Basic humaninstincts has us judge what is before us with our senses, those of us lucky enough to have all five senses seem to be led instinctively by what appears. What we wear can blur the lines of class, status, wealth, politics and taste, giving us the all the ability to materialise as who we want to be or who we wish to be perceived as. Fortunately or not, depending on your stance, what we wear and our general external appearance plays an immensely significant role in how we are treated in society. Traditionally, as women in the western world we have a far more intense relationship with our external bodies and appearance, this is very much reflected in women’s fashion and it’s enormity and variety in comparison to men’s fashion. We have an insurmountable choice when it comes to ornamenting our exterior. Before we even begin to consider colour, fabric, length or cut, we deliberate over dresses or skirts, trousers or leggings, costume jewellery or precious stones, practicality or glamour. Of the eighty two Oscar ceremonies we have only just had our first woman win Best Director, we are still struggling to diminish the twenty percent extra that men earn over women and the ratio of female to male designers is twenty five percent to seventy five, yet we have a world of fashion and beauty products available to us in abundance, how come?
According to Mr Sigmund Freud, ‘Most normal people desire to look at and derive pleasure from looking at things they find sexually attractive.’ Many theorists would have it that women inherently are to be looked at, to be pleasing to the eye and give the onlooker pleasure in looking. John Berger, art critic, author, painter and novelist made an eminent declaration, stating that, ‘Men act and women appear – If men decide how to behave towards a woman on the basis of her appearance, a woman has to survey everything she is and everything she does, because how she appears to others and ultimately how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life.’ This statement no doubt applies a great deal of pressure to women, our appearance is judged doubly by society; firstly as women, the alternative sex, secondly, as objects of the male desire – but by no means does this make us victims. On paper, Berger’s theory reads far worse than it is in actual fact. The truth is, as women we battle with our desirability everyday – playing it up and toning it down in order to get what we want and to keep away what we don’t. It all sounds so femme fatale, Catherine Tremmel like, but really it’s just another intrinsic skill added to the woman’s list of survival tactics.
Selina Sydonnie, a twenty five year old ex model, turned English and Drama student has too claimed that she dresses for herself and possibly the women in her life, ‘Men haven’t got a clue,’ she says. Once upon a time she was a Nike, Gap jeans and quirky t-shirt wearer, dressed appropriately for hanging out at her actor, boyfriend’s Caterham mansion. Now, she is a social butterfly and today she wears a black bandeau skirt, with a tunic top, Hogan pumps and an Yves Saint Laurent Downtown bag. ‘Well, I’m a single woman now, I want to get dressed up. I enjoy it. I would never dare to leave my house without eyeliner – even if I’m just going to Sainsbury’s.’ It is to be noted that Selina split up with her boyfriend of ten years, nine months ago and is now actively enjoying playing the field.
It’s considered cheap and vulgar to dress too far left of the modesty mark – it resonates sex worker, who emphasise their sexual desirability for capital gains and trade solely on their objectivity to men. On the other end of the scale are women who rebel against their objectivity and their femininity,denying any adornment that plays up their sexuality as women. Fashion sensitive women seem to frown upon anything overtly sexual and contrived and anything that lacks femininity and attention – surprisingly enough, so do men.
- Do Skirts Get Shorter When Wealth Declines? (bigthink.com)