Your boyfriend? Your wife? A fashion magazine? Your boyfriend? Kate Moss? Your
I don’t mean literally chose it, as in laid it out for you on a chair.
Let’s assume you are not four. Or a fashion model. I mean who had
input either literally or figuratively into what you’re wearing right
now (still in your pyjamas? Try thinking about what you were wearing
If you are a guy and there’s a woman in your life, it’s a fairly safe
bet that she exerted some influence. You may not even realise it but
she did. It’s a rare man who can withstand fashion pressure from his
partner. Partly because you tend to be less confident about your
fashion judgement and partly because you don’t really care enough to
put up a fight. You’d rather save that energy for wrestling the remote
control away from us before Grey’s Anatomy comes on, am I right?
If you’ve been with your partner for longer than, say, six weeks, there’s an excellent chance she’s bought you some clothes. Women do this a lot. It’s our not-so-subtle way of arm wrestling you into fashion submission, also known as ‘How We Want You To Look’.
With age and experience, we have come to accept the futility of trying to change many things about men. Like your reluctance to commit, your inability to remember our friends’ names, the way you think the floor is a wet towel’s rightful home and your penchant for initiating sex when we’re asleep.
But your wardrobe? Easy peasy. We do this by disguising our controlling tendencies as gifts. Buying a man new clothes for his birthday, Christmas or (if those dates are unfeasibly far off) just because, is a super way to manipulate him into your preferred image in a far less confrontational way than hissing “I hate your stupid Reeboks and the way you wear them with jeans.”
But what about women? Who’s responsible for what we wear every day? The debate about whether women dress for men or other women isn’t new. Putting practical issues like budget and comfort aside (the fashion industry doesn’t concern itself with such plebeian practicalities), when choosing clothes, do we seek sexual attention from men or fashion credibility from women? And yes, you do have to pick because sexy and fashionable are mutually exclusive.
But I don’t think it’s as simple as dressing for men or women or even ourselves. I think when women get dressed in the morning, we have a number of people in our head shouting advice. And that advice is often conflicting.
A few years ago, each time I stood in front of my wardrobe, I had Kylie Minogue in my head, helpfully suggesting I wear high heels with cargo pants. After all, it had worked a treat for her in her video for “Love At First Sight”, so why not? I obeyed Kylie because her enthusiasm was contagious and for a while there, I wore that bizarro combination a lot. So did many other women. Kylie pulled it off beautifully. The rest of us? Not so much. Let’s just file that one under Looks That Convince Men We’re Barking Mad. That file is very crowded. A new addition to it is high-waisted pants. There are many men wandering inner-city streets disturbed that they have been over-taken by hot 25-year-old nanas.
At another time, Sienna Miller took up residence in my head. She insisted I wear long, flowing dresses with chunky, Moroccan coin belts and flat gladiator sandals. “Oh, it’s so modern and chic!” she enthused when I wavered. “So on-trend, of-the-moment and casually glamorous!” Alongside Sienna, was a nameless, faceless weatherman who’d try to shout her down. “It’s winter! You’ll freeze! At least wear a cardigan and put some tights under that frock!” Then my boss would pipe up with “Boho is not terribly appropriate when you have a budget meeting with the finance department. What’s wrong with a nice pair of black pants and a jacket?” Next to throw their two cents in were Trinny and Susannah who reminded me “You’re short! You can’t wear flat shoes and long skirts to work! You’ll look like Stevie Nicks crossed with a garden gnome!”
As the clock ticked, I’d find myself increasingly paralysed with indecision. This is commonly known as La Crisis du Fashion and for me it’s always caused by trying to please all those fashion voices in my head.
Lucky Mariah Carey only has one voice in her head. It is the voice of a really horny man who hasn’t had sex in a long time. His suggestions are very clear: “Tighter, shorter, more cleavage, yeah baby, that’s it, pant, pant.” Mariah listens carefully to this voice and obeys it devotedly. As a result, there’s nothing confused about her style. Mariah is astonishingly consistent with her look even when she goes skiing because why would you let something as insignificant as snow affect your desire to reveal your cleavage and midriff? Why else do parkas have zippers if not to be unzipped to your bellybutton?
Mariah is the most unwavering sexual dresser in Hollywood. Even Pamela Anderson whiplashes between her signature slutty when she’s out at night and nondescript soccer mom during the day.
Posh spice is another one with a single voice in her head. Possibly, it’s the voice of a sadistic misogynist who says “Is it uncomfortable? Does it cost as much as a car, restrict you from taking steps larger than 10cm and cause you to wince with pain? Get in on, girlfriend! “