How to like clothes, not hate yourself and what it all has to do with everything.
It should be simple, to like clothes and not hate yourself right? Ha fucking ha, in this world of patriarchal bullshit, it is never so simple. I try to separate the clothes and fashion as the art of making clothes and wearing them as separate from the ‘fashion and beauty industry – dedicated to making you hate yourself so you buy more crap’ but it is very hard if not impossible, so how do you wear clothes shop for them and stuff without hating yourself and having a self loathing crisis in a changing room.
The vast majority of clothes from high fashion to the high street are modelled on women and men who fit a very narrow ideal of ‘beauty’, one 99.99999999999999% of us will never live up to, and one the models seldom live up to themselves as they are photoshopped beyond belief. Yes fashion is fantasy but when this fantasy , which is always presented as an ‘aspiration’ never the true fantasy it is, is combined with ‘fashion’ and ‘lifestyle’ magazines that also feature millions of features on how to loose weight, how to get surgery, what the latest expensive and possibly dangerous ‘beauty’ fad is, it’s hard. When people , mostly women but men do not escape, are publicly shamed , insulted and belittled in the media, and by extension the background gossipy hum of every day life, for having a few extra micrograms of fat, having a shadow fall the wrong way, not posing in the most flattering way as they are unaware some sod with a long lens is snooping on them. When fashion designers refuse to design sample sizes and use models who are above a size 8, including celebrities such as Romola Garai who are still very much in the mould of attractive in the conventional way dictated by society. All that and more all adds up to a very strong signal that if you do not look a certain way, are not lucky enough to have the 5’10 and skinny with clear skin and perfect hair and it helps if you’re white too, you don’t matter, You’re ugly. You’ll never be ‘beautiful’ and thus you’ll never matter.
Mind Over Mattering
No one cares if you win a nobel prize, an oscar, the booker, a squillion olympic medals, broker world peace or invent a clean, renewable energy soruce, if you’re not pretty & in possession of ‘a man’, fuck it you get ridiculed like Gail Trimble or Mary Beard (who tweeted me once and it remains a highlight of my life on twitter), women who are amazingly clever but becuase they do not look like a model or perhaps becuase they outwit many of the men insulting them they are ridiculed for their looks to a degree men seldom are. This shitstorm is doubly so, when articles like Beard’s are published on a website with a sidebar of links full of shaming women on their looks. In short women, what we look like and what we wear are all judged through the ‘male gaze’, often even when it’s other women looking at each other and choosing things for ourselves, most of us are subject to internalised sexism and judge ourselves, what we wear and what we look like as a result of this. Even feminists.
Whats all this got to do with fashion? In the sensible way of things, not much, but in reality; we are told to dress a certain way, to groom ourselves a certain way to attract men and to be accepted by men and thus by society, which is still overwhelmingly patriarchal and kyriarchal. The way we look is used to police us. We can never win at this game, ever. If we conform and dress to attract men we are branded ‘sluts’ and ‘slags’ if we dob’t we are ‘frumps’ and ‘not making an effort’. We are told the idea is big breasts and long, silken preferably blonde hair, women with big breasts and long, straight silken hair are insulted and demeaned for being ‘bimbos’. There is pressure to have the perfect body, told if we ‘fix’ our tits, stomachs, arses, noses, even our sodding cunts we will be happy. When we are not happy afterwards we are told we are stupid and naive. Our own silly fault if a our health is put at risk from substandard and dangerous implants. We are told we are “daft’ and ‘silly’ for spending so much money on make up, clothes , shoes etc, yet when women don’t wear make up or keep themselves looking ‘acceptable’ we are insulted even if we are a beautiful pop star who just happens to have a teeny bit or armpit stubble showing. We are even blamed for ‘getting raped’ if we wear the ‘wrong’ clothes, a short skirt or cleavage is ‘asking for it‘ something which is false but which never the less contributes to a toxic climate of victim blaming and rape culture. So yes, what we wear is both important and not important. In an culture where our bodies are insulted, not accepted without serious modification (waxing, plucking, shaving, dieting, surgery, make up, wearing the ‘right’ clothes etc etc) and where our clothing choices are used as justification for suffering sexual assault and rape, when a woman’s clothing is used against her in court to argue that she could not have been raped as her skinny jeans could not have been removed ‘without consent’, then things cease to be ‘just fashion’. None of these things happen in a vacuum isolated from Vogue or the high street or our perceptions of ourselves and others.
Spaceboy I need You (not)
In addition we are patronised by well meaning but misfiring men who croon we are ‘beautiful just the way we are’ (FYI I actually think Bruno is kinda cute, but dude don’t patronise me and I am now convinced you have terrible hair cos of the hat thing*) pose in front of pretty outer space stars with an epic puppy dog pout you practised in the mirror and tell us we needn’t be sad because THEY find us beautiful and some little turd telling us we shouldn’t show off our naked bodies but our naked faces, like he hides his face and shows off his naked body hmm… Slut shaming and madonna/whore stuff. More things women can’t win, ever. As if the issues of bodily hatred and acceptance are just silly women being a bit insecure, well most of us are insecure but I wonder WHY we are? We are told ‘but most men don’t like all that stuff’ by the same men who go keep the magazines and websites etc that sell this image of beauty in business. We hear from men who feel pressured to like a certain type of woman in case their friends make fun of them (the shame of going for a ‘minger’ or ‘fat bird’), yes the patriarchy hurts men too! Yes we get the peer pressure but if you’re not willing to stand up to this shit men, make a stand, a real stand not some soppy passive aggressive shit you hope will get you laid then it doesn’t mean anything. If you say one thing in front of your mates and one to women, if you claim to agree all this stuff hurts women yet you still buy those magazines, support that culture, then your words are at best empty and at worst betrayal. That and one, very, very important fact: IT’S NOT ABOUT WHAT MEN LIKE. Some women don’t want to attract men. Some of us like men but really don’t base our lives and wardrobe choices on what the random male hive mind might like (some of us progressive man hating types actually credit men with having their own personalities and individual tastes, desires etc, you know like individual people). Yet again it feeds into the toxic notion that women’s bodies are not ours, they are for men too look at , judge, admire, disapprove of. That if we display *insert random womanly body part here bit here* we are doing it for men when maybe we just like that bit of clothing and if it shows off our boobs/arse/legs/elbows then whatevs, it’s nice, it has a pretty pattern, it’s comfy, etc etc etc. Whatever I wear, unless it’s painful chest binding, I will always have big boobs. Same with whatever shape whatever woman is, whatever she wears she will be the shape she is. She shouldn’t be sexualised, judged, insulted, whatever because of random placements of fat, muscle , bone, whatever. It’s such a simple thing yet it’s so hard. Also as much as I love fashion and clothes and pretty make up and nails and stuff it’s just fun, it’s not important in the grand scale of things. That’s what I hate so much about this body hatred fashion beauty crap, it takes what it essentially ‘wheee dressing up! ooo sparkles!’ into a thing you hang your self esteem on and judge your life’s worth by the circumference of your thighs.
I like Big boobs and I cannot lie…
It was pointed out via twitter that society tells us big boobs are in yet if you have big boobs trying to get clothes and especially bras that fit is hard, I rarely wear things that button up without another top underneath as I have had one too many buttons popping open in public places fiascos. There is a very strong focus on pusing the sale of push up bras with all sorts of squidgy inserts. I went round Victoria’s Secret in London to see what all the fuss was about (I do love their pjs) and only about 3 styles went up to my size and it was a genuine education in the world of boobie enhancement which was quite mind boggling to a big boobed gal. This is all made more mind bogglingly annoying by the epic cleavage on show from all the models, yet when you try to find a bra to contain your own epic cleavage it’s all Isambard Kingdom Brunel designed beige, surrounded by pics of big boobs yet having to look in the back of all the drawers to find the two bras they do in a DDD , a cupsize I’m sure they invented (or is it just an american thing? bra lettering makes no sense).
I suppose it’s more weird simulacra crap again, the fakery of faking ‘curves’ (how I hate that phrase to be ranted about in another blog) is more important than the fact you hit puberty and grew big boobs. The way my natural curls get straightened by hairdressers who then put in fake curls. Apparently women now request boobs jobs to look fake.
So how do we wear nice clothes and not hate ourselves?
It’s hard but I’m slowly learning to not give a fuck. I’m slowly learning to love my body despite what society tells me. There is no easy answer. Try to remember all that stuff telling you to hate yourself is designed to sell you stuff to fix an imaginary problem and the ‘perfection’ and ‘happiness’ is a lie. That you are much more than what some random dude in space thinks of you, you are much more than what you look like. This has all been a bit of an epic post, going beyond clothes and stuff, but that’s because attitudes that are portrayed and marketed through fashion and beauty are found across society and impact across society. Everything has a context and can only be truly understood in that context, you cannot argue that it’s all just ‘fun’ or ‘silly’ and that women should concentrate on something more serious, this is all part of the big pile of crap called patriarchy. And if I can smash it whilst also wearing nice clothes, then hells yeah! I wish my steel toe capped boots hadn’t fallen to bits in a watery grave (literally: they got a small but very leaky hole in them during the excavation of a rather soggy graveyard).
In short: I love dressing up all glam, I also love my sweatpants and thermal pyjamas. None of this makes any difference to who I am.
*would actually feel really guilty if he has some male pattern baldness thing/terrible scalp deformity he’s all insecure about, but maybe I could sing him a little song about how he’s beautiful just the way he is? “dude we all have bad hair days btw I’d still do ya”. I actually googled “Bruno Mars no hat” and he has nice hair.