Who do you dress for?
So it’s often assumed (by men) that women dress for men. When straight men feel like they can comment on how you look or what you’re wearing, it’s just another reminder that in (Straight) Man-O-Vision, everything exists to be pleasing to them. Or, if it is not, pleasing to them that is, then they feel entitled to comment on that, as well (as in the ol’ standby, “SMILE!”).
I have a lot of respect for Leandra Medine, the Man Repeller. Her blog, her aesthetic, her mission, her brand. The whole point, obviously, is to dress in such a way as to… repel men! But, I ask you, is that not also centering around the opinions of men? If you’re getting dressed and thinking about the way men will perceive you then… you’re still dressing for men.
Who do you dress for?
I have decided that, first and foremost, I dress for my Instagram feed. Don’t get excited, your thirst-likes are appreciated, but really, this is all for me. So that when I’m sitting on the couch in my punky monkey pajama bottoms and my “dick on roller skates” t-shirt with my greasy bangs clipped back and Mario Badescu drying lotion flaking off my face, I can flip back through my feed to see pictures of myself Looking Cute. Everybody does this??? Right???
But every so often it will happen that I am out in public, looking cute. Aka, the absolute opposite of the previously described scenario. Maybe I’ve put a lot of effort into my hairstyle, or I’m pulling off a really odd combination of clothes in my outfit. The kind of thing that makes me feel Good, puts a spring in my step, makes me smile to myself and think “Maybe I should be a fashion blogger??”
And while I’m on the subway platform, or waiting in line at the bank, or walking into the Target bathroom, a young girl will notice me and start to stare. Not rudely, but in — dare I presume? — in awe. Then she will approach me, maybe shyly, maybe she’ll blurt it out, but she’ll give me the kind of compliment that can only come from a pure place of genuineness: “I love your hair!” or “Wow! Fancy!” Because I’m dressed like a goth witch in a mall for no other reason than I Wanted To.
And she’ll mean it, because she hasn’t yet internalized the message that Normal Is Best, and she hasn’t started dressing for her peers, and she values creativity more than blending in. I remember being her age (whatever that is) and being fascinated by Madonna, by Cher, by Anna Nicole Smith, by women who dared to look different and silly and stand out in amazing, incredible ways. I dress for them, because they inspire me, but there’s another part of me that wants to lean down to that girl’s level and tell her, with the same earnest sincerity,
“Thanks! I dressed up for you.“