Saturday, 14 December 2013

A Clarification About Clothes

Well, it has come to my attention that there has been some grumbling on the internet regarding my attitude to clothing and girliness. It occurs to me that I have perhaps been a too bit "wear this, wear that" so I will try to make up for it.

If you are a Serious Single, and honestly, hand on heart, would just rather not be bothered with men, let alone get married, you go ahead and wear any old thing. Obviously, you'll need to wear professional clothes to work, and I can think of many modern nuns who look very professional. They have short professional hair, sturdy professional glasses, professional pantsuits, sensible shoes, and maybe a pin that signals to those in the know that this is a Sister [of community X]. Naturally they don't wear makeup, perfume or sparkly earrings. They look tidy, capable, comfortable, professional, no-nonsense, and if a man ever tried to chat them up on the bus, I would fall over from shock.

If, however, you are a Searching Single, you might just want to consider telegraphing "Hello, I am an attractive woman who would love to get married one day" through your clothing.

Again, really, honestly, truly don't care what men think? Then practical haircut, pantsuit, denim overalls, mohawk, shaved bald, nineteenth century ballgowns with denim jackets, days-of-the-week tracksuits --whatever. Go for it. And good for you--Saint Augustine, were he still alive, would totally approve. Saint Augustine thought that trying to attract a man was the worst part about being Single, if you couldn't become a nun, which naturally he thought was the best person you could be. After a martyr, of course. Presumably Saint Augustine would have extolled Elizabeth Taylor had she, at the last minute, proclaimed the Gospel in Tahrir Square and been shot.

Ah, Elizabeth Taylor. Now there was a gal who dressed for men. She claimed all those jewels were presents, although apparently she sometimes gave her husbands the money to buy them. Sparkle, sparkle, sparkle!

Now, as I wrote not too long ago, one of my teachers counselled my punker classmate Kathleen that if she persisted in dressing like that, she'd attract punker guys. He thought this a terrible fate. Kathleen thought it wonderful. I think it one of the few sensible things that teacher ever told us.

If you are interested in attracting and marrying traditional men, e.g. men who are willing to get married without a test drive, then I recommend dressing in traditional women's clothing. This does not necessarily mean the dreaded denim jumper of doom. I mean blouse & skirt or dress, tights, cute shoes. In the UK, a nice tweed jacket would not go amiss, if you're looking for a tweed-wearer. In the USA, a string of pearls sends a message pleasing to the eye of Young Republicans and not so much to the Young Democrats, apparently. (One of the useful things I learned at Boston College.)

That said, I have known tall, slim young women who looked great in denim jeans, pairing them with rather more hello-I'm-a-girl stuff, like pink scooped-necked T-shirts and silk scarves.

Again, I am addressing Searching Singles here. Serious Singles don't have to care. Except on the job, naturally. On your off-hours, anything. Star Trek uniform. Actually, I bet you could meet guys, especially computer programmers, if you wore a Star Trek uniform in public. So if you don't want to be bothered, comfy sweatpants. College hoodie.

If you love poetic beatnik guys, go to an Open Mic and see what the popular girl poets are wearing. Get the general idea and make it your own. If you love athletes, see what girls popular with athletes are wearing and, if you aren't flat-out embarrassed by their outfits, get the general idea and make it your own. If you love male feminists--the kind who actually read Kate Millet, Gloria Steinem, Naomi Klein et al--then dress like a teenage boy. This probably works best if you have the figure of a teenage boy, mind you.

The whole point of this piece is not to TELL you what to wear but to REMIND you that men can see you and that your clothes send a message. Whether you want them to or not, your clothes gossip about you to complete strangers. They say "She belongs to your club", "She's a real professional--24/7", and "Ideally, she'd like to be invisible." Naturally, your clothes might be lying about you. There are probably a lot of soccer moms who are goddesses at heart and are puzzled as to why no-one can see this. And the girls of Edinburgh who wear tight blue denim shorts with black tights are probably not trying to show off their bottoms, although that's what their lying shorts are telling me.

I earnestly believe, that as the differences between men and women are ignored more and more, one key to attracting men as suitors is reminding them, primarily visually(since men are extremely visual), that women are different from them. And since religious women naturally dislike doing this through clothes that scream I HAVE BREASTS AND BUTTOCKS, clothes-or-accessories-that-straight-men-would-never-wear strike me as the way to go.

Incidentally, your clothes gossip about you most loudly in uncrowded churches, e.g. at the Trad Mass. Woo! During my EF Mass, the tight jeans simply do not shut up. The priest is, like, "Oremus" and the congregation is like, "What did you say, jeans?" Don't get me started on the sports bra that spelled out "Sexy" in rhinestones. Fun at that nightclub no-one will take me to, no doubt, but not good for making friends at a church people travel two hours to get to because their parish mass depresses them in its modernity.

By the way, I haven't finished reading it, but I finally got my hands on a copy of Verily. Verily does not airbrush models and photographs clothes on non-models, so ordinary women can see how the clothes under discussion might look on them. It treats women as if we have both brains and limited budgets. It is a breath of fresh air, but more on it anon.


Pearlmusic said...

A very nice post!
Perhaps it is easier to predict what kind of men in the West would like women to wear and the clothing language is more clearly understood. In Poland (at least in my experience, which cannot be generalized, of course) all I can say is you can never tell.
I have no problem with accepting your advice, Seraphic, as personally I prefer modest and feminine dressing style (which means long hair, make-up, rather skirts and dresses than trousers, flower or folk-like patterns, cute flat or heeled shoes and either nice scarf or some jewelry to decorate). However, one thing we must be aware of, is that dressing this way might also be getting wrong men attracted to you. In my case it did. Perhaps this is because feminine style attracts men in general, not only those who’d like to get married.
On the other hand, one of my best friends represents a sort of a nun-style: short hair, no make-up or jewelry plus mostly trousers and rough shoes, probably because she was in a convent school for some time of her life. And, quite unlike me, she’s already had a marriage proposal (which she nota bene declined for some important reasons).
When I get to thinking of it I’d say we should dress appropriately to circumstances (church is church and work is work, but beach is beach, obviously) and according to our taste. I’d rather not worry all the time about what kind of men it might attract. Perhaps this is a sign that I should start thinking of becoming serious, LOL!

Domestic Diva said...

One's personal style and tastes aside, the message that clothing speaks a message about a person (especially a woman) cannot be stressed enough. Thanks for proclaiming it again!

JoAnna said...

I've often heard it said that dressing 'well,' particularly in a professional setting, is an important act of humility and charity. By taking care of our appearance, we're overcoming whatever small bit of laziness or excessive self-assuredness that usually go along with 'dressing down,' and looking presentable sends a signal that others are more important than oneself (if only this would catch on to college student who still insist on wearing their pajamas to class). This doesn't necessarily mean dressing 'girly,' but dressing in a way that is becoming and allows the authentic self to shine. I think this is really the important point, whether one is trying to attract a husband or not. And I love Verily!

Urszula said...

I don't see it so much as trying to attract a husband as feeling good because I know I look good. That may sound superficial but on days when I am put together and wearing cute but professional attire I subconsciously try to live up to that by behaving and working better. And even basic work-at-home advice books tell you you should dress up for work even when telecommuting from your couch (I still can't give up my sweatpants on that occasion but I see the wisdom of that).

Also I don't quite understand why anybody would take offense at your clothing advice? It seems very sensible to me. Dress to be the best you are and express that and you will attract people who are attracted to the kind of person you are. It doesn't seem too complicated or revolutionary to me? I love skirts and dresses in the spring and summer, in the winter I gravitate to jeans and cute boots, splash it up with some color and simple earrings/necklace - girly enough to suit my personality, comfortable enough to be natural in, warm enough so that I am not freezing.

Pearlmusic, I wonder if that is the key? Maybe your friend, simply dressing to be herself, attracted a man who was attracted to what she represented. It doesn't necessarily reflect on her clothing choices other than that they were an expression of personality.

Stellamaris said...

Certainly, if your objective with your wardrobe is generally catching the male eye, there are various guidelines to keep in mind. And of course, there are no male-attractive clothes which will not attract the wrong sort of male, at least from time to time.
However, it is both a great relief and a big boost in self-confidence to dress how you wish without worrying about what anyone thinks. I've been slowly migrating towards a new, somewhat eccentric style I like. As a pretty casual searching Single, I'm willing to pass up on men who don't like my clothing choices. I think I look cute.
Ahaha! I bet Saint Augustine was nodding along up until that last bit. What a bait-and-switch - I really am vain after all!

Pearlmusic said...

Stellamaris - well said! :D
Urszula - that's it. You should wear things which make you feel good and that can be very different for different people. And here is some secret I've discovered. When I buy a new item and try it on, after evaluating size, fit, colour, fashion, pattern, whatever, I look myself in the eyes. I'm serious. This tells me how I really look in it. If my eyes and face look happy, that's it. If not - no matter how beautiful it is in itself, I know I'll never wear it anyway.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Auntie and girls. I don't know what to do. I believe in Auntie's post today because it DOES work. But I have a dear 35++ friend who is a Given-Up Single, I guess. She'd like to be married; has the sense of humor, confidence, charitable heart, and love of hockey to attract many a decent fellow. BUT. She wears the pantsuits to her job and to Mass...well...oversized shirts and either appropriate shorts (summer) or jeans. I kinda get where she's coming from, as her beliefs are perhaps why Auntie gets criticism: it shouldn't matter what you wear; you should be liked for your person, not what's on it. BUT. It does matter. And I know she'd probably prefer certain styles on her hoped-for man than others. So how can I help her? She seems closed-off to such advice, but still desires a relationship...

And, oh, Auntie, I'm so glad you like Verily. It is my new favorite thing. I just wish it were monthly.

Sherwood said...

Pearlmusic, your words are so true! Different people do look good in different things, and what matters is the sparkle it gives to your eyes. :)
Concerning how to look confident and attractive (if that's your thing; as Seraphic said, it's not important unless you desire to attract) - I do like having found my color season! I know it sounds totally 80's but the system has undergone SERIOUS revamping since then and learning about colors made me much more confident in choosing my clothes and makeup. I look more cheerful and brighter-eyed too - it's amazing what colors do!
It doesn't need to cost anything and you don't need to go anywhere - just browse around some websites (my favorite is "Truth is Beauty", but "Pretty Your World" and "The Chic Fashionista" are good too), look up the various color palettes on Pinterest (the best palettes are there, for some reason), and then take indirect-sunlight pictures of yourself draped in various colors from each season. BTW, the lists of what color eyes, hair, and skin "belong in" each season are not accurate - just try on the colors and compare what they do to your complexion and eyes. That's what counts.
When I did that, it was obvious which season I was - my eyes looked brighter, my skin looked smoother and glowier, etc. in that season's colors. Shopping for clothes and makeup has been much, MUCH easier ever since and I look more myself! I found out that, instead of what I considered "safe," soft, cool colors, I look very natural in gold jewelry and vivid, warm colors that I would never have had the courage to wear otherwise. Seraphic's post reminded me of how fun it was to find out which colors were my best, so I just wanted to share the idea with you all in case someone else finds it helpful too. :)

Julia said...

Today I went to the EF for only the second time in my life (the first time having been when I was about 13). I went with two friends who are both new to the EF as well.

Some women wore dresses or skirts. Some wore trousers. Some wore mantillas or hats; others didn't. I'm not mentioning this for any reason other than to state that from what I can see, the 'Trousers v. skirts' thing doesn't appear to be an issue in my Archdiocese.

Seraphic said...

Julia, that's good news. Actually, some women wear trousers at our EF masses, too, but not jeans or the Edinburgh denim-shorts-with-black-leggings look. We do hats, mantillas and bare heads. So far all the "Thou shalt not wear trousers" stories I have heard have come from the USA.

Proverbial Girlfriend, giving friends advice is always tricky but if she ever asks, you could point out that people are very careful about what they wear to weddings and to job interviews for a reason--not to give offense, to look good, and to present oneself as something.

Oh dear oh dear. The only answer to "People should accept me as I am" is "Why should they?" On the one hand, if you aren't doing anyone any harm or offending community standards in how you appear (e.g. not walking down Main Street in a bikini), then you can appear however you like. Edinburgh is very amusing in August during the Festival when people go into the supermarket dressed as gorillas, etc. However,if you wish to IMPRESS others, for any reason, or send out any other kind of message, then you do have to think about other people's tastes.

And this goes for men, too, of course.

Jackie said...

Proverbial Girlfriend, regarding your oversize-tshirt-loving friend, can you state any insights about how she feels about her vulnerability around men? Or her relationship with her body?

I ask because clothing can be a kind of "armor;" there is a certain vulnerability in presenting yourself in more feminine attire.

A lot of beautiful clothing just kind of cries out to be looked at (and I say this as a lover of all things vintage!). If a person has a contentious relationship with their appearance or figure, is uncomfortable being looked at, or feels that there is some negative or discomfort of emotion at the idea of being gazed upon... Well, one way to hide in plain sight is by sacklike, frumpy garb!

It would be interesting to know when (if?) your friend has felt beautiful and what those experiences were like. Has she shared anything like that?

I will say, also, that some women I've known who wanted to experiment with their looks were OVERWHELMED by the amount of information out there (much of it conflicting). Clothes, hair, makeup-- it can be pretty intimidating. Plus if you a newb, putting yourself out there and asking for help can be rough, as it requires, again, vulnerability.

This may sound counterintuitive, but if I was to encourage someone to think about spiffing up, I would focus on their most beautiful features right now, without any suggestions. If someone has lovely eyes, gorgeous skin, beautiful hair-- point it out! When they do feel ready to experiment, the person who made them feel accepted will be the one they will come to. :-)

Jackie said...

Seraphic, well said! I loved the part about the Star Trek uniform and think this would actually be a HUGE draw to some awesome nerdy guys! :-)

Clothes do indeed make a very public statement, without you saying a word. What makes sense to me is, Be Your Best Self, and then let the people who are attracted to that be drawn to you.

I love quirky shoes ( and am a total sucker for retro ( Hopefully this will be alluring to a quirky and respectful gent! But even if it isn't, I like who I am when I partake in this style.

I think what is challenging is that MODESTY!!!!111eleventy!!! gets beaten into our heads so often, that finding the happy medium between "potato sack jumper" and "distracting" tough to find. (The Mormons are really good at figuring this out.) Also, certain body types can get a LOT more leeway than others.

Julia said...

Although, Seraphic, there was a sweet little old Bolivian lady we met after the EF Mass who excitedly told me and my friends that she'd bring us some mantillas the next time we come to the Mass. One of my friends later on grinned and said to me, "Cool. Free stuff."

Christine M. Williams said...

I don't think that I can entirely agree with the clothing advice in this post. While in college I wore a lot of jeans and long-sleeved tees. Apparently, my husband found it "sporty" and attractive. We're both from a laid-back Midwestern United States background and were studying in the Northeast. I think my dress reminded him of home.

I think maybe your advice works best for Latin Mass-goers, Europeans or people from the Northeastern part of the United States. There's a large section of people in the United States who are pretty casual style-wise but plenty orthodox when it comes to religious beliefs.

Gregaria said...


I think Seraphic's advice still applies in the case of people who tend to dress down, sporty, or more laid back. Her advice was to dress to attract the man you want. Obviously, the way you dressed attracted your husband, so it worked. :)

Seraphic said...

Fair enough! If the Midwestern convention is to dress in a laid back way, and the reader is a laid back Midwesterner, than jeans and long-sleeved T-shirts are very likely the way to go! I have a good friend from Indiana who really rocks "sporty" in a feminine way.

For some dumb reason "conventional" has a negative meaning, but by definition most people are conventional. And if you want to attract conventional kind of guys, then dressing conventionally is the way to go, to.

I think a good rule of thumb is to pay attention to what girls in your community who are genuinely liked by guys (not treated like crap) are wearing, and then to see if those looks would look good on you.

Believe me, it didn't hurt me to get some style lessons from beautiful and popular younger friends.

Sheila said...

I'm afraid the message of my clothes is "I want to be invisible." I can't say why I am so uncomfortable with being looked at -- I am happy with my appearance, weight, etc. Maybe it just feels objectifying. I've just read so much about modesty and it makes me think that men are always staring at me, stocking up images to fantasize about later. The frumpy look seems the best defense! And anyway, now that I am married, I don't *want* men to notice that I am female. Seems the more female I look, the less respect I get for my opinions and capability.

As far as dating goes, Seraphic's advice is the best -- dress as the sort of woman you ACTUALLY ARE, and then the sort of guy who likes your sort of girl will go mad for you. I got a real kick as a teenager out of those "style" books where you take a quiz to find if you are "sporty," "arty," or "romantic" and then find pictures of outfits that are supposed to fit your type.

When I met my husband I had very long hair which I wore straight down and giant long skirts. He has told me he was attracted to me in those clothes because they were familiar to him .... he was homeschooled and that is what women wore in his traddy homeschool group. Makes sense! I suppose there are probably men out there who even like denim jumpers. You never know.

Seraphic said...

Personally I have never in my life worried about men stocking their minds with images of me--in part because there would be nothing I could do about it anyway.

Oh, I lie. I did begin to worry when some imam or other said that he doesn't fantasize about women who cover their heads on the bus--presumably with hijab, mind you, not berets--imams are never very clear on where nice western hats fit into all that. It creeped me out that elderly Muslim clergymen might be fantasizing about perfectly ordinary Western women on the bus. The message was, "If I'm raping you in my mind, you hussy, it's your fault for tempting me with your hijab-less head." But there's not much I can do about that either, really, save mock such jerks as long as I still legally can.

Meanwhile, there is at least one Catholic guy who loves the denim pinafore of doom because he linked to my infamous "Jumper" post and said the part he disagree with was the universal ghastliness of the jumper. He thought they were sexy.

Jackie said...

In response to that last paragraph:


*more stunned silence*


PS: Seraphic, are you absolutely positive this guy wasn't trolling you?!

Sheila said...

I wish I could not care. I feel violated just thinking about it. When I was in Rome, the men on the metro would stare openly, running their eyes up and down you, and it made me want to scream and leap from the train. My skin crawls just thinking about it.

But then I am highly sensitive and my skin also crawls when I think of brushing shoulders with strangers or living in a high-rise apartment. City life is so obviously not for me.

I *knew* I was right about the jumpers!