A rant about women’s fashion

I recently became interested in clothes and accessories, after a lifetime of wearing nothing but neutral trousers and oversized, solid-color shirts. This sudden interest happened to coincide with the birth of my first child, although I’m not sure why. Hormones? A newfound love of my body after experiencing the miracle of birth? Envy of the fact that my daughter has more clothes than I do? (And for the record, we ourselves didn’t buy her any clothes. When you’re having a baby girl, even people you barely know, like your mail carrier or the guy who begs for change outside of Starbucks, will present you with pink frilly dresses and onesies with “Princess” printed on the butt).

Well, I don’t know where they came from, but my desires were legion. I wanted a button-down floral blouse:

I wanted a shirtwaist dress in a nice color:

I wanted Mary Janes that could double as walking shoes, so I could get rid of my sneakers with the falling-apart soles that flapped like tongues:

But I couldn’t really afford these things. I had a baby to provide for, and a graduate student budget to work with. So I googled “The Look for Less” –but the results did not tell me how to find the things I wanted. Instead, they told me how to dress like this:

Thanks for the advice, but I’m pretty sure I could recreate this look using the clothes in the poor box at church. Movie stars can manage to look beautiful and womanly in such an ensemble, but I can’t. Many women can’t.

I suppose it’s no secret that fashion designers worship androgyny. After all, there’s a famous male model who models women’s clothing. But when androgyny in fashion is discussed, the debate is usually framed in terms of whether it pressures women to be too thin–to emulate the body proportions of an adolescent boy. And I don’t think that’s the real problem with androgynous fashion. After all, many women are naturally very thin, so pressure to be thin and pressure to be androgynous are two entirely separate issues. Rather, I think the real problem with androgynous fashion is hatred of femininity.

In my recent (and admittedly limited) forays into fashion blogs, I’ve often seen a quote from Marc Jacobs, who, when asked how women ought to wear skirts, said, “Like a boy.” (The story may be aprocryphal, as I haven’t seen a citation for it, but since Jacobs himself wears skirts, I think it’s plausible.) Like Jacobs, many fashion designers seem to believe that anything too sweet, too sentimental, too feminine, is dowdy. Fashion, whether it’s for men or for women, mus have an “edge” to it. A modest floral skirt must be paired with clunky boots in order to be interesting. A cute sundress must be jazzed up with an assymetrical, unfinished hemline or an exposed zipper.

As a result, millions of women are being told that their desires for something pretty, something their husbands will actually like, are wrong. We can’t glory in our femininity–not if we want to fit in.

How odd that everyone loves to see baby girls in pink frilly outfits, but adult women are expected to wear faded jeans and black t-shirts.  I guess growing up means learning to shed our feminine natures.


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