Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Feminist fashion advice

Pretty Lady went to an Academic Conference yesterday evening! The thrill! She has not been on a college campus since...well, never you mind. Obviously she must be old and fuddy-duddy and Out Of Date, for she could not begin to parse the outfits that these up-and-coming young ladies were wearing.

That is, until she imagined the existence of some theoretical boxes in the attic, marked 'Office Temp Clothing: 1982-1987,' hearkened upon by a mob of creative but penurious youngsters. Then it all made sense.

Darlings. Pretty Lady recalls, does she ever, some of the more egregious ensembles she used to assemble, while larking about on campus. She once went through an entire day of classes with a teardrop painted on her cheek in blue eyeliner. She regularly donned tattered men's suit jackets, purchased from the Salvation Army, over antique beaded sweaters with holes in them, tattered jeans, and those strange black lace-up leather shoes that were All The Rage, way back when. She has worn pink Converse All-Star Hi-tops with pale blue long johns, purple plaid skirt, oversized black T-shirt, and a yellow hand-me-down sweater three sizes too big. Pretty Lady knows all about Looking Like a Fool in Public.

She must say, however, that even retro-ironic, bargain-basement, anti-fashion fashion statements have a few ironclad rules. And you young ladies are breaking them.

You may, of course, thumb your noses at Pretty Lady, quite properly. "What care we for your Patriarchal Aesthetic!" you shout. "We do not care to look Attractive. We are uninterested in your hidebound Rules of Proportion. We are Serious, yet Carefree. We do our own thing. Pretty Lady, by contrast, is bound hand and foot by the Dominant Paradigm, and does not appreciate our efforts to liberate her. How boring."

To which Pretty Lady replies: very well. These arguments have merit. Pretty Lady must respect them. However, when you wish to make a powerful impression in venues of import, do not come weeping to Pretty Lady when you are either Utterly Ignored, or Viciously Mocked, because you look like a dweeb or a clown. Pretty Lady herself believes in harnessing every tool at her disposal, when challenging patriarchies, and she does not herself feel that she can afford to cast aside her primary weapon of creative rebellion--her insouciant armor, her judiciously bohemian fashion sense. Ignore her at your peril. You will learn soon enough.

So, in case any of you are secretly intrigued, Pretty Lady will post these rules, and you may read them when all the other feminists are out rallying about something or other.

1) Balance your ironic tensions.

For every strong aesthetic statement, there must be an equally weighty element in opposition to it. One wears garden-party floral sundresses with combat boots. Tattered, holey jeans must be accompanied by excessively flashy costume jewelry. Street-thug wool stocking caps may only be worn over a mop of riotously curly hair.

If you persist in over-balancing your aesthetic, you run the risk of random viewers missing the irony entirely, and believing that you are, indeed, a slightly deranged escapee from a temp agency in Dallas. Thus you may never wear floral polyester dresses with opaque white stockings and pointy-toed flats, or periwinkle pull-over sweaters with striped Oxford shirts buttoned up to your chin.

And white sneakers are never, ever, ever appropriate, unless you are actually running.

2) Only one unnatural bulge per outfit.

One must be aware of one's silhouette at all times while dressing. A single cancerous lump interrupting the expected hourglass trajectory may be passed off as daring, dynamic and provocative. Two or three, and your figure ceases to register as human. To a young lady who is primarily concerned with avoiding street harassment, this may be seen as a distinct advantage; Pretty Lady reminds you, however, that when one is making the political point that Women Are People Too, it greatly assists one's cause to actually look like one.

Thus, lumpy leggings are splendid; lumpy leggings paired with flared miniskirt, high heels, bulky scarf, and excessively bulgy 80's-retro padded jacket, not so much.

3) Color, color, color.

You may get away with nearly any combination of colors, prints, and fabrics, as long as the manner in which they are assembled conform, metaphorically, to the above standards. But do not be a complete dweeb about it. Head-to-toe black with brown shoes is egregious. Head-to-toe fade-into-the-woodwork blue gives Pretty Lady hideous seventh-grade flashbacks. Head-to-toe red looks like you are trying too hard. Head-to-toe featureless drab with wool stocking cap and no hair looks like you are auditioning for the role of street person.

4) Moderation on the make-up.

A moment of aghast silence, please. Hell has, in fact, frozen over. Pretty Lady has turned into her own mother.

But heavens, it's true. Too much, and you look like a prostitute. Too little, coupled with Option D: Head-to-toe Drab, and you look like you would genuinely, truly prefer not to exist at all, and have only shown up in the flesh in order to confer about the best manner of escaping it.

You may proceed with the Public Flagellation, now.


Anonymous said...

"judiciously bohemian"

Between that pairing, and the nitrous at the dentist's, today has been a GREAT day!

Pretty Lady said...

It is a measure of how far gone Pretty Lady is, in her career bohemianism, that she did not give this juxtaposition a second, or even first, thought. Pretty Lady breathes judicious bohemianism.

Chris C. said...

LOL!! I LOVE this!

Pretty Lady, this post has given me the single good reason to have bothered struggling through one of the more confoundingly distressing days of my life. Please congratulate yourself!


Pretty Lady said...

Ah. This evening's David Dubal quote on 'Reflections From the Keyboard' went something like, "Do not seek to amaze or amuse, simply be yourself." I did so, in fear and trembling, and now I see this has already had positive effects far beyond my anticipation. I am not self-congratulatory, merely humbly grateful.

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Anonymous said...

Beautiful. And so true. Our own beloved college is about a 50/50 mix of Greeks and artsy types. Problem is, the artsy types are all what I call "white belt hipsters", all tight t-shirts on emaciated emo boys and $100 Urban Outfitters punk skirts. Everyone is trying so hard to look like they don't give a crap. Oh well, at least it helps balance out the color-coordinated pastel flocks of sorostitutes. Although I must say, at least the sorostitutes don't look like a Goodwill bin vomited all over them.
As for me, I have the fashion sense of a blowfish, so I often get accused of being Goth, simply because I don't have to worry about clashing when most of my wardrobe is black.