Reading Marta Represa’s lovely blog the other day I started into her Power Dressing post, in which she recounts a work meeting which turned out to be a not-so-subtly engineered semi date with an editor:
In a nutshell, for two pages he rambled on about my “incredibly feminine nails”, my “beautiful tied up hair” (which I had tied up because it was filthy and I was too much of lazy slob to wash it, not with the objective of seducing men with my dainty neck), and my overall delicateness and frailty. And that’s what got me most enraged: what on sodding earth do women have to do to stop being viewed and treated by men as fragile objects who need to be protected (by them, obviously)?
It got me thinking about the way I dress, it’s not really that girly. On the spectrum of how your typical fashion blogger dresses I definitely fall into the more boring end: I don’t really wear heels, I love jeans and most of the time I plan outfits around whether I’ll be able to cycle in them.
I have a bit of uniform which consists of stretchy trousers and maybe a shirt or a floaty dress, gussied up with a strong watch or some bracelets. When I wear this I feel ready to do stuff, not to be looked at. I like to wear clothes that make me feel powerful, not in an 80s boardroom ballbreaker way, but in control of myself. Heels don’t make me feel powerful, trainers make me feel powerful because of the things I can do in them. Like walking to Tesco to get a cake. Similarly a constricting skirt or peplum doesn’t appeal just because of how it will hinder my daily business. I dress for my life, not the other way round.
That doesn’t mean I want to be walking around in a tracksuit, but there’s a fetishisation in fashion/celeb culture of a kerb to cab lifestyle which creeps me out. Obviously that centres around displays of wealth: the only people who can really get away with Daphne Guinness-style dressing are people who have Daphne Guinness amounts of money. I wouldn’t want Daphs to start wearing leggings and trainers to a catwalk show any more than I would want to wear Givenchy couture sat at my desk at home, but relying on being carried around in a motorised sedan chair like modern-day royalty is a little weird. Being comfortable makes me feel empowered and that is much more important than being the object of someone’s gaze.
Practicality might be a symptom of getting older, I was talking to my sister the other day about how neither of us don’t like dressing too girly anymore, probably because we aren’t girls. I enjoy no longer being a girl, having a few more years life experience racked up is so much more pleasant. Peter Pan collars are one of the things that stick in my head that I don’t feel I can get away with over 30, probably because of their twee-factor more than explicitly my age.
There’s a charm in masculine dressing, embodied by people like the trueledge Katharine Hepburn and the Charlottes Rampling and Gainsbourg. It’s a simplicity and a confidence that I really admire.
It’s only in the last few years that I’ve learnt the value of being strong, both physically and mentally, and this is reflected in the way I dress. Maybe this is part of being a woman, there’s a bit in Louis CK sketch where he talks about the difference between girls and women saying: “when girls go wild they show their t*ts to people, when women go wild they kill men and drown their kids in a tub.”