Who do you dress for?

I was out for dinner the other night with a friend and fellow fashion fan. Inevitably, after exhausting the few other topics that were on the menu (where to eat, how we were, our jobs, any gossip) we got on to the fallback topic of any friends, nay, or anyone anywhere - sex and fashion. They go hand in hand, don't they? You generally measure a dress by how much it shows, or how little, and there's just something about a man in a suit (case in point - Matthew McConaughey in the The One Gentleman advert, normally a don't but in that suit? Totally a do...ish).
So you've got your beautiful woman in a flesh-flashing dress, and a hot man in a suit.
Ta-da! Beautiful celebrity couple 101.
Sure, in real life it doesn't work.
Ok, let's try it again.
Let's try the hipster crowd. We have weirdly cute girl in a cute dress, with strangely alluring rocker boy in skinny jeans.
There! See, it works. Much better.
Ok...polished goth girl with rocker goth boy.
This is getting silly. All I need is to post a picture of Don and Betty and we'll have come full circle.
But it's true - a girl dresses a certain way to attract a certain guy, and vice versa (she says, with Keira Knightley's Coco Mademoiselle ad on in the background, proving the point). Not only do you compliment the guy, or the girl, but you can assert your similarity, your total compatibility, to the world.
Except, of course, it isn't always that cut and dry. And because there's a tonne of variety out there. The utility look won't necessarily snag you a soldier, the hardcore babes in leather trousers won't always get themselves a nice Harley Davidson-driving dude, and the women dressed in camel won't bag themselves a 1930s explorer (unless they want one).
So who are we dressing for, then, if we're dressing slightly alternatively to the nice social stereotypes I've laid out?
My friend and I talked a bit about this, me asserting firmly that I dress for me and for no-one else. But obviously, by stating that, I'm in fact dressing for someone else. I'm dressing to make them form a certain opinion: that I dress for myself, am my own woman, and know what I want. If I wanted a Nate Archibald, I'd get hair extensions (as all the girls in Gossip Girl have long hair) and if I really wanted that indie boy I'd commit to brogues and tea dresses 24/7.
Except, of course, that's horribly stereotypical of the blokes too, isn't it? And because they can be attracted to more than one type of girl. Look at Brad Pitt (which incidentally I am - Mr and Mrs Smith is on, what a wellspring of inspiration the tv is providing tonight), who has a fabulous habit of evolving to look like every one of his girlfriends. There was that interesting platinum crop with Gwyneth, the All American Hero look with Jen, and, erm, the dodgy beard with Angelina? No-one said these rules were cut and dry.
But it's quite clear that as well as dressing with a certain style in mind, every day, I do dress to provoke a reaction, as we all do. I call it armour. When I mess up my hair, put on some fierce heels, excessive eye makeup and a lot of heavy duty black, I'm arming myself. When I play it softer in a little dress with minimal makeup, I'm soft. Fashion can allow you to be anything you want. You can dress yourself in the guise of the person you choose to be for the day.
And you can dress as the kind of girl that would be glanced at by the hot banker, by the cute rocker. The bookish hipster in the cardigan pouring over the free newspaper. The too-cool surfer dude wearing wooden beads in November. (Ok, maybe it's a bit cold for one of those). All the women wearing 50s A-line skirts are, I bet, also secretly crossing their fingers for a Don Draper to smile that easy smile at them.
Because, of course, there really is no such thing as dressing for yourself. And that's what makes it fun.
So who will I be tomorrow?


  1. I dress to repel. Yep, I admit it. I do dress for myself because I'm constantly dressed to repel all male attention (and it works!!...most days...), a la manrepeller dot com. So, taking that into account I am not dressing solely for myself but for the male gender or, more likely, against the male gender.

    Love this post!

  2. I hear you Hel. I have this weird double-thought process behind when I dress to kill, a combination of 'yes I'm fabulous and no I don't need you to validate me' and 'I deserve validation'. It's exhausting :P

  3. I love this post, and I couldn't agree more! Getting dressed is definitely a form of dressing up, I love deciding what 'look' to go for on any given day, I treat my make up like that too. 1 day, winged black eyeliner and nude lips, next day no eye make up and dark purple lippie. So much fun! :) xx


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