We’ve all seen those pictures of Alexa Chung at Glastonbury: there’s mud everywhere, it’s raining, and there she stands, a beacon of perfection in a sheer silk blouse and Hunter™ wellies. She looks magic, like she can’t help but look perfect: it’s effortless for her. Right?
Perhaps not. Remember the last time you woke up and really couldn’t be bothered so you decided just to wear last night’s pyjama top with a pair of jeans from the laundry bin? Well that’s what it looks like when you actually don’t put in any effort. Looking as effortless as Alexa Chung, on the other hand, actually requires a lot more work: it includes manicures, pedicures, hair and makeup appointments. And even then, our idols are often wearing clothes chosen by stylists.
So looking effortless actually requires a lot of effort! It’s more of an illusion than a reality; Alexa even admits to applying her make-up and then smudging it, just the perfect amount, to keep up the dream. That effortlessly stylish swan in your tutorial is probably doing similar things, just on a different level: come on, there isn’t anyone whose hair is that perfect without trying!
Not only is effortless style time-consuming, it’s also pretty expensive. Most effortless looks rely on chic staples with impeccable tailoring: not exactly the kind of thing you’ll find on the £2 rail at the back of H&M. Not to mention the difficulty of keeping up hair appointments every six weeks and fortnightly manicures when you’re already struggling to make rent.
But the main problem with ‘effortless style’ isn’t that it’s expensive (or even the fact it doesn’t actually exist). The real problem is that it says it’s wrong for people, particularly women, to make an effort. It idealises the ability to look perfect without trying. Flip this on its head and it says that it’s unattractive to show that you’ve tried. Brené Brown in her hugely popular TED talk on shame said, for women, shame arises when they are unable to do and be everything at once: the perfect mother, co-worker, wife, daughter, friend. Effortless style undoubtedly contributes to this mentality. It tells us again that women should be able to do it all. And even more, they should be able to do it easily. When really, it’s ok to just wear your PJ top for the day once in a while.