bad at judging weather, so I always layer up. This sounds clever and sensible,
as if I have a multitude of outfits on, like a fashionable onion, but it really
just means I end up lugging three jumpers and a pair of thick tights around in
an overstuffed satchel as soon as the weather gets above tepid. Sometimes the
thick tights can’t even come off, because I’m pretty lax about how often I
remove leg and armpit hairs, so I wind up sweaty behind the knees and hairy and my satchel is still heavy.
But, on this
particular occasion (last Friday), I had
done my legs and it was really hot.
the skirt I was wearing was extremely short. It’s the sort of skirt that
reminds us that thick tights are a perfectly good substitute for jeans, the sort
of skirt that’s really only worn for decoration. Without the tights, it becomes
obvious that my thighs, side on, curve forwards like a banana.
yourself out in shop windows,” my boyfriend muttered, as we were walking in my
suddenly indecent skirt to get lunch.
“I’m not,” I
muttered back. “I’m just – have you seen my thighs? I look like a Love and
Rockets character.” I don’t have a problem with having really muscular legs.
I’d just never noticed how much like an alternative comic book extra I looked.
were noticing too. We were getting lunch from a vegan food truck which, hear me
out, does really good chips. All around us, people with lo-fi haircuts were
wearing hoodies and black jeans, even in direct sunlight. There were some
vintage skirt concessions to the weather, but they were all calf length. That
was fine. I don’t really care what people wear, unless it is a) something I
covet or b) something I am also wearing at the same time.
Some of them
definitely had a problem with me though. We sat down to eat our excellent
chips, and some sort of worthy but delicious chickpea fritter, opposite another
couple. The girl’s face started doing mad semaphore eyebrow things. She can see
my knickers, I thought. Oh lordy.
revealed that she couldn’t see my knickers, but did think I looked really cheap
and girly-girly. “I look like I’m motherfucking sweaty,” I completely failed to
shout. “I look like I didn’t want to get an overheated, thrushy crotch. Stop
The bad thing
is, I would have twitched at the sight of a girl in this short a skirt too.
What was she thinking? I would have asked myself. What’s all that bare leg for? (In the end I dealt with my problem
by going to a big vintage shop nearby and buying a ridiculous, knee-length,
dress. Haha! Camouflage! Now can I eat my chips in peace?)
recently ran an article about a woman who, moving from relaxed Hawaii to Los
Angeles, found herself doing previously unthinkable things, like dieting and
counting carbs, in order to get thin, fit in and not get stared at. So far, so
obviously awful. But she subsequently moved to Portland, OR, and the same thing happened. During the warm
weather, she went out in a denim miniskirt and a tube top, and she got some
seriously askance looks from the easy-going slogan tshirt wearers. (Apparently
even using an umbrella in the rain is sort of poseur-y in Portland, you have to
use a beanie hat and run.) In a panic, she found herself forced to change
I was pretty
upset when I finished reading this. It hadn’t occurred to me that liberal
sub-communities might have their own restrictions and limitations. (I thought
that girl was just jealous of my wicked Sailor Moon kung-fu thighs.) Okay, so
they might be judging for a different reason – less, “EWWW that bitch is SO
UGLY in those HUGE GLASSES,” and more, “God, it’s just so fucked up that that
girl is too stupid to realise that displaying her cleavage like that is a
commodification of her flesh, reinforcing her falsely constructed femininity –
she’s basically punting for the patriarchy.” The second criticism feels like
when vegetarians refuse to share a fridge with me because I keep putting bits
of delicious dead things on my shelves. It’s rubbish that our tits-out heroine
hasn’t read The Female Eunuch, and
it’s dreadful she’s putting herself through actual physical discomfort to look
appealing, but will sneering at her encourage her to wear suffragette colours?
Some people just like flashing a lot of flesh. It’s not necessary to like them, but it’s a bit crap and
hypocritical to actively hate on them.
There are some
that believe fashion and feminism are incompatible. This is silly. If anything,
it’s fashion reporting that we’ve all got beef with. Clothes are not inherently
evil, but ‘fashion’ as a concept has been absorbed into a wider
beauty-manufacturing industry that patrols body shapes as well as trends. It
can’t be changed by ignoring fashion,
we have to engage with it. Let’s not dick about, we like looking really good.
But, well, people have different ideas about what looks ‘good’, and neither
lack-of-fight-against-the-homogenised-consumerist-standards-shaming is going to
help us on our way to sartorial confidence.
No, this article
does not have an answer to the problem I have just posed. I think we are still
working out the critical language that deals with fashion in a way that isn’t
judgemental about the bodies under it. Let’s put it this way: I have just had a
glance at Cosmo’s first four articles to come up under ‘Red Carpet Fashion’
(subsection: Celebs) and every single one of them talk about ‘sexiness’, which
is now a word I only use to describe food because it is being so appallingly
overused. By contrast, feminist fashion blog à l’allure garçonnière talks
about dresses, fabrics and aesthetics, and
deals interestingly with how different body shapes will take on trends. The
‘garçonnière’ also recently wrote a post about
dressing up nicely to basically delight yourself with how great you look,
laying emphasis on not needing to be
complimented, or, for that matter, not needing to worry about criticism.
So anyway, I
wore a short skirt again today, and I feel fine about it.