Monday, July 11, 2011
Lately, I have been doing a lot of thinking about what drives people to decide to look good.
Notice I said "decide," since I think this is a choice, not an accident.
My ruminations were sparked by a girlfriend who recently confided to me about a pair of heels that she bought and loved and wore to her office. An unapologetic tomboy, she didn't often make forays into girl clothing - so this was a big deal for her. She was shocked when her co-workers openly ridiculed her for dressing up. I consoled her by saying that sometimes people express their own insecurity by lashing out and making fun of others . . . but that doesn't make it OK.
We Bitches have discussed this at length, and it struck us that the idea of strapping on the tall shoes or putting on a nice dress, or even buying something new and flattering and pushing out of the Fashion Pyjamas comfort zone is not something everyone chooses to do. We know plenty of people who will put up multiple defenses, describing why they decide not to make an effort. Or worse, they openly judge others who choose to go to the effort.
Excuses For Looking Bad
It seems absurd to expend calories to justify laziness, or otherwise explain why to choose to not choose. Why would anyone make a case for failure or laziness on purpose?
We know you will cling to your defenses. As Homer Simpson said, "trying is the first step to failure" and we have heard many a story about how much trouble it is to try to look good. Some excuses for Not Trying we have heard include words along these lines:
- It's too expensive
- It's too much trouble
- It's uncomfortable
- What I have is just fine
- I don't have time
- Nothing will help
- I don't know what to wear
- Dressing in a feminine way will mean that I am buying in to the paternal hegemony, therefore objectifying myself and all other sisters
- I don't want to (AKA, I don't care)
We Bitches like to think that we can show anyone why these excuses are not doing you justice. We are living proof that looking good doesn't have to take a lot of money: you do have time, it's not too much trouble, you can be comfortable and beautiful, and it's totally worth it.
However, we can't help you with your political leanings. We don't have an outfit for that.
The most troubling excuse we encounter is that last one: I don't care. We're stuck on that. Why not care? Why would anyone not want to look their best? Is everyone chronically depressed? Do we not love ourselves anymore?
There are plenty of reasons in favor of looking one's absolute best as often as possible. We'll discuss some really big ones here:
Other People Will See You
We know your mother told you to never judge a book by its cover but let's face it: in everyday life our "cover" is all that most people will ever see. When we are shopping at the grocery store, we don't take the time to get to know each individual snowflake that passes by - we look at each other, look at what we are wearing, and we start making up stories about each other. And, uh, Judgey Lady at Trader Joes? By that tongue clucking sound, I can tell you made up some good stories about me in those hooker boots.
You Could Be A Fashion Inspiration
We'd like to think that we can inspire other women to be brave about what they wear (we certainly take inspiration from what we see when we venture out into the wilds). Even if a judgey so-and-so at Trader Joe's makes tsk-tsk noises because she doesn't approve, doesn't mean we will stop being brave. In the wearings of the Big Girl Boots, we have counted small numbers of disapprovers and dozens of raving fans - women openly complimenting us on wearing those very boots.
The World Treats You Better
It's true, there is a causal link between physical appearance and how one is treated. In simple terms, the more physically appealing you look, the better you get treated, the better you feel about yourself. We did not make this up, there's sciency researchy stuff to back it up.
Look Awesome, Be Awesome (and, as Moi says: Don't pollute the pool.)
Then there is the personal confidence one gets from looking awesome. When you look good, you know you look good. This is a nice self-boost. And when you feel good, you're nice to the people around you. And then they're nice to them people around them. And then pretty soon, we're all holding hands and singing Kumbaya. And, we take another step towards cleaning up our visual environment.
Yes, we know it's scary.
For those of you still feeling defensive about sticking with the comfortable, we get that the "Own Your Awesome" thing is no trivial mindset. It's easier to understand after watching this Ted Talk (everyone would do well to watch that link). We have formed a hypothesis that for some people, dressing up is a huge risk: it means being noticed. It means being seen. It means being authentic. It means someone might come up to you and talk to you. In short, dressing up means standing out, which means exposing vulnerability. For women in particular, we have a whole separate range of issues about dressing up, because it invokes our sexuality. We get this.
The Fashion Risk thing is a characteristic we have viewed from many angles over my years. In the teenage years, we may have made looking weird a personal mission - we wanted the attention and didn't care how we got it. As college students, we didn't care about anything but surviving school - please notice us for our brains. In our overweight and feeling-less-attractive periods, we want to sink back into the background and disappear - we would ask you not to notice us when we don't feel good about ourselves.
Take Risks, Grow, Be Happy
Just to be clear, we're not saying put your high heels on to do your grocery shopping. Or wear an evening gown to work. Not at all. We're saying a little effort will go a long way: love yourself a little and Give a Shit about what you look like. You may not care how you look, but we care - because we have to look at you! Buy yourself something that fits, that is flattering and comfortable, that won't break the bank. And please don't "save" it in the closet. Wear it outside and show the world your awesomeness!
At first it can be disconcerting to be approached by others after having taken a huge risk (g'wan, ask Pirate about wearing the baby-duck yellow tutu out in public). Some of us have never quite felt like we know what to do with a comment or a compliment. Sometimes we may question the sincerity - do they mean that? Are they just saying that because they think they are supposed to? Is he hitting on me? Fear not, we say: we have found that people usually mean well by their nice gestures (and yes, he probably is hitting on you. so what?)
Pay It, Bitches
And then give as good as you get: notice others when they look good. We know how much time and care we put into our appearance, it's not hard to tell when others are doing the same. Even if her style is not yours, it costs you nothing to genuinely compliment someone for making an effort. We say, be good to your sisters - you never know what they went through on their way here.
And by the way, Lady At Starbucks Who Usually Looks Awesome? We want you to know that we're totally not faking it when we say, "Wow. You look great today."