhaps Alexa Chung best summed up the uniquely British obsession with effortless earlier this year in an interview with US beauty site Into The Gloss. ‘The culture in England is such that it’s really not cool to look like you’ve tried so hard. [In England] It’s seen as very self-indulgent... In America, if you’re pampering yourself and getting the blowout and the rest of it, you’re seen as doing really well and it’s celebrated. In England, it’s the opposite... [we’re into] not looking like you’ve made too much of an effort.’


For French-born blogger Camille Charriere (those Parisian women in their chambray shirts, breton tees and make-up free fizzogs just breathe effortlessness, right), her provenance of bed-head hair and skate shoes has lent her the label of postergirl for the ‘effortless’ movement in London, where she now lives. But it’s something she has mixed opinions on.

‘I’m the girl with a wet patch on her back on the bus in the morning from non-blow dried hair, with the crinkled shirt straight out of the dryer. So in that sense, the “effortless” tag is pretty accurate,’ Camille tells The Debrief. But on the other? ‘There is no such thing as “effortless dressing”,’ says Camille bluntly. ‘French women wouldn’t know effortless if it hit them in the face. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t care about what I wear. I think most people do.’ Camille argues that it depends how you define effortless. ‘I don’t think that being “effortless” should mean that you don’t care, rather that you don’t strive to look like Kim Kardashian slash a fashion editor on their way to a show, on a daily basis.’

There’s certainly an element of low-maintenance to the movement and there’s no denying that some women – Katie Hillier, Cara Delevingne, Isabel Marant – are the definition of such. But at a more dangerous level, it celebrates the #ijustwokeuplikethis and #nomakeupselfie, which insinuate that women who perhaps don’t feel confident enough to snap themselves when they’ve just woken up like that, or indeed look like that sans make-up after six hours sleep, are somehow inferior.

READ MORE: Have You Heard Of Casualising? It’s The New Dressing Down 

Debatably, the most worrying message about this force d‘effortless is that it derides the ‘fake it till you make it’ routine that gives so many girls that initial surge of confidence. Let’s be honest, most of us looked horrific aged 16, but with enough studious homework – who are your icons and what style feels comfortable for you? – you ended up looking if not beautiful, then at least historic. Imagine being a teenager again and being laughed out the park if you admitted you spent hours planning your outfit? You might never have had the confidence to find your niche. 

There shouldn’t be any shame in admitting that the way you conduct yourself – whether it’s through your wardrobe, your lifestyle choies or your ambition at work – takes effort. If you’ve put work into something, why not let it goddamn show? As Camille says, you don’t have to make an effort to look like Kim Kardashian – your preferred aesthetic may be a vintage Spice Girls shirt worn with your dad’s chinos – but girls should not be discouraged from aspiration. Cara may look effortless, but she didn’t just roll out of bed into a multi-million pound career, in the same way that Isabel Marant didn’t skulk, make-up free, into being one of the most powerful brands in the fashion industry right now.

Looking effortless suggests that your career is also effortless – and that’s as de-motivational as much as it is insulting to women. The notion that all the cool girls out there aren’t making any effort, whatsoever, is redundant. Wear the tracksuit bottoms and the egg-stained T-shirt, sure. But please don’t do it just because you want to look like you really haven’t tried.

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* Give a shit. Obviously. What were you doing in sixth form?

Picture: Beth Hoeckel, Getty

Tags: Fashion Questions