Monday, April 29, 2013

Whom are you dressing up for?

BFF had some sort of altercation with DB about why girls dress up and/or show off their bodies and whether or not they get bad attention from creeps. I'm not really sure how it went down, but at the very least, I have to be grateful for DB for presenting his unusual world view to me.

But it got me thinking. Why do women dress up? It has been my belief since high school that women dress up more for each other than for men. This view is not shared by men. They feel that women are dressing up for them, or for guys in general, some of whom are creeps who will give the women bad attention.

Saying women dress up for men is like saying men pump iron for women. Sure, that may be why a majority of women/men do so for a majority of the time. But it is certainly not the only reason they do so. So why do women dress up? There are 4 reasons.

1. Impress Men

I'm not going to deny this one. Women assuredly dress up for men. They want to look nice for them. Sometimes they want to look sexy. Sometimes they want men to drool over them, even if they have no intention of giving any of those men the time of day.*

*Society calls these women "teases," but I hate that word. Yes, sometimes women purposefully tease men. Sometimes they just change their minds. Either way, once a women says no or shows resistance, it is unethical to touch her. Remember that, please. No matter how a woman is dressed, DON'T ASSAULT HER!

My BF also points out that a lot of the clothes women wear tends to be designed by men, primarily gay men, so you can think of it as women being dictated to by men. Whether or not the percentage of women designers will increase is hard to say. Personally, my favorite designer is Nicole Miller. I discovered this by browsing designer dresses at Bluefly. Every time I liked a dress, there was an 80% chance it was by Nicole Miller. 
Resort dresses by Nicole Miller
You could also say that women dress a certain way to look professional for work, and that that's for men (or The Man, specifically). It's more of a society in general thing than specifically for men though.
I don't have that much more to say about this, except . . . women spend a lot of time getting ready to go out with men--the hair, the make-up, the clothes--they're famous for making men wait for them. Why? Men don't appreciate this 99% of the time. Maybe women are primping in hopes of that 1% magical walk down the stairs moment? What about all those times a girl gets a new haircut or wears a new dress and the guy . . . doesn't notice it? Can we be that oblivious? Are we dressing against this tide of indifference? Or are women dressing to:

2. Impress Other Women

Female rivalry has deep roots. Sometimes it's about men. Sometimes it's about the lead in a ballet (i.e. career). Sometimes it's about popularity. Sometimes, it's even about clothes. Whatever it's about, clothes become a woman's weapon. This is obvious when it comes to men, but what about for a career or popularity, which includes men and women?

Women are very critical about the way other women dress. This is not always nefariously motivated. Women spend a lot of time thinking about, looking at, talking about, and shopping for clothes. They assess not only their own outfits, but those of the women around them. When women get together, they may look at fashion magazines or Victoria Secret catalogs (or the online version, nowadays) to find women, hair, and make-up to emulate. Or maybe just to envy. Women learn how to dress not by passively buying what gay men tell them to wear, but by observing how other women dress. Some of these women might be models and celebrities, but a lot of them are the real women they see around them. After all, there's only so much money available for clothes.
For women, shopping is a team sport.

And what if a women dresses unusually poorly? If the women are catty, they will talk about her impending demise. If the women are nice, they will wonder what is up and maybe arrange a makeover. A makeover not only requires new hair and make-up, it will inevitably require new clothes, and shopping. That's another reason women dress up, to

3. Celebrate Their Clothes

Here's an anecdote from today. I got dressed, because I had to; I leaving my apartment. I rifled through the clothes on my beside table that I had worn only once and grabbed a pair of shorts. I had checked the weather, and it was going to be fairly warm. Also, I can only wear shorts on the weekend, because they are inappropriate for work. These shorts are pretty short. But! I did not buy them to attract guys.

Okay, I bought the shorts because of other girls. One day I was looking at some pictures of a summer event and I realized that my shorts were longer than those of all the other girls. I also realized that I had had those shorts since middle school (by this time I was in college). I decided I needed to get non-granny shorts.

Regardless of why I bought the shorts, the reason I am wearing them right now is because I like them, because they are comfortable, and because I hardly get a chance to wear them. One of my favorite sayings is that women don't buy dresses for events. They buy dresses and then find events to wear them to. I have twice as many dresses in my closet as I should have, considering how little I wear them, so a lot of times when going out to something even slightly special, I wonder if it would be overkill to put one of them on. I know I should get rid of some of them (and I will), but the thought of that is difficult because I like them all so much.

The neglected dress. Being enshrined in a closet isn't enough.
So that's another reason women dress up--because they feel like they're neglecting their nice clothes. Lastly and most importantly though, the reason women dress up and/or show off their body is for: 

4. Themselves

Duh. Any time a fashion show wants to talk about why fashion is important, they talk about how fashion affects one's self-esteem. Of course, one's self-esteem can't be completely resurrected by a good wardrobe--nor do I think the wardrobe should even play a large or foundational part. It might help though. After all, one could argue that a woman (or a man) who doesn't care about what she looks like has given up on herself. She has no respect for herself or the people around her. It's not a bad thing to take pride in one's appearance.

Sometimes a women will compliment another woman on her appearance. The first women might say something along the lines of, "I was feeling yucky today." The other women will nod in understanding. Sometimes dressing up can make you feel better about yourself, even if no one admires you but yourself.



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