Thursday, 20 March 2014

A Late Addition

Do you remember how I am always saying you may want to know what guys are thinking, but you may not always like what you learn?

From Central Europe, a belated St. Joseph's Day opinion:


Please then contribute to making the world a better, more beautiful place by following this humble advice of mine: no trousers, no trainers [running shoes--SS], no denim in any form; no skirts/dress exposing your rear, and – which I particularly emphasise – no leggings. And give hats a chance.


I'm assuming what our Continental correspondent means by those rear-exposing skirts and dresses are the ones that cling lovingly to your rump so that its perky outline is showcased to Pippa-like perfection.

(Update: Unless, um, I am totally behind the times and there are now skirts that are only an inch or two long, a horrible possibility that occurred to me only now.)

(Update 2: PPS has indeed informed me that it is such super-short skirts that he meant and actually he is okay with Pippa-dresses. I am now trying to imagine how I would feel if all around me young men wore buttock-exposing shorts with or without skin-tight leggings underneath because they thought they made them look sexy. I think I would stop going outdoors.)

I am suddenly reminded of my wonderful 1970s style black lycra jumpsuit, which is languishing in a drawer back in Toronto, waiting for the day I get back my boxing-era abs. The legs are loose, wide and flared, so it isn't a catsuit, but it is backless and sleeveless, so really one has to be in excellent shape to pull it off...

Where was I? Oh, yes.

It's been a long time since we had a debate on clothing. Let the combox rumpus begin. Again, do try to be respectful. Feel free to describe how men can make the world a better, more beautiful place through their sartorial choices. I will begin: baseball caps may not be worn anywhere outside the Americas. They should be completely banned from Ireland, the UK and the rest of Europe.

Update Three: The worst look in Edinburgh used to be black tights with blue denim short-shorts. However, it is now thin shiny black leggings without any shorts or skirt AT ALL. Wear this with messy, randomly gelled bleached platinum hair and what you have is a total mess that for some strange reason Edinburgh girls think is super-sexy.

My latest on the IP novels blog.

Further insight to the community of men who loathe denim and trainers.


Julia said...

I'm not that fussed about what men wear, but most of the men I'm around dress okay most of the time, so I'm probably not really aware of the worst examples of masculine dress. Basically, if you're not dressed like this guy - - you're probably okay.

Julia said...

Also, Seraphic, your hair is amazing!

Seraphic said...

Oh my. There is nothing attractive about that guy's outfit. From hair to cheap cigarette--ugh.

Re: hair, thank you. It takes forever to brush out if I just let it do that. But it is very useful for entertaining small children: it fits into compact braids, but once released: PUFF!

Julia said...

Don't forget the compulsory bottle of Victoria Bitter!

Sophie Miriam said...

I'm totally ok with men having preferences about what women wear as long as they abide by the masculine equivalent. So if this guy wants women to wear skirts and no denim, that doesn't bother me as long as he wears khakis and a button-down, or whatever the male equivalent is.

I much prefer men in collared shirts to men wearing T-shirts. My fiance has recently to wearing button-downs around. I am very appreciative. :)

Seraphic said...

Fear not! I have evidence that PPS is twice as strict about his own sartorial choices as he is about ours.

Seraphic said...

When did you acquire a fiancé, by the way?

Nzie said...

I wear dresses and skirts much more often than trousers (also, I love hats), but I do not think this request shows much awareness of its implications. (Also, what's the beef with denim? It's practical, and can be cute (i.e. the denim skirt).)

PPS, the unfortunate implications of your request would be either
- the woman having to curtail her life -- no more sports, no more running errands, no more relaxing in comfortable clothes, getting harsh chemicals on nice clothes while cleaning, etc.
- never seeing the woman except on formal dates.

The first is unjust (we also enjoy physical activity, and relaxing, and getting out of our suits at the end of the day), and the second is not for a deepening relationship. In other words, if those are your requirements, you're going to lose the actual woman in front of you for the ideal you want her to represent.

I understand the value in femininity. I daresay I'd get full points today (heck, I'm even wearing pearls). But while clothes can express femininity, they are not themselves femininity, and when men vest the idea of femininity in the accoutrements rather than in valuing the woman herself, they come off controlling. I'm certain that was not PPS' intention, but such specific "rules" and calling obeying them "civilized" is not particularly respectful of women. Marriage is a meeting of equals, and while I follow these "rules" most of the time, I'd be hurt and offended if someone I was dating explained that this was his expectation. If I shared these thoughts and he still put the ideal above my feelings, I'd end it, because, honestly, that is controlling behavior.

I think it's a temptation for both sexes to idealize something that's not real, and it's unfair to judge a person against an ideal. Women sometimes want a certain manly ideal, and reject men who don't meet that stereotype (whether it's Mr. Darcy or a man of great physical strength, it's pretty unfair to expect someone to meet that). And traditional religious men often invest far too much in what women wear. Clothes really give very limited information about someone; as long as they're not immodest and taken good care of, can we lay off the externals and focus on shared interests and values?

Amused said...

Seraphic is right--we don't always like what we find out. No jeans? Je suis americaine! I must have my jeans! No, really, jeans are a very important piece of clothing in America, particularly in the west. I'm talking about honest-to-goodness, straight-cut cotton blue-jeans, with rivets. The kind you wear for work (outdoors, not in an office) and play (again, outdoors--shooting, riding horses, at a barbecue--not when you go to town) day after day, until the denim is worn soft as butter, and faded to a pale sky-blue....
I don't want to belittle PPS's point, and I do think that the derriere-and-thigh hugging, low-slung, artificially torn-up, spandex "jeans" that some women don't hesitate to wear on a date to a nice restaurant are awful, but hey--jeans originally became popular for a reason.
Likewise, I agree that most kinds of trousers look terrible on most women. But what about those "hollywood" trousers they wear in old movies, with the super high waist and flared legs? They're classy, in my opinion! (Of course, you have to be fairly slender to wear them well.)
BTW, the picture in the flowered jump-suit thing is awesome!

sciencegirl said...

My wardrobe is divided into date wear, work wear, hiking gear, church wear, interview wear, etc. Some of these (like church, date or interview) can overlap. I don't mind if guys have similarly diverse wardrobes, but it bothers me if all places are alike to them. Jeans at the coffeeshop or library? Fine, I am wearing them too. Jeans at Mass (Sunday Mass, not the daily Mass you went to just before heading off to your work at the autoshop)? Dudebro, where is your Mass garment?

Men in jeans are fine most of the time, as it is such a staple of the American wardrobe, but I am not really fond of cargo shorts on most guys. Mostly because then they wear sandals, and I think guys in flipflops in a city look silly. They're good for the beach, pool, or possibly backyard bbq.

Stellamaris said...

PPS's comment is not very nuanced. Like Nzie, I'm pretty spiffy today but that's because I will not be doing any housework today, or going to the gym, etc. I hope that what PPS is getting at is appropriate dress for mass, work, and dates. In which case, I mostly follow those guidelines (though I'd point out that leggings are a verrrry handy item under skirts and dresses in Canadian winter).
Speaking of which, tailored clothes are never amiss in the same situations boys!

Pearlmusic said...

Nzie, Stellamaris - well said!

I can guess PPS's comment is a response to the common fashion trend in Central Europe which features way too short skirts, way too much leggings worn on a day-to-day basis and denim for women. Or, actually, for teenagers.

I'm in Poland where young women often wear denim trousers, too. They're so common that if you don't wear them in your, say, twenties-to-thirties, you stick out. Actually, nobody ever tells us anything is wrong with it.

Sheila said...

Urg. I totally do not care what men wear. I usually don't notice. And I appreciate it when they don't care what I wear. A simple "you look lovely no matter what you wear, darling" goes a long way.

If a guy told me what he thought women should wear, I would immediately write him off as a, too obsessed with clothes, which I consider a superficial concern, and b, a good deal too controlling. The modesty bit I somewhat get -- we would all love it if half-naked went permanently out of fashion. But as far as formality goes, it's simply ridiculous to dictate that to someone else.

An interesting study just came out that showed that professors with beards, t-shirts, and flip-flops got taken more seriously then clean-shaven ones in suit jackets. The traditionally-dressed prof was seen as being boring, while students thought the casual one would be more interesting and original.

Sherwood said...

"But while clothes can express femininity, they are not themselves femininity, and when men vest the idea of femininity in the accoutrements rather than in valuing the woman herself, they come off controlling. I'm certain that was not PPS' intention, but such specific "rules" and calling obeying them "civilized" is not particularly respectful of women." (Nzie)


c'est la vie said...

Lotsa flak on poor PPS here. Um for what it's worth I agree with him? and as for the other remarks, controlling seems a bit extreme? I mean I prefer men to dress classily, and I would have no wish, short of exceptional circumstances, to be approached by a man with underwear showing over his jeans and a wifebeater with chest hair sticking out. I'm not controlling him, just saying I would find his appearance distinctly unattractive. Sauce for the gander, sauce for the goose, no?

Jessica said...

Based on your comments yesterday and today...I think we might be soulmates. :)
C'est la vie, sure, you're attracted to guys who dress in a certain way, and I'd say it's even fair to let guys know that certain clothes appeal to you. There is one major difference, tho; historically, it's very unusual for women to blame their sexual bad behavior on what a man was (or wasn't) wearing, whereas men continue to do that. So a man commenting on women's clothing has different ramifications, I think.
Also, you said you prefer men to dress a certain way, which is different from PPS's comment. He said that "we," meaning all NCBs of good taste, want all women to dress in a certain way, which he calls "civilized, better, and more beautiful." He's not saying that this style of dress is more attractive to him, he's saying it's objectively better, both aesthetically and (hmm, what does civilization imply?) intellectually. This better world would require women to reject lots of types of comfortable/athletic clothing (trainers, trousers, denim), at least in the presence of men.
If PPS is more attracted to women wearing skirts, then hooray for him, but I don't think he should say that women wearing skirts make the world a better place.

Nzie said...

I'm sorry, PPS, if I've come off harshly you - I haven't and I'm sure none of the ladies here have assumed that you are controlling or disrespectful. You probably dashed off a general comment about what you think is attractive on a woman when you're out doing something social. Unfortunately, you stepped into a much broader issue without drawing a clear boundary. I didn't write my comment to chastise you, but to discuss why, expressed so generally, it bothered me, and to bring to light other considerations. In an in person conversation, we could have fleshed this out more without me coming at you in one big fell swoop.

Jessica, I'm down with that. :-)

Pearlmusic said...

I don't think any of us assumed any evil intentions or bad will of our Male Reader. I rather saw it as a (sort of extreme) counterpoint to some trend which is not very tasteful. Sure, we can make the world a better place through our appearance (e.g. through striving to be classy in our own, personal style, hiding flaws and modestly highlighting our beauties). But still, I have to agree with Sheila this is secondary and it will vary from person to person.
As for men's outfit: I generally dislike jewellery (an elegant watch or tie-pin is enough!), unless it's a medallion with Our Lady or a little Cross. But again, this is personal. My ex-date would wear necklaces and I had never bothered with them at all until we broke up, actually ;-) Sometimes it works this way.

Magdalena said...

Well, life without jeans would be a little difficult for me, if only because I would have to get used to a completely new style of dressing. That said, I love wearing skirts as well. And I also think it would be a good thing if nudity went out of fashion permanently. But then, please, for both genders.
Dear young 14-20-year-old boys on my train to work, please, please put on trousers that fit. Although it is interesting to wonder how on earth your trousers stay up if their “waist”band dangles somewhere below your buttocks, I have to admit I really don’t care to see your underwear (or the place where your underwear should be). And I think skin-tight jeans (as the opposite) are even worse for you than they are for girls.

c'est la vie said...

But it's legitimate to argue that some styles of clothing for women can be objectively considered more noble (in the sense of raising the soul to higher things, to the contemplation of beauty).

Nzie said...

I just think that's an awful lot to put on clothes. If the clothing is modest, then the person has met any moral obligations with regards to wearing them.

The purpose of clothes is to cover our bodies - both for modesty's sake and to protect from the elements/environs. On top of that, they should be appropriate to the setting, and ideally flatter the wearer. It's really hard to separate the clothes from the wearer emotionally, too, and also, a lot of women can't afford nice clothes, or to go to places where they can wear them.

When we put so much on the clothes, we lose the people. Yes, beauty can lift our souls, and yes, someone looking her best can have that effect. But when we vest so much of our assessment of beauty into the clothes, it's easy to obscure the real beauty. Can we please take some of the idea of "it's just coffee" and apply it here? Once we've met the "appropriate to the setting" and modesty threshold, we ought to just chill out.

Jam said...

I dress in a notably "civilized" way and yet I still end up being bored by young men at "young adult mixers" who go on and on about how sensible the church's sexual teaching is. So evidently knee-length tweed skirts and cardigans inflame male passions so, that they are actually extremely immodest. 0:)

Stellamaris said...

Gah! This brings us to the modesty debate, which I detest. If it's really hot, I'm going to wear spaghetti straps or halter dress. If I'm at the gym, I'm going to wear sweatpants. If it's a formal evening, I may wear a strapless, or something lowcut. Shock! Shoulders! legs! Learn to deal with it guys. They're everywhere.
While I agree that you have to be more careful and conservative at church and at work, I'm turned off by someone who thinks I'm 100% responsible at all times for the sake of his poor beleagered purity of thought.

Seraphic said...

In fairness to PPS, his purity of thought does not seem to be an issue. I suspect he just wants to look at pretty girls and elegant old ladies dressed prettily or elegantly .

Julia said...

Re: leggings, are we referring to the leggings-as-trousers look (which I loathe and despise) or wearing leggings under an already modest/classy skirt or dress? I can't see a problem with the latter, so I just want to clarify.

Belfry Bat said...

Hoping you all found something to delight in this day of the arrival of the Astronomical Equinox, when the Polar axis twists across the Terminator; and am happy to report that over the Low Skyline No-one Anywhere Could Confuse for Italian, somewhat south of Wordsworth Ontario, there is a beautiful sunset shaping up under the edge of low clouds. Easter is just a Moon away!

I'm a great fan of dressing for the occasion, whether the occasion be jogging or post-Missal doughnuts; on the other hand, I can't see jogging being a suitable singles mixer event.

c'est la vie said...

Nzie, I agree totally with what you said about the two key functions of clothing--comfort and decency. But by "noble" I meant to imply that these styles of clothing would emphasize the beauty and dignity of the wearer in a way that says "I am a person, and not just a body." I didn't mean so much designer clothes, or trying to look like a movie star. And the clothes that say that for each individual will be different, so no one can really make a rule-book about it.

I think it's a lot more about the spirit of the way you dress than about the actual pieces you wear... but I do think that everyone who makes an effort to dress appropriately and becomingly has a majorly positive impact on everyone who sees them, of both sexes. Clothing tells others how you feel about yourself, so it is important.

Could I compare it to good manners? Some people are diplomats and have to be aware of many finer points of etiquette that most of us don't need to worry about. But all of us should aspire to some form of good manners, and that spirit should pervade our way of life.

Thank you all for the discussion--I find it very enjoyable to learn about everyone's point of view!

Nzie said...

I completely agree with what you're getting at, c'est la vie, and think that it's important that our clothes present us as full persons. Where it gets sticky, and why I reacted to PPS' comment, is the particular rules. Full persons go to work, run errands, clean, exercise, etc. Too many times rules turn into ways to curtail women's full expression of who they are, although I'm certain no one here supports that. :-)

I like the manners comparison largely because manners are more situation-dependant than a blanket rule (not even the most regal person gives a flip which fork to use at a cook-out, right?).

Pearlmusic said...

Julia: BTW, I discovered a marvellous substitute for leggings-under-skirt version. Polar tights look almost like normal 80-100 den tights, but are warmed up by a thin polar layer on the inside. Love to wear them in winter!

Aquinas' Goose said...

"The clothes make the man" is a phrase for a reason, and the same applies to woman.

For soothe it doth seem that there has been unpleasant news--but news with which I must give the messenger due praise and (dare I say?) agreement.

"Uncivilized" well, I hate to say this, but denim--especially jeans--by definition IS uncivilized. Denim was developed to aid MINERS. Jeans worn while hiking makes perfect sense because hiking is an UNcivilized activity. Someone who is civilized is not in a primitive or savage state of condition (which both mining and hiking are, as pleasant as the latter is--likely as not due to its lack of civility) or are refined. Jeans are not refined. In fact, thus far every argument I've read in favor of jeans (with perhaps the exception of denim skirts) has just been further proof of them being uncivilized, unrefined.

And not to put too fine a point on it--and keep in mind, I say this as an American born and bred--but America is civilized by the hair of its chinny-chin-chin. We are country bumpkins. We managed to strike it rich after the Great War Pt. 2 and we've made a ton of money by exploiting our own poor and poorer stricken countries. We have heaps and heaps of high tech toys and "comforts" but toys and comforts don't make one civilized, merely infantile. (My harshness is due to the active "selling" of the American lifestyle overseas, a lifestyle that is destroying traditional cultures)

Also, PP2 was stating that if women wanted to Make The World More Beautiful. Pardon me for saying so, but I've never seen a woman who struck me as "beautiful" in jeans--unless I saw a portrait photograph and did not realize she was wearing jeans. PP2 is not expressing interest or suggestions in the comforts of work or cleaning the house or uncivilized activities, he is talking about being Beautiful. And he's not talking about Savage Beauty, but Refined (i.e. Civilized) Beauty.

Context, context, context. Don't get upset because he's using his language properly and has already limited the scope of his statement. Which is, again: women being beautiful in a refined, civilized setting.

Now for my own two cents concerning jeans: I've had the misfortune to discover that almost all fashion is geared to women wearing jeans or some form of pants in the US. I almost never find long skirts when I go clothes shopping, everyday dresses are extremely rare. The exception being "hippy" style clothes, but that is not the impression I want to give my students.

Shiraz said...

I'm fairly sue that Nzie thoroughly covered my point of view on this. Suffice it to say I can understand saying that, say, skin tight jeggings or acid wash are ugly/unacceptable. But saying that women ought not to wear trousers in general? That's just silly (and I am someone who wears skirts and dresses the vast majority of the time). But there are times and places when you just want to be comfortable. And there are plenty of trousers that are perfectly flattering - and more modest than a dress on a windy day!

On jeans: I have no problem with them, especially for doing outdoorsy things. I also think they can look nice for a more dressed-up occasion such as teaching or tutoring, provided that they are a very dark wash and worn with nice shoes and a blazer. But again, that is context-specific!

One last thing, your ink to the men who despise denim and trainers made me laugh, Seraphic. I know a few men who are involved in that sort of thing, and *do* tend to dress in a fairly tweedy manner. That said, I think that look is a bit less appropriate in hotter climes! The other thing is, some people in that sort of circle I've met via my friend drove me completely bonkers, and they also adopted personae to go with their outfits. And those personae were *invariably* Lords/Sir Whatever. This struck me as absurd playacting. (Also: look at old photographs. One did NOT have to be an aristocrat to wear well-fitting trousers and jackets.)

One last rant: mean of America: please stop wearing jeans with white New Balance sneakers. This is not 1994, and you are not Jerry Seinfeld. And yes, that is purely a statement of my aesthetic taste :-)

OK, all done now. Have a happy and blessed Saturday, everyone!

Jessica said...

Yes, but "civilized" itself is a highly questionable term, which historically has often meant "white anglo-saxon protestant culture" or more generally "people who think like/look/act like me." People who have been commonly called "uncivilized" include Irish, Scottish, Polish, and Catholics more generally. (Apparently you'd add miners and hikers to the list.) On the other hand, many people nowadays would call access to birth control civilized. It's a word with a very flexible definition, to the point where it almost has no meaning.

I fail to see the inherent immorality of denim, or even the inherent morality of "being civilized." And PPS' claim that ladies not wearing denim would make the world a "better" place seemed to me to be grounded in morality, seeing as on this page we generally use worse/better/bad/good in a moral sense.

sciencegirl said...

I prefer to shop for dresses online because I can sift through all the skirt lengths to find the ones that will fit me and be appropriate for church. I've found it much easier to find appropriate dresses than to find good blouses or tops, and I dislike the way cotton blouses crease as soon as I sit down, so most of my dressy stuff consists of knee-length knit dresses.

The truth is, my job is not very physical, and I could wear a dress to work every day with no real trouble, but I feel uncomfortable dressing in a pretty or beautiful manner without an excuse such as teaching a class, going to Sunday Mass, or going on a date. I would rather blend in with what most of the other people at my workplace are wearing. Jeans/longsleeve Tshirts are bland and practical, but I feel a bit safer in them than in the more beautiful, expressive clothing that I wear for special occasions. When I started wearing dresses, guys started paying more attention to me, sometimes crossing the street to ask for my number or whatever, and though I found it flattering, it was also something I didn't want to have to deal with on a daily basis. It may sound crazy, because so much of our culture is built around selling beauty, but most of the time I just want to look presentable and forgettable. Note, I was not being sexually harassed or threatened -- when I dress up, I have only ever received polite compliments by elderly ladies, young and old men, other professional women, etc. However, I only like that kind of attention sometimes, and usually just want to go through my day with no personal comments whatsoever (except from the compliments I get from my boyfriend; I like those). When I was younger, if I had had an invisibility cloak, I would have worn it every day. Jeans and a tshirt work almost as well on a college campus.

I thought the original commenter's thoughts were reasonable and well-expressed, but I suspect he does not know just how many women purposely avoid dressing their best on most days. The issue is not that NCGs think they are their most gorgeous in their bland, practical clothing, but that many of us feel nervous about dressing beautifully on a daily basis. I do not know how that could be ameliorated, or if it even should, but lists of beautiful clothing will not be sufficient to effect a change.

Bernadette said...


.."But while clothes can express femininity, they are not themselves femininity, and when men vest the idea of femininity in the accoutrements rather than in valuing the woman herself, they come off controlling. I'm certain that was not PPS' intention, but such specific "rules" and calling obeying them "civilized" is not particularly respectful of women." (Nzie)...

The general attitude of women in north america (and perhaps Europe, I don't know..) in regards to dress and clothing has been channeled and formed in the wrong attitude. Before the 20th century, women did everything in floor length skirts and beautiful dresses, hats, gloves, etc. Yes I wear my jeans for shooting and hiking and bonfires etc up in the great white north, as someone mentioned earlier, however I do not do so because "I don't care what men think". And this is also not to say that all men despise women in jeans. On the contrary, the men in my life quite enjoy seeing me in my jeans, plaid, and boots, firing my SKS. But if we go out to dinner, I know they enjoy seeing me in a skirt and cute heals.

"But while clothes can express femininity, they are not themselves femininity". ....I contradict this, and say that what is on the body reflects what is in the soul. If we are striving to be good Christian women, we should strive to have all things in our life match what we are working at in our soul. Feminine clothing expresses the feminine intellect and heart.

Also, to give attention and care to what good Christian men in our life appreciate in regards to our clothing shows that we love and respect them, and want to live our lives lovingly along with theirs.

I think all this is along the lines of what PPS was trying to get across to us.

As this is a "Sinlge's" blog, instead of taking the defensive side, we should try to see the positive elements in the men's comments. PPS was supporting and encouraging us to dress in a feminine becoming manner, which will also help us to behave as such.

The men in my life like to point out that women often think certain things are attractive, when in reality men will often think the opposite. Therefore I think it is extremely effective if women take note on what they hear men (good, Christian gentlemen, that is) think is attractive, and strive to dress as such. That's not to say don't dress with your own flare, but take into consideration what the men around you might appreciate, instead of focusing on what YOU think is best for you at all times. The feminist attitude of wanting your own comforts before those of our brothers is a degrading one, and in fact far less respectful of women then the world would have us think.

I love that this blog is now open to the men!! We can help each other in so many ways!!

Julia said...

Pearlmusic, actually I wear tights/stockings under skirts in winter (rather than leggings), so my question was sort of academic I guess. But okay, polar tights sound good! People think Australia is hot all the time. IT ISN'T. Especially not Melbourne. One of my Torontonian friends says that Melbourne winter feels colder than Toronto winter due to the bitter wind here. Argh. I hate it.

"And there are plenty of trousers that are perfectly flattering - and more modest than a dress on a windy day!"

Shiraz, I've thought that too. See above point about wind in Melbourne.

Julia said...

Sorry to appear here yet again, but can someone shed some light on this for me?

I've got the impression that the whole 'Chap/Young Fogey' thing features a lot of pipe-smoking. Why???????? That stuff indirectly killed my dziadek, and before it did it rendered him an invalid by way of multiple strokes, meaning that I never really knew him.

I'm all for harkening back to the beauties of a bygone era, but pipes? Really? Is it simply a way of 'sticking it to the man' and rejecting 21st century smoking-intolerant culture?

Antigone in NYC said...

Yes, but "civilized" itself is a highly questionable term, which historically has often meant "white anglo-saxon protestant culture" or more generally "people who think like/look/act like me."


About twelve years ago I was once traveling with my parents through a sparsely populated reservation in the Southwest. We stopped at a local church and decided to peek inside. There was a mass happening that evening and the church was beginning to fill up--the congregation was fully Indian and we were the only white people in attendance. My mother and I got to chatting with a nice older couple on their way inside, who were delighted to learn that we were fellow Catholics and invited us to stay for the service.

"I don't know--I'm not really dressed appropriately for mass in these jeans, " I answered. An awkward moment ensued, during which I realized that this very nice man and his wife were both wearing dusty jeans. His wife also wore a jean shirt. Every single man, woman, and child kneeling in the pews and entering the church were wearing jeans with plaid or jean shirts.

The couple had the civilized grace to reply with nothing more than a somewhat pinched assurance that I would be fine. I felt mortified. I still feel mortified.

I compare my remark in some ways to the indignant confusion of a group of American teenage girls I years later witnessed being told they could not enter a cathedral on a tour in the Dominican Republic in their shorts and swimming tops. In both cases, there was a lack of situational awareness and respect to a community in which one was merely a passing visitor, and an unexamined assumption of the universality of one's own cultural standards.

Fast forward to my life today. In my parish, jeans are worn by many in the congregation, and I often wear them, too. In my industry I can wear jeans to work and often on dates. And I know for a fact that men have found me attractive in them. ;) I kind of prefer men in jeans myself.

Jessica said...

"Before the 20th century, women did everything in floor length skirts and beautiful dresses, hats, gloves, etc."
See, that's...just not true. Long skirts/dresses? probably yes. Beautiful dresses, hats and gloves? Not the case for the majority of women throughout history.


Nzie said...

Jessica has aptly said what I would regarding Euro/Westrocentrism.

I appreciate the ideal you're espousing, Bernadette, but I stand by my earlier comments: that's a too-limited view of femininity, and too much to put on clothing. In my view, as I stated above, if someone is not dressing immorally through immodesty (or some other way, such as vanity), they may be hurting their chances socially or romantically, but they're not failing at womanhood.

Sophie Miriam said...

Seraphic, I got engaged in early December. I'm sure my fiance would know the date, but I am not good with such things. The 4th, maybe?

Aquinas' Goose said...

"Civilized" use for WASP culture is very recent, and historically it is the Civilized states that have come under heavy moral critique, not the Barbaric states, if "barbaric" is even an appropriate term since it does mean "The Other" rather than "UNcivilized." And it is not a moral term; if people have recently taken to using 'civil' as a moral term they are a) abusing the language and b) ignorant of the long literary tradition of 'the devil in disguise.'

As someone who is Not a member of WASP culture I find it's minority overdetermination upon language to be rather disgruntling.

Finally, I believe we can also rest assured that PPS is not using 'civilized' as a code word for 'immoral' because I do not believe Seraphic would allow that kind of duck talk to occur in her blog post without directing our attention to it.

The opposite of "Civilized" is "Country Bumpkin." And, yes, I do include my favorite past times of hiking, kayaking, and backpacking (in true wilderness) as uncivilized activities. Civilized activities include ballet, opera, and going to the symphony. Neither are indicative of my soul's moral state of being.

Finally, if the term "civilized" or "civilization" was so empty of meaning the use of it as a comparative term it would not insult those being called "uncivilized," instead we are all too aware of the meaning of the term which is why the perversion of its use in propaganda raises so much ire.

Woodbine said...

There has to be room for style, no? And by style I don't mean just the conspicuously vintage aesthetic favoured by The Chap Magazine crowd, but the broader range of looks that constitutes good taste. I think it's completely possible for a man or woman to look sharp in the right pair of jeans, including in a professional or urban setting. They may have been the limited to miners and labourers in the early 20th century, but they've evolved a bit since!
I think it is very limiting to discuss clothing through the lens of what is modest and what isn't (or even what is feminine and what isn't - those standards shift through history). The most important factors for me are taste - as in: am I wearing clothes that I like, that actually feel like me? - and whether they suit the situation. I find a sort of "classy casual" wardrobe of slim-cut trousers and cardigans covers most of the bases.

Seraphic said...

Julie, pipe smoking is part of it, but the only Young Fogeys I know who chain-smoke pipes would be chain-smoking ciggies anyway.

The impression I get from most Young Fogeys is that pipe-appreciation is akin to wine-appreciation and beer-appropriation, and the idea is not to smoke yourself into emphysema but to appreciate the flavours of different tobaccos and the draws of different kinds of pipes.

The average life span for Polish men in 2007 was 70.5 years, and I imagine it was even shorter 20 years ago. That may have something to do with Polish driving habits, mind you, not just the ciggies and the staggering drink-fests at weddings, etc.

Young Fogeys in general seem to be more interested, really, in their clothes, hair and accessories than in pipes, really. See "The Young Fogey's Handbook" if you can find it in the library. It's from the 1980s, but it most definitely still applies.

Seraphic said...

I wish PPS could be bothered to reply, but he probably can't, so I will say I don't THINK he conflates "civilized" with "moral". And he certainly is not thinking WASP when he says "civilized", as he does not have a single drop of WASPy blood and possibly thinks civilizational decline began with Martin Luther.

Julia said...

Seraphic, there's a book called 'The Young Fogey's Handbook'?? Wow, I shall have to find it.

Thanks for clarifying that. I hasten to add that my exposure to Young Fogeyism is pretty much limited to, well, this blog and the ideas on it. In Australia, Young Fogeyism is not really a trend (as far as I know), and none of the NCBs I know are into it (maybe they're not even aware of it). All the Young Fogey clothes seem thick, heavy and warm - i.e., impractical for the climate in most parts of Australia for most of the year. Maybe that's why it's not really a thing here.

In the end, on balance, I agree with Polish Pretend Son (even as I sit here in dark jeans). Now let me take a deep breath and proceed with caution (and I say this as someone of Polish ancestry)...Polish people, and others in the region, can sound a little...abrupt and blunt when speaking English. It's sort of just the way they are. I've heard it a lot. They usually don't mean to be offensive, but English-speakers can't tell, so misunderstandings arise. So I feel that it's PPS' tone rather than the content of what he said that has riled some readers up.