Sunday, August 06, 2006

clothes - do you look all right in them?

"'Being skinny doesn't mean you've automatically got a good body, not at all,' confides one wafer-thin friend. 'Thin definitely doesn't give you good legs, just thinner legs. But it does, by and large, mean you'll look all right in clothes." Mimi Spencer writing about super-thin celebrity women in the Observer makes a direct link with the fashion industry.

I find this statement ridiculous. We are legally obliged to wear clothes in public in our society. So how come there is an unwritten rule about "looking all right in clothes"? Surely we should not have to worry about looking all right, we should just cover up....

This makes me think about whether it matters if we look all right without clothes.... I know I think heavier, fatter people look better naked than super-thin people, and of course when I say people we are actually talking about women here.

So that's the other question - it's not about whether people look all right in clothes - it's about whether women look all right in clothes. Why is that?

Women buy a lot of clothes, compared to men. That is obvious when you look at what men tend to wear at work in office/ professional jobs - a suit, shirt and tie - the same suit every day, with a few shirts and a couple of ties. When they go out what do they wear - a pair of trousers and a shirt or t-shirt. They are excused from the pressure to dress to show off the clothes.

So women are made to believe they don't look all right in anything, so they have to keep buying to find the right clothes for their shape. They will never find the right clothes for their shape, as clothes are not made to look all right on their shape unless they are super-thin.

I was in a small clothes shop yesterday, my friend wanted to look in there. He buys from them regularly. I looked at the women's clothes. There was only one of each item on the rail, and they were all labelled either S or XS - small or extra-small. There was one top labelled large but it was no bigger than the rest. The tiny t-shirts were around £40 each. I left the shop - I cannot support a retailer who so clearly only wants to sell to thin women. I detest the way that women are supposed to be tiny and men to be large.

Of course we are under pressure to conform to certain stated norms and how we look is one of those. How did it happen that we now believe that we only look all right in clothes if we are thin?
One of the ideas for an answer Mimi proposes is "perverse, but a reverse snobbery now informs our relationship with weight; being thin in an overeating society is a sign of control. It takes enormous will to stay so thin. Nationally, we're getting fatter by a percentage point each year - so people who are trying to lose weight, which means most of us, are in awe of the high achievers in the field." So it's about feeling like we have some control in a society that still does not value women. I can relate to that.

I could use some of my time to challenge the fashion industry but overall it's not about fashion, celebrity or food alone - it's the patriarchy-peddled belief that women are second class citizens and the impact that has on us - we interalise the oppression and it perpetuates the myth. We have to find a way to empower ourselves.


Reetta said...

I like your writing:)
It's a stupid,stupid world.
I guess I'm a some kind of monster,I just how to wonder how many people have dead after seeing my belly and my hairy legs.Mimi Spencer would propably die if she saw me.

yclepta said...

Hi Reetta

Thanks for saying you like my writing.

I think Mimi would be pleased that you and I are ok with our hairy healthy bodies.... she is on our side I think.

She says in her article that "uber-thin no longer looks odd. It no longer shocks. But it does make you look at your own soft, warm body in a hard new light. It's almost as if, in the course of a generation, we've overturned the age-old feminine ideal - maternal, curvaceous, zaftig." (not sure what zaftig is)

She is concerned to try to understand why we all (as she puts it) worry about what we eat and what we look like. She talks about how many very young girls are anorexic and relates that to the popularity of stars like Victoria Beckham.

Reetta said...

Well,I didn't read the article.I didn't dare.:)Thanks for correcting me.