Aesthetic manifesto

Katherine Shark
3 min readDec 29, 2020

Joyous. Intentional.

I want, I want, I want. There’s a difference between a goal based life and a value based life, and I want to draw a similar distinction between a standards driven aesthetic and an emotions driven aesthetic. My aesthetic will not hinge on arbitrary standards such as thinness, muscle tone, clear skin, pale skin, soft hair, white teeth, long legs. I want my aesthetic to be based on my connection to my body. To be found in movement, not in mirrors. I want to be, not to appear.

Practicality and intentionality in the use of items. A medicinal basis in skincare — simple, soothing, hydrating. The goal is not to post a selfie to flaunt poreless skin. The goal is to have my skin feel strong, and supple, without cracking and oozing. To protect and care for it.

Makeup, as an expression. My goal, in every application of makeup, no matter how hurried it is, is to do one thing that is explicitly an expression, not a concealment. Purple lipstick, draped coral blush, triangled liner, blue mascara. Makeup will not be a routine. It should be a ritual. A conscious decision. No robotic movements, no robotic looks.

Am I inhabiting or curating? When I rush out in the mornings, coffee dripping down my sleeve, and I catch myself in a passing window — what do I want to see? Does it matter if I do or do not see that?

Dressing is more complicated than makeup. I tell myself I choose for function, for the way I’ll inhabit each piece, but that’s a lie — I’m still curating, trying to follow a loose list of adjectives — lean, tall, well made, good drape, functional, neutral, minimal. I know these are codes for other adjectives, that I, in my inner, internalized dominance, socially conditioned non-feminist heart, want — thin, thin, rich, rich, rich pretending to be poor, expensive, rich, rich.

The word thin beats like an undercurrent through every garment I own. Thin, thin, thin. When I say thin I mean rich, and vice versa. American women are supposed to be like thoroughbred horses — tall and lean and healthy, athletic but in a fine-boned sort of way. Generations of white supremacy and misogyny and Protestant asceticism built into the image of the American woman. Grace and sinew and coltish elegance, check-reined to keep their heads up.

But thin and rich are also codes, for even deeper wants — to feel okay, to feel calm, to feel desired, to feel energized, to feel purposeful, to feel accomplished, to feel just a little less like a mess of a woman who would put so much thought into looking like anything.

Truth be told, I don’t want to look like anything. Or if I must, I don’t want to notice it. I want to wake up and not have my first thought be about the mirror.

Audrey Hepburn used Revlon’s “Pink in the Afternoon” in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Her coats in Charade are breathtaking.

James Bond prefers women with short, clean, unpolished nails. He thinks outie belly buttons are sexy.

At the time of her passing, Georgia O’Keeffe had over 20 of the same wrap dress, made over and over and over in different colors and materials.

“A woman watching a man watch a woman.”

I want nothing. I want to never think about this again.