Monday, 16 December 2013


It pains me to write this as I was planning to complete the McQueen archive before posting anything unrelated, but thanks to the existence of articles like this , this and this, I feel inclined (perhaps obliged?) to weigh in on the age-old debate – how can we dress to attract men? We may all claim that we ‘dress for ourselves’ but the fact that articles like this are still being published and widely-read (in both men’s and women’s magazines) insinuate that a certain breed of woman still looks to these articles in order to establish a list ‘of do’s and don’ts’ when it comes to choosing her everyday wardrobe; a woman that apparently uses her sartorial choices as a method of seduction. Then there is another breed that reads these articles; the cynic. People who, like me, consider more than romance when choosing an outfit and who would ultimately rather eat their own vomit then date a man that would openly admit that he would dump you for wearing anything too revealing or ‘fashion-conscious’.

Grace Jones flawlessly expressing my opinion

Now, as for the articles in question, all of them seem to underline the blindingly obvious fact that men are more inclined to be attracted to a woman that ‘shows off her figure’. Whether this is with a classic black dress (a firm favourite since Kate Middleton established herself as every Tory’s sartorial wet dream) or a good pair of skinny jeans, the overall consensus is that men like women to highlight their assets as opposed to covering them in, and I quote, “unconstructed tent-like garments”. This mentality moves us clearly towards cliché number 1 – that women should choose ‘style’ over comfort and play on the traditional stereotypes of felinity to exude a subtle sexuality that appears effortless yet is painfully overthought.

Whilst this all goes a long way towards explaining what men find desirable, the flipside of these articles describes aggressively sexual women as a man’s worst nightmare. An excess of flesh on display and too much make-up were the two things that seemed to unanimously repel men, alongside anything oversized or anything judged too ‘androgynous’. The consensus here seems to be that men are either threatened or repelled by women whose clothing suggests any kind of masculine attributes, whether it be ‘aggressive’ sexuality or the lack of desire to flaunt her feminine wiles.

Kate Middleton - desirable?

Despite the fact that these articles are riddled with sexist connotations, I will instead choose to ignore the implications that men are afraid of ‘sluts’ and women are subservient in their conformity to beauty stereotypes. Instead, the most interesting thing about these articles to me is that men appear to be repulsed by women that show an active interest in fashion, and this is where I relate to the article. For example, on Saturday night I went on a date – a date that went well, no less. Yet despite the attraction and the fact that we got on marvellously, he still felt the need to tell me that my trousers looked like pyjamas and he personally disliked my outfit. Whether this was an attempt at playful banter or simply an overwhelming urge to express his (unsolicited) opinions on my clothing choices, I decided to probe him further. Upon further questioning, I found out that he felt my overall dress sense was too ‘fashion’ and that, apparently, my aesthetic was intimidating. This doesn’t particularly bother me in any way – it’s a known fact that when you choose to dress differently you open yourself up to criticism. What did bother me was the fact that he told me he had an amazing time and proceeded to make a move on me, indicating that my ‘intimidating’ aesthetic apparently wasn’t that offputting at all. This isn’t the first time that it’s happened either – it’s not uncommon for men to approach me and use my outfit as a conversation opener, whether it be a positive one or a negative one. It’s also not the first time this week that a man has said he disliked my style yet come onto me anyway.

This leads me on to my next point, which is simply that high fashion is designed so that people can express themselves – it isn’t always designed from the standpoint of making a woman more desirable. While there are designers such as Azzedine Alaia and Herve Leger that create clothing to accentuate a woman’s figure thus making her ‘more desirable’, there are also respected designers like Rei Kawakubo and Martin Margiela that design clothes that are in no way meant to be ‘sexy’. This immediately implicates that if you have an interest in the more conceptual or androgynous brand of designer then you are alienating yourself from men – a depressing thought if ever there was one. These clothes often have a story behind them and are often (from a subjective point of view) far more beautiful than their more classic counterparts. These clothes are designed for many women – perhaps intellectual women that choose not to flaunt their figure or perhaps just women that want to be comfortable in daily life.

Clothes by Yohji Yamamoto, avant-garde darling
The overarching theme is, depressingly, that women have to be uncomfortable to be appealing to men. Of course this is an exaggerated claim, and these are exaggerated articles, but it’s a terrifying thought that some women will look at these articles and take flurried notes on how to bag a boyfriend. It’s also terrifying that women could easily see a harem pant, a cape or an eccentric hat and be afraid to wear them for fear of ‘repelling’ men. Fashion has several purposes but the two most important are to make people feel better about themselves and to have fun with their aesthetic, yet articles like this are dragging us back to the idea that the purpose of clothing is to attract or please others. We should conform instead of risking the life of a spinster. I’m also learning that men want me to change the way that I dress too, in order to make myself (an unfortunate quote), “more approachable”. The fact that these men had never considered that they themselves had already approached me and, what’s more, come onto me is the most baffling one of all and it is one that insinuates that there will always be confusion around these claims and, frankly, that the majority of them are bollocks.

Of course there are men that will be turned off by my drop-crotch trousers, my floor-length scarf and my ripped Doc Martens, but there are just as many that will be intrigued by the notion that I’m actually ‘dressing for myself’ (and yes this does exist) as opposed to attempting to place myself in a social box that I will never fit in. We should all be encouraged to experiment with fashion – they’re clothes, not a lifestyle. The worst that can happen is you look back at a Facebook photo, realise that you really shouldn’t have tried that acid-wash dress and count it as a lesson learned. What we shouldn’t do is stop ourselves from indulging in the perfectly natural desire to dress up, regardless of whether other people think we look stupid or not. The world around us in crisis – if we can’t have fun sartorially, shouldn’t we all just kill ourselves now?

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