Should women dress like Jennifer Aniston but act like housewife Betty Draper from Mad Men?
Question & Answer:
I recently read an article online detailing what female fashion trends men hate. Could you provide the definitive list of man-repelling fashion trends?
Sophie, by email
Absolutely, Sophie, it would be my pleasure. In fact, I read a similar article myself in a fashion magazine last month about a fashion stylist learning how to tone down her naturally flamboyant style so as not to scare off any romantic suiters, because heaven forfend she should find someone who likes her for who she actually is. So here is my definitive list about what fashions men don’t like: No 1 on the list is I Don’t Care. In with a flash at two is So What? And finally, rounding out our top three is, Um, Give a Stuff?
Everyone is allowed to have an opinion, and everyone is even allowed to have an opinion on other people’s clothes. Heck, some of us have turned that right into a profession. What is not permissible round my neck of the woods, however, is altering one’s personal style for the imagined preferences of an entire demographic.
I have time for a lot of things in my life: pootling around on the internet for entire afternoons for no obvious reason; buying things on the internet then sending them back about four times a week; re-reading every single Tintin at least once a year. So, as you can see, I have a lot of time on my hands. But I have no time whatsoever for tedious generalisations about men and women and, in particular, what men want from women, which invariably boils down to men wanting women to dress like Jennifer Aniston and act like a housewife from Mad Men.
Not only is this assumption pretty annoying to women, but it’s very demeaning to men. Despite what lazy standup comedians and rubbish bro-humour movies might suggest, some men – quite a few men, even – do want more than a blow-up doll in good jeans. Some of them, I’ve heard tell, like smart women – women with opinions, even! Fancy that! Because some men – maybe, just maybe, even most men – are human beings as opposed to galumphing neanderthals.
So there’s that. Next we come to the issue of dressing for someone else. Sure, it’s nice to be admired and maybe some women do dress purely for public approbation, or, more specifically, male approbation. But in my extensive experience of being a woman who wears clothes and hanging out with a lot of women who wear clothes, I feel I can say with some certainty that most women do not wear clothes for men – they wear clothes for themselves. In fact, contrary to the perception you may have been given by the media and pop culture, I would even go so far as to say most things women do regarding their personal appearance are for themselves. Because, funnily enough, not everything a woman does is to “get a man” or “wow a man” or whatever ovary-curdling phrase might be used.
One of the truly great pleasures of women’s fashion – and a major reason why I will always defend fashion against charges of anti-feminism – is how it allows women to enjoy themselves and try out different looks and just have some gosh-darned fun. After all, if you’re going to spend your own hard-earned money on a garment, at least you should enjoy the garment and feel comfortable and confident in it. You should not spend money on something you don’t like but think someone else will. That, surely, is just obvious common sense.
This tendency to change one’s appearance for oneself is not always healthy. The extreme example here is developing an eating disorder – and excuse me for going mildly off topic, but this is something of a bugbear of mine. Whenever anyone writes about eating disorders, there are always several comments beneath the article – invariably left by men (and that’s not a generalisation, that’s a fact) – suggesting that these women are being silly because: “Don’t women know that men like them with a bit of meat on?” Oh, you like us with “meat on”? Why didn’t you tell us before? Anorexia is now cured! Except, dear male commenters, this is not about you. Women don’t lose weight or, at the extreme end, develop eating disorders to be attractive to you. For better or worse, it’s about how they feel about themselves.
It is a similar situation with fashion. Women wear crazy, fashiony clothes for themselves, not for men, and so it really doesn’t matter what men think about them at all. And, more than that, women don’t care. Perhaps the most annoying gender generalisation these articles make is the suggestion that women don’t know that most men don’t like their dropped-crotch trousers, their giant peplums, their oversized trainers. Women aren’t stupid, you know. They just don’t care. And that’s just great.