Women have an endless list of rules to contend with when it comes to what is deemed suitable for them wear. Legs or cleavage, never both. Dress for your shape; dress for your age; less is more; cover up your ‘flaws’; complement your colouring. There are worst dressed lists and self proclaimed fashion police but if there’s one area in particular that I can’t even begin to give a semblance of a shit about, it’s whether or not men find my outfits appealing.
“Men know best how a woman needs to dress because men fantasise about women all the time!”, is a real life quote which actually featured in an article entitled ‘What Men Want Women to Wear’. Even if you’ve not read that particular article, the quote may well sound familiar. Why? Because women are constantly dictated to on the subject of what they should and shouldn’t do with their bodies.
We face a constant battle for our own bodily autonomy. Our reproductive rights are subject to endless debate; dangerously chipped away at by those who ‘know best’. We are told not to drink too much, not to walk home alone, not to be bossy. Don’t sleep around, you’ll get a bad reputation. Don’t swear, it’s unladylike. Don’t be too opinionated, you’ll sound aggressive.
Telling a woman what to wear is simply another form of restricting her choices and expecting her to take the male perspective into account before she acts. Stories abound of schoolgirls, in America in particular, being sent home from school or homecoming dances, because their outfits were deemed ‘distracting’. Not just to the male students but to the male teachers and chaperons. Should a young girl be expected to assume responsibility for an older man’s misplaced, misguided and inappropriate desire? In a similar vein, barely a day goes by when the issue of whether a woman’s outfit means she’s ‘asking for it’ isn’t debated; polarising opinions flying between the yes and no camps. To clear things up the answer is, of course, no.
To dress only for yourself is to shake off the weight of expectation. The expectation of being considered palatable, appropriate, attractive. I simply can’t muster the energy to care whether my outfit makes me appealing to the opposite sex. Maybe baggy trousers make me look masculine or my jumpsuit makes me look like an overgrown baby (a recurring line in the aforementioned articles) but I am the only one tasked with wearing it, so what anyone else thinks of it is entirely irrelevant.
The amount of fucks I give about trying to impress a man who thinks he has a right to regulate my wardrobe is perilously close to plummeting into minus figures. Plus, for all their opinions on our wardrobes, I have serious doubts as to whether these men have truly reached sartorial virtuosity, as their over confidence when it comes to doling out unsolicited fashion advice suggests. For every pair of mom jeans there is a pair of cargo shorts; for every strapless top is a deep v; for every pair of extra high heels is a pair of pointed shoes paired with bootleg jeans. Perhaps it’s time for a hearty rebuttal? Suggestions welcome.