Oh, fashion is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? Yes, it may be fraught with casual misogyny and yes, the fashion industry might be presided over by Satan himself, but in its purest form, fashion is an everyday art form, a mode of expression, and a fast-track ticket to self-confidence.
I do feel a twinge of sadness for those unenlightened souls who remain ignorant to the unadulterated joy that can be found within the fashion world. It must be a sorry existence not to have discovered the joy of discovering a beautiful vintage garment, of slipping on a fresh pair of highly impractical heels, or of finding the perfect shade of lipstick. There’s no greater ego boost than stepping out in your gladrags and feeling like a million dollars. Once we strip away everything that’s utterly wrong with the fashion industry and reclaim fashion for ourselves, it becomes one of life’s little joys, and I fully believe that there is nothing wrong with having some fun with it.
Every day, we make simple sartorial choices that send a subliminal message to other people about how we perceive ourselves and how we would like to be perceived. Not to mention, it’s also pretty fun to play around with those messages—say, if I wear Grandma’s pearls with a leather jacket, or a deep shade of lipstick with a girlish floral dress. In a world where very few things are really in our realm of control, we can, at least, control the fabric that we decorate our bodies with. And I love that.
My husband is one of those people who I shall refer to as the “unenlightened.” Like many of his peers, Mr. Cargo-Shorts-and-Flip-Flops cares about fantasy fiction and food, not fashion. Which is just fine with me*—I know, all too well, that Hubs isn’t attracted to me because he appreciates my knack for finding knock-off designer items and my obsessive-compulsive approach to skin-on-show ratio. He is wonderful to me; he seems to think I’m some glorious vision of womanhood, equal parts Mary Poppins and Jessica Rabbit. But he is often very obviously bemused by my clothing choices. And, furthermore, it is probably quite baffling to him that I don’t actually give a shit.
Permit me to go macro on this one, if you will. I’m going to proffer, in fact, that—let’s say—80 percent of men are equally confused by women’s clothing choices. Sometimes they just don’t like what we wear. Sometimes we wear oversized dungarees, shoes we can’t exactly walk in, and lipstick that we have to reapply every time we take a sip of our drink. Sometimes we wear clothes that do not adhere to that old Daily Mail adage and “flaunt our curves.” Sometimes, heaven forbid, we wear clothes that do not cling to our bodies like a condom. I’d be willing to bet that most men would sooner style their S.O. in bodycon dresses than in floaty rompers, or skinny jeans instead of swishy harem pants. Mine certainly would.
But the thing is: it kind of doesn’t matter. I love fashion because I love freedom and beautiful clothes, and not because I always enjoy having men blithely, blindly swarming to me like dazed moths to a 100-watt bulb. My husband asks me to wear more colour, to wear jeans more often, to buy Ugg boots—and I will do none of these things, at least until I feel that I’d like to (not that murdering sheep will ever be my “thing”). Like getting lost in a good book or a crisp glass of white wine, my clothes are one of those little pleasures that make every day a bit more fun. Is it worth saying no to a butter-soft vintage blouse because your boyfriend wants you to wear a tight tank top? Is it worth denying yourself the indulgence of playing with a fun passing trend (so long, overalls, you were good while you lasted), or the pleasure of spending a little too long on a hairstyle that channels your inner Swiss milkmaid? The answer is no.
The thing is, there are many people in this world who will form an opinion about your clothing choices. There are even some people who are paid money to have opinions about other people’s clothing choices—why else does the Daily Mail exist, after all? But the great thing is that when you stop wasting your energy worrying about what other people think—be they unenlightened, be they your boyfriend, be they the cretins that assemble strings of words for trashy magazines—then fashion becomes this awesome, fabulous method of self-expression. It becomes fun, because you know that you can wear all the flamboyant, faddish clothing that you like, and it’s bloody marvelous.
So, no—no, I won’t put a dress back on the rail because my husband thinks it’s ugly. No, I shall not put away my high-waisted shorts because I’m at risk of the terrible affliction known to men as “horse ass.” And yes, I do believe that dressing for my own enjoyment is something to be appreciated. Henceforth, let fashion be whatever you’d like it to be, make it your own sartorial satisfaction … it’s called style, darlings, and it’s all yours. So head into your wardrobe and have some fun with it.
* Fine with me, that is, unless he actually dares to wear cargo shorts after I initiated the great Cargo Short Exodus of 2012. Cargo shorts are never acceptable.