Monday, 27 January 2014
Friday, 25 October 2013
ALL THAT GLITTERS
(Photos by Zahra A.)
Top & Skirt: Tibi/ Bag: Valentino/ Heels: Nine West/ Sunnies: Christian Dior
Many of you know my friend Zahra as the peasant photographer for roxthefox.com. Besides performing my bidding in the pictorial department, Zahra also offers me advice, from time to time, on the outfits that she helps photograph. In this particular case, Zahra retorted that the proportions of my entire attire were so off and ill-fitting (abstract clothing anyone?) that it would never attract any member of the Y-chromosome species. This incident immediately reminded me of an article written by Pheobe about dressing to please men, which I share below:
I speculated about the relationship between, on the one hand, the
ubiquity of ever-younger, ever-thinner high-fashion runway models, and,
on the other, the male gaze. The runway waif is not what most men would
consider ideal, but most men probably do want (or feel they ought to
want) women thinner and younger than are readily available to them. The
waif is thus chosen not as a type with a great sex appeal to men, but
rather as an exaggerated version of what insecure women feel they ought
to look more like, for Society, but also, in more banal terms, for men.
In other words, even if we can readily agree that high fashion is not about pleasing
men, it does not exist in an entirely unrelated sphere. The image of
the preadolescent gamine isn't a straightforward reflection of What Men
Want, or, for that matter, of what women want to look like, but more
like a distorted one. It's not, as popularly understood, that the
high-fashion build is something that women or gay men happen to prefer.
It's about selling clothes, perfumes, a brand, and the typical female
consumer probably does think she'd be more attractive if younger and
But we are meant to understand that fashion (and no, Victoria's Secret,
despite the runway format, doesn't count) is about women trying to
impress other women, or, in more homophobic than misogynistic
interpretations, about women adhering to the oppressive standards set
for them by some cabal of gay men. Straight men, meanwhile, are more
than happy to explain, at every opportunity, that they don't care if women wear high heels or makeup. In fact, enlightened beings that they are, they're concerned
for the women who spend unnecessary time and money on their
appearances, who go around uncomfortable. They will tell us that they
prefer a natural-looking woman (a 22-year-old bikini model) to an overly
done-up one (a 45-year-old with whom they'd actually have a shot at
getting a date).
They will ignore that, in telling us this, they're missing the broader picture, which is that women need not make all or any
such choices according to what will please men. There are a good number
of women out there who are for whatever reason (monogamously coupled,
single but not looking, lesbian) not particularly trying to attract any men sexually; of the subset of women who are, there's no reason to think they care what you, random dude on the Internet, would go for.
My earlier thoughts on this topic were that high fashion serves as a
break of sorts from the male gaze. That it's liberating, kind of, to
wear your nails blue, your hair pink, your heels chunky (and for those
not big on fashion, these things may sound "alternative," and certainly
didn't originate on the runways, but they all make their way there),
because it looks cool, heck, because you saw it on a fashion blog, but
not because it will increase your appeal to the opposite sex. I thought
that Leandra Medine made a good, if poorly-executed, point.
But there are those pesky caveats. "Man-repelling" clothes are never
actually about repelling men. They're about partially obscuring
conventional "natural" beauty under an unconventional artificial exterior,
as Medine herself admits. "Ugly" looks are about the contrast - the
more out-there the clothes, the less out-there the features of the woman
wearing them. For most women, a short enough skirt is more than
adequate. But it's the rare woman who can have a line out her door while
in sweats, or, for that matter, avant-garde high fashion. The
miniskirt, the carefully-applied makeup, the perfectly-done hair, these
signal, in this framework, that one is not in possession of traits that, alas, are destined to allure.
So is it no-win? Dress to please men, and you're dressing to please men. Dress not to please men, and you're really just distinguishing yourself from the kind of women who require a looks-boost from
their artifice, announcing that you're so good-looking that you can get
away with pink eyeliner and frizz. A bind indeed. The obvious answer
would be to simply not phrase things in terms of the male gaze, but
surely that's too straightforward."
Friday, 11 October 2013
Photos by Zainab T.