Ladylike Fashion Rocks and if It’s Not for You, Don’t Wear It

I have been suspicious for a while that there isn’t anything new that the fashion world can throw at us. With collections coming out more times a year than ever before, I feel like the fashion world has overdosed on itself. No one needs a new handbag every three months; no one. And, with every magazine I look through, there is so much diversity in fashion, so many options, that it is apparent that, in the end, individuality reigns supreme. Wear what you want. Wear what the occasion permits. Fashion is our slave now. Fashion must bend to whatever we want it to be.

Personally, I like styles from previous times. If I had to describe my ideal personal style, it would be a combination of 17th, 18th, 19th, and early- to mid-20th Century styles with a touch of German folk aesthetic for good measure.  I like nipped waists, smart tailoring, interesting but naturally derived prints, and longer hemlines. Overall, things that are romantic but not saccharine or fussy. Maybe something that could be called working woman’s historic interpretive?

In any case, today, I came across an article on CNN, “Why you’re still wearing those ladylike fashions,” by Ann Hoevel. I was quite enjoying the read until the end, when Ms. magazine editor Kathy Spillar, who is also the executive vice president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, says “For the vast majority of women, the so-called ladylike fashion is inappropriate and not even relevant to their lives.” What?!?! I have to completely disagree, It’s always a good idea to look, and act, like a lady. It’s what keeps us from running around with suggestive phrases sprawled across our backsides, displaying “whale-tails,” and leaving the house in our slept-in pajamas.

Then she says, “In the professional world, where women are lawyers, engineers and executives, the silhouettes of feminine fashion diminish their presence and power […] Clothing, even suits, that emphasizes the female form are another demonstration of inequality.” Really? I don’t buy it. I worked in a very conservative law firm. None of the women staff or attorneys had to dress like men. Modest, yes. Suits, yes. But, there was long hair, nipped waists, make-up, and the like. And the men wouldn’t have been walking around with their chest hair exposed either. It’s not a man or woman thing; it’s a professional, good-taste thing.

And here she finishes with, “Women do have breasts, they have hips, that is reality. But clothing that is meant to over emphasize that, to make that the identity, there’s just no equivalent on the man’s side.” Oh I see, just because the men don’t have boobs, we should bind ours up and diminish our figures? Not that wearing menswear inspired fashion is all bad but why should women give up being womanly to succeed?

True equality would require we be judged solely on our work. Gender would have to be completely removed from the equation. That is not very likely to ever happen. Yes, it’s true. The female form is distracting to the male. They are very deeply visual, as a species. They can’t help it. But let’s give our menfolk some credit that they know how to act professionally, as do we.

I would think the goal of any feminist would be for women to be allowed to excel as they are, curves and all. If you’re going to preach that we have to trade in our femininity to be equals, to demote ourselves to proto-men, then that isn’t really empowering any woman. Empowerment is being successful just as she is, boobs, waist, and all.

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