Saturday, 25 August 2012

Seraphic Also Trashes Teddies as Outerwear

Cherubs. Oh cherubs. Cherubs, cherubs, cherubs.


I have seen the new worst look in Edinburgh. And that is saying something.

It is the translucent, silk/rayon playsuit, quite obviously worn with a thong and a dark bra. And with tennis shoes and socks.

I call it a playsuit because I don't think it is actually sold as a teddy (loose, one-piece undergarment perhaps better known in the UK as camiknickers) although that is what it looks like.

And that is what one of the waitresses in the cocktail bar I was in last night was wearing. She seemed absolutely oblivious to her bad taste. And although her hair was loose and flowing--not really a good idea in a restaurant--her make-up was tasteful and her tan natural. So what was going on in her head?

She did not look sexy. There's a lot of artifice in sexy. She looked natural, animal, like a squirrel or a Highland cow. She looked like she had just gotten out of bed, done her hair, put on her nice make-up and had absentmindedly put her sleepwear back on over her bra.

All the men around looked at her, of course. When she bent over a table the already short "shorts" part of her playsuit clung to her ample--not fat, but ample--womanly behind. Did I mention it was see-through?

Across my table my friend moaned something about these men underscoring her need to find a man who was really decent. I pointed out that I, no less than the men, was peering through this woman's outfit. As far as I could tell, we were all thinking the same thing, which was "Whoa. How totally inappropriate."

Another waitress was wearing the black-tights-tight-shorts look so prominent in Edinburgh right now, but she didn't give off the same air of loucheness. I think if there had been two waitresses in clinging, see-through playsuits, we would have left. The thought crossed my mind anyway. I, the customer, the semi-regular, felt that uncomfortable.

In contrast was a young woman diner dressed according to the height of fashion in 1941. I know it was 1941 because my friend asked her. This young woman had dark hair--possibly dyed darker than it naturally is--carefully rolled and pinned and adorned with pink flowers. She was wearing a brown dress that was obviously a very well preserved relic of the 1940s and beautiful 1940s-style shoes. She had exquisitely groomed 1940s eyebrows and bright red lipstick. She was slim and looked fantastic, if a tad startling. (She really could have walked in right out of 1941; there was the slightest whiff of the supernatural.) And I tried to imagine how the cocktail bar--which is itself a beautiful Art Nouveau space--would look if all the women dressed rather like her. It would have looked incredibly elegant.

This is the second time I have seen a vintage fanatic in Edinburgh, and I must say that I hope hers is a sub-culture that becomes a little less sub. If people can feel comfortable dressing as 19th century vampires, then certainly just as many can feel comfortable dressing as 1940s damsels. It is intensely superior to dressing as if you had been suddenly awakened from slumber.

To repeat my theme of midnight, what women read, buy and do matters to the culture around us. My CR detractor, a man, scolded me to "Trust women for a change." This suggests that he has some sort of Rousseauian ideal "Woman" in mind, and has not reflected that saying "Trust women for a change" is as nonsensical as saying "Trust men for a change."

There are over three billion women alive right now. We are a mix of good and bad, and what we do has no less of an impact on society--and sometimes more--than what men do.

Speaking of men, men who buy good old-fashioned hats should know that they should TAKE THEM OFF indoors. There were a surprising number of young men around with hats, but unfortunately they were on their heads. None of the Young Fogeys I know would make a slip like this.

What's that? No, darlings. I am not being judgmental of people. I am being judgmental of actions. My waitress seemed perfectly nice. I just wish she had been wearing clothing that didn't make me, the customer, the customer who has developed an attachment to that establishment, feel so uncomfortable.


sciencegirl said...

I can't really wrap my head around this outfit. I hope it doesn't catch on over here!

Lena said...

Besides being an inappropriate outfit, that playsuit sounds very silly. Another fashion trend I'll have to let pass me by.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the establishment owner felt that scantily-clad women would bring in more male customers? (In America, some coffee bars have almost-topless baristas.) Feminist that I am, I must ask: where is the justice in asking women to strip for a job? Have we regressed (in all the wrong ways) to the 1950s, in which many women were expected to sleep their way up? To women, if you are doing that to yourselves, WHY?

As for fashion: I've seen a few photos of my grandmother from the late '40s, early '50s, when she was a young woman. So gorgeous, so ladylike, so powerful. And I simply must point out that many young women in that era, including the super-conservative Phyllis Schlafley, made their living testing machine guns and making equipment for the war.


Jam said...

You know I love the British isles, but the UK high street puts out the most ridiculous fashions, and GIRLS WEAR THEM. I think it's to the point now where it's a genuine Culture Clash moment for American visitors: why are the hot and cold taps six inches apart, why is the washing machine so small and in the kitchen, and have you SEEN what these girls are WEARING in the STREET during the DAY??? (Although, to be "fair", I have seen far too many men wearing harem pants/drop-crotch skinny jeans in London for it to be a fluke, and that is also NOT OK.)

I agree the Pin-up Doll look is better. Funny how the '40s as lived was such a "masculine" era for women's clothes, but no one (?) thinks about Utility styles when they think "retro".

Seraphic Spouse said...

Waaaaah!!! You have no idea how the small washing-machine makes me suffer. I sob for the days of my mother's twin washer and dryer set, which wash (or dry) so much stuff in such a short time, and without ripping the buttons off. (Not to mention that Mum does the laundry for everyone in the house, plus irons it; I think she finds this FUN.)

The answer is that electricity in the UK costs more. Everything in the UK costs more. Except hairdressing. Every woman in Edinburgh who can get to a beauty parlour, whatever her means, has fantastic hair.

Domestic Diva said...

I have to observe that I am so grateful for Kate Middleton's generally classic and classy way of dressing. VERY refreshing change from Hollywood red carpet trash.

grace said...

Today at a restaurant I was very startled to see woman in a long stripped sundress, through which her underwear and bra where completely visible, as well as every bump wrinkle and bulge.

Additionaly I used to work with a teacher who liked to wear the same look to school. We taught 17 and 18 year olds, so the students loved to comment on what pair of underwear she was wearing that day. It makes me embarassed to be a woman.

Alisha said...

Another reason to embrace swing dancing, Auntie :) By far and large, the girls dress super decently - some of them ONLY wear vintage style clothes, whether dancing or not - I am not a big fashionista but I really admire all of the girls who put such care into their look!

Friend of victim said...

Dear Auntie Seraphic,
Could you do a post sometime about how to recognize potentially violent men in dating relationships? I have a friend, married 9 years, who had a beautiful romance with a guy who seemed to be wonderful. But now some domestic violence issues have arisen. I did not see the warning signs, and I was fairly close to the situation, so this surprises me very much, and I wonder if I would recognize red flags in the man I choose to marry. Can you help educate us, please? Thank you.

Charming Disarray said...

I have a friend who wears vintage ensembles like the ones you described, and she's one of the most foul-mouthed, crude and morally ambiguous people I've ever met. (Still a lot of fun, though. And we're not close friends, either.) I think it's especially important for Catholics to let go of the idea that dressing a certain way will have a positive impact on society. Far too many people believe this, and it's just playing dress up. Fashions follow societal norms. If more women respect themselves and more men respect women, women will stop dressing in a provocative way. The attitude has to come first, and it won't as long as Catholics are always obsessing about everyone else's clothes.

american (not) in deutschland said...

This comment is not really on-point, since in your last few posts you have Taken Women To Task, but I found some medieval verse the other day that combined some beautiful images of Our Lady with some very fashionable courtly attitudes of c. 1300. (Note: this poem surrounded in the anthology by poems condemning "lustful woman source of all sin" etc, so I am not going all Catholic Golden Age on y'all.) I can't find the original, but this translation is pretty nice, and perhaps it could be applied as penitential reading for certain men who, online and off, find it necessary to share their dim opinions of women!

The tears of weeping wet my cheek:
My wicked deeds and lack of wit
Plague my soul until I seek,
As Bible bids, atonement fit
For taking ladies' love in vain,
Which softly gleams with lovely light.
My songs have slandered it: their stain
Has robbed me of my lover's right.
It sticks but is not fitting
When it is said in song;
Of women I have written
Detractions vile and wrong.

I wrote that wrong because of Eve:
She had no need to hold the reins,
But caused mankind to groan and grieve,
And robbed us of our richest gains.
The One who stopped her cruel strife
Is hidden in the heart divine.
In her alit the Lord of Life,
Within her fairest flesh to shine.
As sun that gleams through glass,
He shone within her form;
No wicked woman was
Since Jesus Christ was born.

What man could be so base and vile
As make such fair ones' tears to fall?
They live devoid of vice and guile,
And courteously, as hawks in hall.
My wicked words I thus repent:
That fickle flesh and blood's deceit
Defiled those fair ones, I lament
And contrite fall before their feet;
Yes, at their feet fall low
For falsehoods fifty-fold
And calumnies, I know,
Which traitor-like I told.

... it goes on, but you get the idea! I particularly love the last half of that second stanza.

Seraphic said...

Charming, I have to disagree there.

I don't know where you live, but there is a story about an American student lost in the UK (or was it Edinburgh specifically?) who called up his friend in a panic because he was lost, "but I think I'm in the red light district. There are hookers everywhere."

"Jim," said his exasperated friend. "Are those hookers or are those regular girls?"

Jim took a closer look.

"Oh," he said humbly. "I think actually they're regular girls."

Even if your fun, foul-mouthed pal behaves badly in her personal life, when she's walking down the street or just standing silently at a bus stop, if she is dressed nicely she is contributing in a positive way to the culture.

There's an old British saying that goes "I don't care what people do as long as they don't do it in the street and frighten the horses." I won't go so far as to say what people do in private has no effect on the rest of society, because I believe that, but it not as immediate as public behaviour and "dressing up" in whatever clothing to wear outdoors is public behaviour.

To back this up, I will point out to the existence of dress codes, both for work and for special events like weddings and "black tie dinner parties."

The thing about vintage clothes is that they are a reminder of a time when women had a lot more respect for themselves (not braggadacio pretending to be self-respect) and men used to have a lot more respect for more women.

I'm not saying everyone should wear vintage clothing. I'm just pointing out that women wearing vintage clothing look a lot classier than women wearing underwear as outerwear, and is much pleasanter to look at.

Once again, what someone does, buys, reads, wears has an effect on the society around them.

Seraphic said...

Sorry, that should be "because I don't believe that".

american (not) in deutschland said...

I tend to agree with Charming. I do think that vintage clothing is better and more humane in the way that traditional architecture is better and more humane than utilitarian or modernist stuff. But then architecture has a slightly different purpose...

As long as vintage dress is seen as "costume wear," then I don't think the social impact is really that great. In fact it might just perpetuate a culture of expressive-individualism and commodification of people's bodies. My feeling is that the rejection of conventional clothing (whatever happens to be conventional, taking a broad view, not just "typical of 20-something working class British girls" or something), whether it's dressing like Lady Gaga or Nancy Drew, probably amounts to about the same. I mean, if there was big enough trend to actually change convention, not just set off a subculture of young fogies/hipsters* -- that might do it.

But the emphasis on dress in Christian (especially traditional Catholic) subculture is soooo disproportionate to the real problem.

* Where I live, there are no young fogies, but there are hipsters, and there sure is some overlap in style!

american (not) in deutschland said...

(though I'm not disputing your central point that vintage clothes no matter how costumey are always a better choice than underwear-showing skimpy stuff.)

Seraphic Spouse said...

If a man is becoming violent or abusive only after nine years of marriage, my first thought would be to get him to a doctor as soon as possible.

Nine years is a very long time for a violent or abusive man to abstain from violent or abusive impulses, or a very strange change for a man who has never been violent or abusive in his life. Has there been a sudden downturn in their fortunes? Has he been in a car accident? Has he lost his job? Perhaps counselling is the way forward?

Violence and abusive behaviour are never acceptable, but I would certainly want to help my husband deal with whatever it was that was making him behave in such an uncharacteristic way, if I could do so safely.

In general, the way to look for warning signs is to listen to stories about a man's past and to listen to how he speaks about other people, whether with respect or with contempt. Find out if he has been in violent altercations before; hopefully nothing since he was in high school.

Definitely watch out for a man who has many stories of being badly treated by women. Discover how his parents and family feel about him by watching their reactions to them. LOOK and LISTEN. Don't dismiss the warning signs and your own feelings of discomfort because they get in the way of your dream future with a man.

Sadly, many men in such high-adrenaline professions as policing and the military are prone to hitting out almost instinctively when they feel threatened, even just in an emotional way. So be sure to educate yourself on this phenomenon if you get involved with a man in such a profesion.

Anonymous said...

The classic "15 signs of an abusive relationship" pretty much covers the bases in terms of spotting a whack job.


Alisha said...

I had a comment but believe it got erased! I was saying somewhat cheekily to Seraphic it's another reason for her to embrace swing dancing! I love how the women dress in that community - some are totally vintage, some modern but on the whole they always look unique, eye catching, classy, and cool! Check out Shabby Apple, Modcloth, Swing Fashionista and Lindy Shopper for ideas :)

okiegrl said...

Re: Suddenly abusive husband... If he hasn't recently been in a traumatic accident he should get a psych evaluation. Many mental illnesses don't surface until the mid thirties. I agree with theobromophile's link for signs of what to avoid, but being great for 9 years then suddenly turning abusive is not normal.

Charming Disarray said...

I do understand your point about the clothes. I'm not saying clothes are irrelevent, and I would be annoyed if I went into a regular restaurant that turned out to be more like Hooters. And all I can say about girls out on the town in Scotland from when I was there is that they must have an internal furnace of some kind. I'm not sure how they're not all dead of hypothermia or whatever.

I guess I just wish that modestly dressed people would try to see immodestly dressed women, especially young ones, with pity rather than condemnation. They get told from the day they're born that they have to display themselves in this way to have worth. In a lot of ways it's not their fault. It's interesting that Catholics can often be quick to excuse men who look--and I'm not saying that's necessarily bad, either--but very reluctant to excuse women for the pressure they're under to be "sexy."