So, it’s August. School will be starting soon and all of the hustle and bustle of the fall semester will take over. The fall season ushers in many exciting things; new classes, changing leaves, and the start of football season. Along with football comes the ever coveted Homecoming Game, where the team returns to their home field after a string of games on the road. When I was in high school, homecoming was a huge deal. Every girl looked for the perfect dress, and the guys began asking girls to the dance as early as late July. In retrospect, it was all a tad bit ridiculous. While I absolutely love getting dressed up, having my hair and makeup done, and posing for pictures, at the end of the night it was just another dance. When I began college, I was surprised to learn that our school was holding a homecoming dance as well. I knew homecoming weekend was a big deal and many families came up to visit their children, along with many alumni who returned to their Alma mater for the big game. I can vividly remember talking on the phone to my mum one day and mentioning to her that there was going to be a homecoming dance. Sounding just as surprised as I was, she asked me if I was going and agreed with me when I stated that I was not, and that my homecoming dances were a thing of the past.
Flash forward to the present. After completing an entire year of college, I have learned a lot of valuable information, both in the classroom and outside. One thing I have realized is that, while majority of my school’s population looks somewhat decent for class everyday, people do NOT dress up and, unless you are in a sorority or fraternity, you have limited chances to get dressed up. Which is why this year I have decided to take on homecoming with my closest friends. I cannot wait for the opportunity to get dressed up and see everyone else wearing something other than sweatshirts and jeans. Since homecoming is approaching, and I was bored this evening, I decided to do a bit of online shopping. While looking at dresses on websites like Forever 21, H&M, and Nordstrom, a sickening common thread began to appear. All of the models were shown in skin tight, body con dresses with cutout sides and low tops. As I scrolled down the pages, hoping that perhaps it was just a particular section I was viewing, I was appalled to realize most of the dresses were designed this way. What happened to the idea of covering up? Since when did showing it all for the world to see become the new “sexy”? Frustrated, I asked my best friend her opinion on this, to which she replied, “If you wear a dress with enough confidence that is even better [than wearing a skin tight dress in an attempt to dress sexily.] While I agree with her, it still saddens me that most girls do not realize that they do not have to dress in such ways to appear attractive. As I pondered what makes girls believe this is the appropriate way to dress, three reasons came to mind.
1. Society Encourages It
Flip through a magazine or turn on an entertainment show. Most likely you will find ads of famous women clad in nothing but a tee shirt and a pair of high heels, or hear entertainment news anchors discussing which star wore the most “daring” (i.e. revealing and obscene) outfit to an awards show. Society tells women that in order to be seen as attractive, sexy, or appealing, they must showcase their goods as much as possible. [I wrote a 10 page research paper on this topic so I am trying my hardest not to get too into it. Trust me, I could go on for hours.]
2. Men Expect It
Thanks to the wonderful job the media has done, men have come to expect women to dress in such ways. There is always that scene in any romantic movie, TV show, etc where the woman has a makeover and walks down the stairs and the man’s eyes light up and he says the classic, “you look beautiful.” While that is always a wonderful thing to hear, why does it only occur when a woman is all dolled up? Why don’t they ever show a man saying that to a woman when she is laying on the couch in her sweats, laughing at something Jimmy Fallon said? This experience has even happened to me. My best guy friend walked up to me at our Junior homecoming and gave me the “Ciara, you look amazing” line. While I was flattered at his comment, later that night, as I sat around a bonfire in yoga pants and a hoodie, laughing with my friends and looking at the stars, I wondered why he didn’t say anything about the way I looked then. Was it because the dress had come off and the bobby pins were plucked out? I surely felt more beautiful relaxed and enjoying myself than I did when I was worrying about whether I had lipstick on my teeth or if my strapless bra was shifting around. Maybe this example has more to do with how society has influenced men, but still. When men express their delight in the way a woman looks with her boobs hanging out and her dress so short you can see cheek, then women receive the signal that this is how men expect you to look.
(take a look at this clip to see what I mean! Why didn’t he think she was stunning when she was wearing jeans?!)
Men expect women to dress this way and sometimes, women do too. One of my roommates last year once said to me, “women wear makeup and get dressed up because they’re competing with other women. If they were doing it for men, they just wouldn’t wear anything.” Sadly, she had a bit of a point. Women dress to attract men and threaten women. It is a true competition to see who wore it better and who looked more amazing. Just look through any tabloid magazine. Most of them will contain some sort of “Who Wore It Better” column. Everything is a competition, which to me is very sad.
I once read an interview with Emma Watson in which she was asked why she refused to take off some of her clothing when posing for a magazine. She stated that,
“I find the whole concept of being ‘sexy’ embarrassing and confusing. If I do an interview with photographs people desperately want to change me – dye my hair blonder, pluck my eyebrows, give me a fringe. Then there’s the choice of clothes. I know everyone wants a picture of me in a mini-skirt. But that’s not me. I feel uncomfortable. I’d never go out in a mini-skirt. It’s nothing to do with protecting the Hermione image. I wouldn’t do that. Personally, I don’t actually think it’s even that sexy. What’s sexy about saying, ‘I’m here with my boobs out and a short skirt, have a look at everything I’ve got?’ My idea of sexy is that less is more. The less you reveal the more people can wonder.” (quote courtesy of Goodreads.com)
I agree with Emma. And with my best friend. Wearing what you want with confidence will make you sexy. Less is more. I only wish we could teach this lesson to more women and girls. Then, perhaps, girls will start to dress for themselves and not for others. As for me, I’m going to continue my search for the perfect dress. The one that makes me feel the most like me.