The Fail's Louise Chunn writes a moving first-person account of her journey from the confines of "a fashion-forward greige silk dress, very loose cut, with sleeves over the elbow and hem just skimming the knee" to the cleavage-enhancing embrace of clothes her husband and male friends approve of. Dressing for a friend's party, she jettisons the dress and reflects "I know [my husband] likes me in a pair of close-cut, dark denim, cropped jeans I recently bought in New York - as he tells me so virtually every time I wear them." So she dons the jeans, plus peep-toe heels, and rejoices: "I had more than enough flattering comments and looks to make me acknowledge that I had made the right decision." Chunn explains,
I am not saying that every last item in your wardrobe ought to be chosen with an eye on men's fantasy fashion league, but going to a party with a partner who likes what you're wearing is surely a more pleasing proposal than sticking to your fashion guns, come hell or high water.
I know it's a figure of speech, but shouldn't Chunn's husband "like her" no matter what she wears? And is every sartorial decision really a choice between pleasing men and being a slave to fashion? What about pleasing yourself? According to Chunn's "fashion editor friend, Lisa Armstrong," that concept doesn't exist. She says,
Very roughly, you could say that fashion falls into clothes to get you laid, and clothes that you wear for other women.
Zzzz. Has anyone not heard some lame guy at a party spout the old "women dress for other women" line? Can't a fashion editor do better? Well, sort of, and sort of not. Armstrong continues:
In the Eighties, you were dressing to show you were successful and had status. Nowadays, the aim among many women is to show that you have a fantastic body.
It's not clear whether "showing you a fantastic body" is something you do to shame other women or to seduce men. But Armstrong, like Chunn, stolidly ignores the idea that fashion might be, like, fun. I for one always find strict definitions of sexy clothing to be the exact opposite of fun. After an adolescence during which I frequently tried to dress "hot" and usually felt awkward, I've come to terms with the fact that I have small boobs and skinny legs, and the "tight, shiny, black, with buckles" aesthetic that Dr. Alex Comfort recommends to Chunn usually makes me look like a slightly weathered, gothed-out twelve-year old. I always chafe when men — or women — tell me to dress "sexier," because I don't feel sexy in black or revealing clothes. And I know I'm actually more attractive when I'm not constantly tugging my hemline and feeling like a poser.
There's a deeper issue here than attractiveness, of course. Women dress for a lot of different reasons — and hopefully, plenty of these reasons are their own. Sure, sometimes women want to impress their husbands/dates/fuck-buddies. But in a world where we get plenty of unwanted "comments and looks" no matter what we wear (as anyone who's been cat-called while wearing a parka knows), is it so strange that we might not want to look "sexy" every damn day? That we might want to look interesting, cool, funky, serious, scary, even ugly? And that our reasons for this might not have anything to do with pleasing other people? Yes, clothing is public, and people often get dressed with the expectation that they will be looked at. But the assumption that every fashion decision can be categorized into sexy or not sexy is pretty simplistic — it makes both sex and fashion sound a lot more boring than they are.
Why Is Fashion Such A Passion Killer? [Daily Mail]