Friday, August 20, 2010

Workin' Femme

I just took a practical inventory of my wardrobe, making many decisions about what I want to wear to my new job this fall, what can be repurposed, and what can be donated. This recession seems like a good time to donate clothing given that many donation centers are urging the public to send more goods their way.

In my work breaks I’ve taken to browsing online selections of women’s clothing – mostly just to see what’s out there in terms of trends this fall. I’m also trying to be careful about the pieces I buy; from my inventory I’ve learned that I have many skirts I still love to wear but no “working” tops to match. I’m using the term “working” in calculated avoidance of “work-appropriate” because the very notion of “appropriateness” is a) subjective and b) used to uphold sexist, racist, classist expectations about so-called professional settings.

Through my searches and shops I’ve learned that grey is the new black, ruff is the new puff, and tatts are the new tits on the streets of Brooklyn:

1. Three of the dresses I just bought (and love) are all grey. Grey is not my favourite colour, but the style (and affordable price!) of all three dresses just couldn’t be resisted. I deliberated for a long time over the second and third grey dresses, but justified them by convincing myself that I’ve never hesitated to own multiple items in black so why not grey? That said, what is with all the grey dresses out there? The great thing is that I can pair these dresses with different styles and colours of tights/cardigans to give each a unique look. We’ll see what happens.

2. Someone, please bring back the slightly puffed-sleeves on dress shirts! I’m not over this yet. It adds such a wonderful feminine detail to boring button-downs, but apparently ruffle is the new puff. There are ruffles pouring out of collars, rippling over bust-lines, trimming sleeves… I’m not a fan, perhaps because the ruffles I’m seeing are over the top (so to speak). I tried to broaden my horizons and try on a few. I looked clown-y, pirate-like (not that there’s anything wrong with the latter). Worse yet, the over-zealous ruffles made my head look very disproportionately small. Please, how do you wear these tops? I’m baffled but I’m going to stay open to this look. In the meantime, I want lady tuxedo shirts back!

3. I’ve been searching for “summer sweaters”: short-sleeved cardies and boleros. A lot of it has to do with the unwanted, unwarranted attention I keep getting on the streets, and in many instances this has come in the form of comments about my tattoos. My desire to cover them is deeply complicated; I don’t mean to suggested that we should have to adapt and resign ourselves to those who gross-ify the streets. And even with my tattoos covered I’ve noticed a lot of this bullshit continues to happen. I think I’m just overwhelmed right now trying to get my bearings in a new city, and the “hey baby let me see your tatts” bullcrap disrupts my efforts.

Of course there are a million other things I could do, and covering up is not really an answer. In fact, “covering” to deflect attention in many ways undermines the feminist beliefs I’ve come to hold PARTICULARLY as someone who has felt conflicted about my Muslim upbringing and the countless veiling debates I’ve encountered. Ultimately, to argue that covering my skin will help ward off sexist remarks and general assholery is also to argue that it is my skin that solicits the sexist asshole’s gaze. I know this argument is untrue; it misplaces responsibility and excuses the ones who should own up. But if boleros do indeed offer me any reprieve, perhaps the best I can do is remain mindful of what’s “under” it?


Amy said...

I stole part of this for my work FB page!! LOVE it!

Amy said...

...I also agree about the freaking ruffles!!! it is clownlike!!!

And, I really appreciate your comments about covering tattoos as a means to avoid sexist encounters...I don't really have anything to add; i just think you're right on.

Anonymous said...

I love lady tuxedo shirts. Missing you like my milk money.

Bad Hands said...

ooohhhh! great tatoo!