A brilliant assessment of the prevailing domestic paradigm and what needs to shift. I thought this might have been achieved with my generation. Alas, no. Emma has made a great suggestion on how to shift the paradigm and I might add, start as you mean to finish. It will allow you, my friends, to lead a great life.
This recent article in the NY Times on the trend towards modest dressing is one of several over the last year. The skeptic in me wonders if it’s a natural part of the buying cycle – sheer, short and tight have been in, shopping is declining, time to launch a new trend – loose, covered, and long. So the question is, are we looking at a trend or a fundamental shift? Let’s consider.
It’s fair to say you will consume what is available, and for those of us not inclined to wear low-waisted, tight pants, sheer tops and short skirts, the last decade has been a challenge. A change is welcome. But the change I’m look for is one beyond the buying cycle. Have we reached the point where we will no longer select clothing through the lens of the male gaze? And to be fair, it is a perceived understanding of what men find attractive. Mass media frequently underestimates their discernment often reverting to cliche. What options have they had? The infiltration of pornographic images into mainstream media, proliferated by the internet and sadly, the music industry, have inundated all of us with a narrow view on what is attractive. Fortunately, for the vast majority of women, the level-headed man does not embrace the cliche, though I think it is a particular challenge for young men and boys developing into men to keep a balanced perspective. It’s said that the formative years are where many of your life-long perspectives develop (guilty as charged – still love the clothes of the ’70s and that’s what I see coming back into play now) and so what the young of today have witnessed in clothes, behaviour and culture in the last decade will inevitably have an impact.
How will we know if it is indeed a shift rather than a trend? Hard to tell what the future holds. It’s really up to us to make the first move – to dress for our gaze alone. To rebalance priorities that focus on our taste and comfort, and for what helps contribute to a reasonable approach to consumption – one that doesn’t jeopardize financial security. If we can resist the lure of new for the sake of newness, break the compulsion to buy, spend our time on more rewarding (and often simple) pursuits than shopping, then we will be in control of whether it is a trend or a shift. That’s real power.
Links and resources:
For more on modest dressing
The sublime style of Margaret Howell
A bit of women workwear from Nigel Cabourn
The reliable and affordable classics from Muji
A big thank you to @tferriss for this tip. Every girl, indeed, every woman should watch this trailer and then go find the movie. Breathtaking. Inspiring.
Nothing about this post is new. The relentless pressure to, if not look 25, then at least be seen to be working at it continues. It is, of course, behavioural control which if we worked together, would lose it’s power. So let’s work together on this one.
It’s one thing for women my age who are endlessly targeted with before and after images (like the overused ad featuring the woman above) of what one sort of filler or another can do to change our features, it’s quite another when the women targeted are even younger, and from what I can see in the younger women I know, they are succumbing to the pressure in alarming numbers. When you’re my age-ish the issue is primarily one of employability. Does having a few lines and gray hair signal your thinking is beyond value? That seems to be the inference. (Though it does make me wonder why so many male CEOs and board directors are well into their 5th, 6th and even 7th decades.) I’m fighting the resistance there and we’ll hope I will succeed in overcoming the oppressors. If romance is what you’re after then any potential mate who defines him/herself by the age of their partner has issues and that sounds a bit exhausting at my stage of the game. I’d rather shovel some snow. That’s where I stand but I largely stand alone when it comes to naturally graying hair, and a naturally ageing face. I can’t really fathom the energy and expense required to be in your 50’s and have to try to look even 45. It would be a fulltime job for me.
When women in their 30’s and 40’s are choosing intervention to change the nature of their lovely faces, that’s a worrisome thing. Let’s face it, a woman’s 20’s are not the easiest time, and here’s just a sample:
What am I doing with my life?
How will I make a living?
Who am I?
Who are you?
Do I like this?
Is this normal?
Do I really have to put up with this?
You know what I’m talking about. It’s tough, and though it was a long time ago for me, I certainly remember those years as being full of ambiguity and indecision. What is easy, is that you look young. More like, deer-caught-in-the-headlights young. And that has it’s attraction. But once in your 30’s you’ve sorted a lot of this stuff out, and through the sorting out you’ve gained character, maybe become more of who you are (personality) and gained a modicum of wisdom. That will change you inside and out. It’s really only the relentless force of consumption that puts a negative lens on any of this. Yes, you won’t be mistaken for 19, but you’re all those questions don’t leave you reeling anymore. There is also the crushing pressure to have a family, whether that is really the right choice for you or not (more on that in an upcoming post). This pressure requires a mate, and so the all-consuming distraction is around attracting and securing said parent in a timely manner. The other scenario is that you nailed the partner/kid thing but the relationship did not survive the effort and you find yourself in your 40’s with a keen desire to find a better match. All reasonable motivations, all ripe for youthful interventions. Men are also being targeted for many of the same messages. There just seem to be a larger number of them who don’t seem to care. The parallel issue (and one that we’ve all commented on) is how an ungroomed/unattractive man frequently attracts his polar opposite. While I don’t think women are any better than men at spotting the ‘good’ in people, I do think that men have not been effectively marketed to, and so women may simply have lower expectations around what the potential might look like. If you’ve ever heard a man comment that he likes a woman with long nails then you know the power of advertising.
Now if we were all to stop this nonsense then expectations would reset. We could all stop sporting long hair and bangs into our 50’s when we’d really rather just let those curls curl, wearing short short, tight skirts with 4″ heels when we could wear a long, full skirt, or even a men’s cut suit (me), cut off those skinny jeans once and for all (and I don’t mean into shorts) and present ourselves fully as individuals – clean, mind you – but without fillers, buffers, paints and plasters.
What say you? Shall we go for it?
P.S. More on family life in an upcoming post. And I warn you, I don’t hold back.
Simple. Elegant. Practical. Amazing. What couldn’t you achieve in this ensemble?
From the beautifully curated Cup of Jo.
It’s always reassuring to know you’re not alone, or crazy. Another indication of sanity came by way of the Times Magazine article on a menswear brand offering a line of menswear for women without any of the accommodations typically made (contouring, needless frills and fancies) in these circumstances. Think about every piece of classic basics produced by virtually any manufacturer and you’ll know what I’m talking about – white t-shirts with a fraction of the cotton, wider necklines; khakis that are low rise (no!) tapered legs with a little boot cut at the finish (no!) and so it goes.
The menswear line Save Khaki has collaborated with La Garconne to get it right. What does disappoint is the somewhat desultory manner in which these are shown. Is it really necessary? Just because you don’t want the uncomfortable and inconvenient shaping of women’s clothes doesn’t mean you’ve given up on life!
Maybe they could be shown with a little more of this vibe from Ponytail Journal (the lovely and talented Lauren Yates).
Not to complain. All to be done now is hope the trend continues. And that those of us trending in this direction will refuse to settle for less.
The more I stand to work the more interested I’ve become in alternative ways of using the space I have. For example, I like the idea of one long table down the centre of the room with chairs or stools surrounding with plenty of room to eat, to read, to place the laptop, to leave the sewing machine out and ready at a moment’s notice.
It is an idea, though possibly not as practical or flexible as this approach featured in the always delightful Ponytail Journal Instagram.
Truly, the Japanese do have the advantage on the likes of me – only a deeply sophisticated culture can arrive at such a simple solution. Floor mats in a pleasing neutral, smooth wood floors, floor to ceiling glass framing green and water, and so perfect for anything you want to get at, long low tables – spaced to kneel or sit cross-legged, and should your legs feel cramped, simply roll away and stretch out on the floor. When it’s time to stand for a while then the long narrow counter running down the length of the wall provides plenty of standing work/eating/reading room.
Could I let the mid-century modern go in favour of this approach? I think I could.
And what better thing to wear than a pair of baggy, soft and sensuous coveralls.
I’ve already got the grey hair so nothing else need change. 🙂