About three weeks ago I found myself reading a column in Jezebel that made me extremely cross. Instead of putting the article away and staying in a good mood, I decided to finish the article and then tweeted it for examination and evisceration.
Just in case you wondered whether you had passed your mini skirt Use By Date, wonder no longer.
Below is a handy guide to make sure that you are always dressed conservatively and appropriately for your age.
I cannot help but wonder that anyone pronouncing that Helen Mirren is too old for a bikini is simply cultivating a fine crop of sour grapes.
Having a quick look down the Wear By list, I can see that I commit a number of fashion faux pas on a weekly basis.
Let us have a wee look at the outfit that I wore on Thursday last for Red & Black Week.
The mini skirt is out as I am well over 35 years old.
I am just about okay with the knee length boots. Woohoo.
Shame that I cannot wear my leather trousers or my leather shorts. There really should be a fetishists exemption for Age Appropriate Dress Codes. (Side Note: Perhaps there is a Fetishists Exemption as Elaine Davidson, the most pierced woman in the world got married last week – in a white wedding dress. No one dared say anything about her green face but there was a fair bit of snark about her boring husband. Elaine, from Brazil, first broke the piercing record in May 2000, when a Guinness World Records official examined her and found 462 piercings on various parts of her body, including 192 on her face alone . “People often just want to look at me or touch me – some even want to kiss me” she says. How boring can her husband be if he is in love with Elaine, really? )
The problem with what-to-wear articles and so-called dress codes in general is that the end result is not better dressed, happier people but conservatively dressed, self-censoring people. Outside the armed forces, dress codes other than those imposed to optimise a corporate brand image or to ensure compliance with safe work practices are imposed by people with their own issues trying to foist their appearance preferences on others.
This brings me neatly to the second article that upset me this weekend by Emma Soames in the Guardian. It was
regurgitated reprinted in the Sunday Life pull out section of the Sun Herald newspaper yesterday (12 June 2011).
Ms Soames takes the view that the culture of baby bump celebrity has gone too far and rather than sticking their bumps in the public eye, famous pregnant women should show a bit of decorum and cover up. She says:
Nothing sums up better the changing attitudes around women than the way they now handle themselves when pregnant. Now a bump is worn, nay flaunted, with pride. If my generation’s glass of body consciousness was near empty, this generation’s is brimming to overflow. Even when things get so extreme that the tummy button starts sticking out and balance becomes problematic, women take every opportunity to display their unborn cargo, quite often showing the duff in the buff – but still wearing stacked heels, naturally. Thanks to the tireless work of the paparazzi, we know that in private the famous resort, like the rest of us, to trousers with a kangaroo pouch and flats, but in public they adopt a bodycon look that even the most let-it-all-hang-out of vegan doulas might consider extreme.
Ms Soames had her baby 25 years ago and made sure to cover herself up watching with horror the “explosion of blue veins and cellulite”
on her “formerly slim body“.
This is feminine misogyny in its nastiest and more undiluted form. If we took Ms Soames argument to its logical conclusion we would have to return to the days of bump free yore including the 16th Century to the 20th Century (inclusive).
No doubt if you are someone who is experiencing fertility problems the over-sharing of fecund celebrities would cause you pain. To that extent it would be quite refreshing if the media did not hunt and record for posterity pregnant and post-partum women in the public eye. But to blame the celebrity women for playing to the paparazzi and keeping their earning opportunities open (the baby photos, the losing the baby weight exercise videos etc etc) is closing the door after the horse has shut the stable door and moved into the house with you.
At this stage I have a confession to make to you. I have been as guilty of body image bullying in the past as Ms Soames.
There had been a fair amount of brouhaha in the paper about Elle Macpherson wearing mini skirts to public events. Nedahl noted
Elle Macpherson wears a mini so fabulously it’d be a horrible shame for the general public if she stopped. There are other shots of Elle you’ll see in the gossip rags this week, honing in on her cellulite in this mini. But honestly, if you were getting your photo taken at 10 shots per second, I reckon your legs would look funny too. We can’t expect perfection all the time, but Elle, at 46, is fairly close. Someone like Janice Dickinson on the other hand, who’s 54 (isn’t it funny that all her plastic surgery made me think she was older) could perhaps put those legs away for once. But it’s all in the eye of the beholder.
Blanket rules for everyone in society just don’t work anymore. They’re far too generalizing and antiquated if you ask me. Isn’t it all about how you feel and the image you want to project?
From now on I am going to lay what I shall call the CocoleeFashion Filter over each and every snarky article a female columnist writes about the appearance of other women.
I shall be applying the same filter to myself because I have also made similar nasty comments about other women in my time. When Nedahl posted the same article on her blog I made some really uncharitable and unkind comments about Elle MacPherson (killer bod but time to cover your knees and cut your hair, Elle) Kylie Minogue (dressing younger now than twenty years ago) Michelle Pfeiffer (a wee bit dessicated round the decolletage). The only person that I said anything at all complimentary about was Michelle Obama (Toned, confident, killer smile & sharp as a razor to boot. In other words, don’t just rely on your looks, make sure that you on the whole package).
I am completely ashamed of myself for writing these things because I know exactly why I made them – at the time I was deeply unhappy and I was being bullied about my appearance by someone else, not a man but a woman.
That is the thing about bullying, it perpetuates itself and gathers momentum if it is not nipped in the bud.
As Anecdotal Anna noted in her post entitled the Fairy Tale of Sisterhood:
Political Parties do it, rock bands do it, business do it and sports teams too. To what am I referring? Bickering, conflict and generally being un-supportive of the collective to elevate the individual.
Are we really so devoid of self worth that the only way as women we can feel better is by belittling the appearance or clothing and lifestyle choices of other women?
Surely not. So the next time I look at someone and think about saying something negative about their appearance – I promise faithfully to apply the Coco Lee Fashion filter and try my utmost not to. I would urge you to join me. It might just save someone else from self-censoring and self-loathing.
Have you got any dress code pet peeves or any appearance control horror stories?
Black Jumper & Red Skating Kilt worn for Sophistique Noir Black & Red Week
Boots saved for the Shoeper Shoe Challenge #30 of 105.