On sexiness and clothes

I got really excited about The Dreamstress‘s post Why Loving Your Body Doesn’t Have to Equal Revealing Your Body and started typing out a long excitable comment. But it kind of went off topic so I am posting it here instead.

I agree very strongly when she says:

I think it’s very important not to focus on ‘sexy’, on ‘alluring and desirable’ as the most important attributes of a woman

for obvious reasons. Women are about more than that and it shortchanges us to have fashion — to have EVERYTHING designed and sold to women — so manically focused on our potential sexual appeal.

But besides the intellectual reasons for not being that enchanted with revealing clothes being the be-all and end-all of fashion, and besides any personal reasons of being more comfortable covering or whatever, there are the aesthetic reasons. I think fashion becomes most interesting when it doesn’t only focus on sexy or alluring or desirable as the only attributes it wants to highlight in a woman.

This is why I love fashion bloggers like Susie Bubble and Tavi — people who champion the weird and wonderful — and some Japanese fashion designers, because they think about clothes in a way that isn’t just, oh, how much can we enhance women’s curves and make them all sexy?

I don’t always want to feel sexy or glamorous or even pretty. Sometimes I want to feel imposing. Sometimes I want to feel nerdy or offbeat or relaxed. Sometimes I want my clothes to be loose even if it doesn’t do anything for my figure. I don’t have to maximise my figure all the time!

(I’m still searching for cocktail pajamas, incidentally. Fancy jumpsuits are the closest I’ve come, but they’re not quiiiite the same.)

How cool does she look? This lady just does not give a shit.

And you know, I know what Gok Wan and people like him are about. I do see that the women he dresses up are excited about the clothes he puts them in. But I don’t see why we’ve got to emphasise our “good points” and play down our “bad points” all the time.

Why don’t we see women say things about their outfits like, “I wanted to create the illusion that my torso is extremely long and my legs super stumpy!”? — Well, I know why not, but I think it would make things more interesting if we did see that more often.

And you know, I mentioned Japanese designers but even bloody Comme des Garcons is in on this con. I saw an interview with Kawakubo Rei where they were asking her about her practice of using just random dudes — guys off the street — as models for her men’s clothes. There were clips of these fantastic craggy old dudes, just bustin’ with wrinkles and personality, strolling down the catwalk in wonderful suits. And they asked her why she didn’t do that for women — she uses the same ultra-thin ultra-tall professional models as everyone else does.

And she said, oh, with women’s clothes you can play more with shape, be more dramatic, so for that kind of experimentation it’s best to have a plain template. Basically it was this idea of a very tall, very thin woman being the best clothes-hanger.

I was so disappointed — not surprised, but disappointed. I mean, she designed this, for goodness’ sake!

I was fascinated when I saw pieces from her 1997 collection in a museum; I remember thinking how beautiful the lumps and bumps were, and I saw that if you looked at bodies the way you looked at art, you could appreciate them in the same way.

But really, would it have taken away from that message, or detracted from the visual impact, if she’d got size 14 models to wear the clothes? I can’t see how it would’ve done.

Men’s clothes are about personality, Kawakubo said. Women have personality as well. Our lives are not one long concentrated glower of sexiness! I think we should get to express all the other feelings and traits we have via clothes.

This doesn’t really have anything to do with weddings! But maybe this mind-set is why I think a shapeless white dress would make an ideal wedding dress:

It’s so cool! Probably it is not shapeless in real life if you have any shape yourself, though. Maybe I will go and try it on in a shop.


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