Writer’s Block: Clothing Options

I refuse to even recognize that as a choice. A big part of style is seeming effortless in your clothes, and you can’t do that if they’re wearing you and not the other way around.

Having said that, I can be about form over function as much as the next person, provided that the aesthetics are worth it and it’s for a short time. Anyone who takes a look at my shoe collection could see that.

say hello to my little friends

One New Year’s I wore a dress and tall high-heeled boots. At the end of the night, I made some comment in the elevator about how my feet were starting to kill me, and one of the men in the group suggested very sensibly that I remove the footwear. I refused. The guy laughed and shook his head and made some comment about “you women…Guys don’t even notice things like [the shoes you’re killing yourself to wear].”

My reaction to this was twofold.

1) Men always assume that what we wear is for them. The reason I could not bring myself to remove my boots had nothing to do with my power to attract men, which I was not exactly worried about anyway. Removing the boots would ruin the line of the outfit. Proportion, symmetry, harmony of color and line — hey, there are worse things to live for.

2) And in any case, men are always saying that they don’t notice such silly feminine things even as, in my experience, they constantly notice them. How is it that creatures as visual as they are could not see a tall black boot or the absence thereof?

To strike a somewhat postfeminist note (brace yourself), seems to me that by taking this kind of attitude, certain types of men get to seek out and celebrate beautiful women while trivializing the effort and time that goes into the making of that beauty in the first place (“you women!”). Kind of like when a husband expects his wife to be the best-dressed woman in the room but then castigates her for the credit card bills. So the woman steps into a rather neat trap in which she is put on a pedestal and dismissed as vain and preening. And no one has to take her seriously.

This is a culture that divides women into the smart and the pretty. For a long time — especially in my early twenties when I was still considering grad school — I couldn’t reconcile my desire to cultivate my intellect with my equally strong desire to subscribe to Vogue. Then I encountered the Parisian attitude that regards style not as something opposed to intellect but a natural extension of it: a stylish look reflects a stylish mind. I like that. It works for me. Not to mention, if you encourage a girl to work the smart as well as the fashionable (instead of implying she has to somehow choose between them), maybe she’ll read a book when she gets back from the mall.


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