Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Would Swishing by Any Other Name Be as Cheap?

Swish (v): to rustle, as in silk,
or your friends' clothes.
I swished this weekend. Or rather, I went to a clothing swap. It was awesome. Free clothes, timed conditions--it was like being on a game show. There was also socializing and snacks. One group I hooked up with had a whole strategy down. While we were still arranging our discarded clothes, they gathered their favorite items into a corner.

The way it worked (at this particular exchange) was that each person (girl) drew a number, 1 through 3. 1s would go first, then 2s, then 3s. Whoever happened to get a 1, would grab as many of the most coveted items as she could.

We would all have five minutes to grab six items at a time.

One of our group was a 1, and grabbed many nice things. I was a 2, and missed out on some asymmetrical braided leather sandals, but I grabbed more of the coveted pile. Actually, since I'm leaving the country soon, it was my intention only to dump, not to grab, and then see if I could live on my assigned capsule wardrobe.

But there were so many nice things.

Price of a new Banana Republic Skirt 
at Banana Republic: $80
 Price of a used Banana Republic skirt
at a swish: $0

One girl grabbed dress after fabulous dress, even as the rounds went on. I was inspired to do a little hunting myself, and probably grabbed some things I didn't need (but hey, it was free!). The gratis nature of the activity also encouraged me to try on or grab things that I wouldn't normally have bothered with. I had never been a bag person before, but I took home half a dozen (partially justified by how I would be more in need of bags to compartmentalize my things). I also got a dress that needed to be fitted, a pearl necklace, and a black pencil skirt from Banana Republic--just what I needed seeing that I my work skirts had gotten too frayed, too small, or too warm for the weather.

I had brought shoes, skirts, dresses, tops, jackets, coats, and jewelry. Some of it, I was sad to see go, but I was also mollified to see my peacock green dress from Thailand to go to one of my friends. Another dress, a black and white lace confection that had never looked good on me, was claimed by another girl who made it work. It made it easier to see my former clothes go, seeing other people wanting them. It also flattered my sense of style.

Bags to bring clothes to and from home vs. Bags to bring home.
I went in with a large trunk and a full bag and came out with few enough bags and clothes that they could fit inside the black traveling bag I had originally brought. Other girls recounted their own successes. They had come with two bags and come out with one. One girl was disbelieving. She had come with two bags and come out with three! There were still a ton of clothes left in the swap room. They would be left there until the next clothing exchange. Sometimes the owner of the property made donations to charity. Other times, when she was sick of her closet, she would go down and hunt for something new.

Swishing is a great way to rustle up some new clothes and accessories for yourself. It's a great way to reduce and revitalize your wardrobe. It's good for the environment, is great for socializing, and doesn't cost a thing. Organize one in your town this weekend.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

It's Not Slut-Shaming If the Dress Doesn't Fit

Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
Thinkprogress has an article denouncing slut-shaming in school dress codes because . . . a school did not allow middle schoolers to wear tube tops to their middle school prom. I take issue with the article. Granted, female nudity and all its variations are still made too much of, but while banning high school students from wearing tube-top dresses is both futile and inane, banning middle school students from wearing tube-top dresses . . . kind of makes sense. What are they wearing tube tops for anyway? It's like the legendary student at Berkeley who went around naked (with a towel, so there were no hygienic concerns): you could do it. But why?

Let's list all of the reasons a girl (middle school age or older) might wear a tube top (or other item of clothing), from most to least damning, more or less.
  1. You are emulating a pop star/movie star/that girl from Cosmo
  2. All the other girls are wearing it
  3. It's Fashion!
  4. It's really pretty
  5. You are rebelling against one or more adult figures in your life
  6. You want sexual attention
  7. You want to feel sexy/pretty/confident
  8. You want to express your personal style
  9. For political reasons
  10. Because it's really hot (the weather, not the tube top)
How dare she dress like that?
Notice that hardly any of these have to do with male sexual attention. More of these have to do with female attention, peer pressure, and the fashion industry. Starting about three-quarters down, we get into the whole dress-for-yourself thing, and one political motive (think Femen)--where you are still utilizing your body for shocking, attention-getting reasons, albeit to point out the fallacy of the shockingness of the female body.

Anyway, I don't have a problem with a middle school (how old are these kids? 13?) banning tube tops. Frankly, I actually think it's more of a concern that high school Mormon girls have to custom-make their prom dresses if they want actual sleeves on the dresses. There were some comments in the Thinkprogress article that noted that the school dress codes seemed to be imposed by old men, but the fashion industry is still largely perpetrated by men as well (albeit gay men).
Why is this fashionable?
As long as the school dress code is consistent, gender-equal, and can explain itself, then it's not slut-shaming to send a girl home for wearing a tube-top, anymore than it is to make a boy wear P.E. shorts because he cannot un-sag his pants. Dress codes exist for a reason, especially at school. Adults have to follow them, why shouldn't students? Would it be appropriate for a middle-school teacher to wear a tube top to chaperon the prom? Probably not, because a teacher should be trying to maintain an air of professionalism, even at a party. We should have the same standards for students when they attend class. It's a learning environment, not the beach, or even the mall.

Now let's get to the unwanted male attention part. Though I do believe the best way to prevent sexual assault is to teach people to not assault others, woman should also be defensive. Just as people learn to be defensive drivers, because they know there will always be jackasses on the road, people should be defensive dressers because there will always be weird sexual predators in the world. We put off certain vibes based on how we dress. How a girl dresses may not affect whether or not she gets raped, but girls in scanty clothing are more likely to talked about in terms they'd most likely rather not be discussed in. If a girl wants the attention, then fine, as long as she is informed. If a girl does not want the attention, or not the that degree, at the very least, the girl will be labeled a tease.

Aren't we getting too carried away with this? Like with Janet Jackson's supposed nipple incident? Sure. Maybe someday women can go around topless. Hey, women do it all the time in Europe. At the beach. Not at work. Not at school. Maybe that will change someday, and society will be better for it. Nowadays? It's just not worth it.

In the meantime, dress fabulously--even if you do have to cover up.