The great Coco Chanel once said, “Beauty comes when fashion succeeds”. The key to doing good is looking good. That’s because every girl’s crazy for a sharped-dressed man. It seems that everbody has to look good these days. I mean EVERYBODY. I’m not that old, but I recall a not-too-long-ago when one’s looks, at least one’s fashion sense, wasn’t subject to so much… scutiny. Really. I live nowhere near the fabulous Hollywood lifestyle, yet, even I feel that I have to a maintain ready-for-paparazzi wardrobe.
One never knows; I might end up on YouTube.
What’s really bugging me about our 24 hour runway look is that I know that we weren’t always like this. Sure, one is incouraged to look good (that means no wearing pajama pants at the bank), but there were at least sometimes when you could let your looks “go”. As a person of the female persuasion, I was especially grateful that women, who are often held to an impossibly high standard of feminine beauty, are given a pass on at least two occasions: pregnancy and weight gain.
There was a time — long ago in a galaxy far, far away — that once a woman put on weight or had another person growing inside of her body could “get away” with not paying so much attention to how she presented herself in public. After all, until recently, fat chicks and those with child elicited more “ewws” than “oohs”. I don’t know exactly when food or pregnancy-induced plumpness stopped being a viable
excuse explanation for one’s less than fabulous fashion choices (I blame Demi Moore) but the fact that I’m not a size five is no longer an option to excuse explain why I choose to wear men’s shorts and a 2x T-shirt to pick up tomatoes and air freshener the supermarket.
In my defense, I gotta say those shorts are comfortable.
You see, there’s more to this than we think. What we wear isn’t just a matter of looking good versus looking frumpy. How we look, and how we present ourselves, really has more to do with who we are than wearing the appropriate color palettte for the season (this Spring’s colors include Tangerine Tango, Sodalite Blue, Cabaret, and Starfish). What we wear has deep philosophical meaning.
Anyone who has ever seen anyone wearing (at a local Starbucks) or sported a Che Guevara T-shirt knows that our clothes can be used to convey what we believe. Clothes can tell other people our politics, religious convictions (or lack thereof), our sense of humor, or that we’re with stupid. Our clothes often tell others whether we are rich or poor, where we were educated — and especially our gender. When we see a person wearing a dress, even if we cannot see the person’s face, we assume that the person wearing the dress is female. Likewise, if we see an individual wearing a 3-piece suit and hat, we’d assume that Don Draper has just entered the building (that is to say, we assume that the wearer is male).
The problem I think (when I think about it) that I have with the pressure to always look like I’m ready to shashay down the runway is that our clothing defines us, but our clothing can also confine us. My inner feminist philosopher feels that the necessity to look as glamorous as a supermodel or celebrity traps me in an ideal of feminism that is more of a social construct than it reflects who I authentically am. When I dress according to how Vogue or Cosmopolitan magazine says I should dress, am I truly being me? Am I representing who I am or am I just conforming to a social convention created by the sexist, heterosexual, patriarchy intent on, as Simone de Beauvoir says, perpetrating “a myth … to confine women in their oppressed state”?