A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
For a man (moi) writing about women is never a good idea; invariably, he’s going to piss somebody off. The problem is, despite what every amateur sociologist with a pen will tell you, women do not speak with one voice. Therefore, regardless of what you say, somebody is going to get mad at you and point out what an incredible handicap that Y chromosome really is. However, since women are half the population of this planet, and I’d rather not publically admit my cowardice (again) I’m going to write about women and, more courageously, one of the strangest things they do.
Just as the worm follows the plow, here on earth summer is followed by Fashion Month. All over the world supermodels are being dressed up like anorexic Barbie dolls in a hip-swinging, heel-to-toe, catwalkathon that dictates what women will be wearing when the snow melts again next year. These masquerade balls might be centred in New York, London, Paris and Milano, but there isn’t a person alive, male or female, who will not feel their effects. This kind of power is worthy of comment.
FYI: Just so you know, I’m a big fan of the fashion industry. I believe the way we adorn ourselves is central to our species and, more immediately, fashion, like trash, is virtually recession proof. A good thing in these troubled times. But I also have to admit I have absolutely no creds when it comes to fashion itself; I’m still wearing the Levis and sweatshirt uniform I wore when I was 20, allbeit in the new roomier, rumpstrung size. Don’t get me wrong: I’d wear Armani if I could afford it, but the lapels would probably be circa 1975.
However, to continue, one doesn’t have to wear this year’s fashions to notice that they’re godawful hideous — the culmination of the four decades of godawful hideous that came before it. In fact, women’s fashions have been off-and-on godawful hideous since Mrs. Grog the cave woman accidently tore her leopard skin and invented décolletage. Historically speaking, women have dressed in some of the weirdest contraptions imaginable. You don’t have to go much past panniers and bustles to figure that one out. Nor have things changed that much. After all, skinny jeans, a direct assault on the circulatory system, can’t be comfortable, and they must take upwards of an hour to get into. This kind of time and trouble certainly explains why, centuries ago, fashionable women were sown into their clothes every morning and stitch-picked out of them every night.
It strikes me that, given the evidence, fashion designers may have seen women, even examined them closely, but they have no idea what women are about. Otherwise, they wouldn’t harness them up like this. However, the more important question is why do women put up with it? Obviously, back in the day, they had to, but here we are in the oh-so-enlightened 21st century and the fashion industry still generates billions of dollars telling women what to wear, and most of it looks like crap.
Here’s the deal! Women don’t dress for men, anymore. They don’t have to. If they did, the only retail outlet in the mall besides Starbucks would be Victoria’s Secret. These days, women dress for other women. Why else would somebody willingly pay money for a shapeless, strapless gown that straps her in like an L’Oreal cosmetic test bunny? Respiratory problems? It’s the female equivalent of the macho man, zero-to-sixty bum-numbing sports car or the bone-shattering mega-bass. I-can’t-hear-you stereo. Women style and profile for other women mainly because other women style and profile for them. And it all starts on the runways of Paris et al.
Take a look at any Give-Me-An-Award Red Carpet TV program. Who’s watching the show? It ain’t Ben and Gary from lamps and lighting at Home Depot, even though Selma Hayek’s going to be there, falling out of most of her dress. Nope, it’s Sara from plumbing who wants to know what dress Selma’s wearing, what Joan Rivers and her band of witchy critics are saying about it and where she, Sara, can get the knockoff so the girls back at HD will be green with… you get the idea.
Of course, there are some who would say this has always been the case, but I don’t think so. In the old days, attracting a man was a necessity for women, and marrying well was an art. Fashion played a huge part in this game of reveal and conceal. These days, while sexual attraction is still part of our makeup, nobody really cares what we cover it with. Witness Miley Cyrus’ recent VMA performance. Would she have done better in Yves St. Laurent? I doubt it.
I’m sure that the last thing any woman wants to hear is she’s a slave to the fashion industry. Or that in the caring, sharing 21st century, she’s in direct competition with every other woman on the planet. However, as the man said, “It is what it is.”
And let the emails begin.