To be fair, I have spent my fair share of weekend nights out with a best friend or pack of ladies, all of us dressed like hookers and doing outrageous things to attract the attention of the general public. Being an American 20-something in 2013, this is practically a female developmental stage. An activity we fit in to our calendars between our college coursework or after 40 hours of our first ‘real’ jobs. I think of this behavior as a sort of extension of the dress-up games we played as little girls, before we really understood the power of stilettos and halter-tops. Essentially what we are doing is role-playing. We are figuring out who we are and what we like by trying on various personalities via our wardrobes, or the slutty wardrobes of our closest friends.
The bonding ritual of young women getting dressed for a night out with their ladies has undeniable resonance. The bad music, the terrible make-up advice, the pre-drinking… Most of us do this at least a few times, and many of us do it on a schedule for many of our formidable adult years. It is like a confidence building exercise, the preening and grooming of each other as four of us smash into a tiny bathroom to assess our sartorial choices. As a group, we won’t leave until we all feel like we look our best, and like our friends approve of how we look. But we all want to feel like the prettiest, the sexiest, the one who is both universally loved by her group, while being the beacon that will attract the best male specimens wherever our drinking takes us. This is how we all want to feel before we squeeze into a taxi and head out. It’s a straight-girl cliché you see everywhere from college campuses to romantic comedies. I have absolutely no problem with it.
What does bother me, and this may be because I am finally approaching the big 3-0, is the way we dress ourselves in these initial adult years. Having been a real live adult woman for over 10 years now, having lived in cities all across the USA, I can tell you a secret hypocritical phenomenon that almost every woman I have been friends with has enacted, myself included. We (nearly) all bitch about being objectified or about the social-pressure to be thin and pretty and then turn around and pour ourselves into mini-skirts and backless tops and revel in the intoxicating sensation of feeling sexy in public. Now, there is nothing wrong with feeling this sensual. In fact, almost any guy will tell you that one of the most attractive things a woman can do is feel sexy. But there are so many better ways to feel alluring than to strap on 5-inch Lucite heels and a top that requires a bra made out of stickers. Of course, college and perhaps the entire decade of your 20’s are all about making grievous fashion and social errors that haunt you for the rest of your life in photographs. But I believe that we can make perfectly good fashion mistakes with a little more dignity and class, and that our entire generation, and the ones that follow, will benefit from taking a few steps back on the sexy scale. It’s a lot easier to feel good about yourself and the people you hang with if you can put a little distance between your desire to be considered gorgeous and the immediate solution of the cleavage-and-camel-toe look.
Now, I’m no prude, and I am not suggesting that all women go home and burn their tube tops and daisy dukes. What I am saying is that maybe we shouldn’t be wearing them together. A tube top looks great with an ankle length skirt and heels, and with some fabulous hair and eyeliner, you get to look and feel stunning with out showing the world all your girly bits. The daisy dukes? I have them, will wear them, love them… But with an entire tee shirt, or cuffed button down, and would never wear them to anyplace nice. Showcasing a single part of your naughty self can be fun, playful, and stylish. Let’s be those things instead of aspiring to look like the unfortunate woman who cannot discern between a long shirt and a short dress. If we want to feel good about ourselves in a culture insistent upon selling us the idea that we can never be skinny enough or sexy enough, then we need to not only need to stand up to these messages with our words, we need to literally show the world that we will not embody the idea’s being pushed on us by reality television. Further, we need to support our lady friends and help each other make better fashion choices. I hope for a future where we do not judge our worth, and that of our besties, by the slutty pictures we tag each other in online.
After all, isn’t it hard enough to be a young woman already? With politicians trying to regulate our reproductive choices, wages that still don’t match our male counterparts (in 2013!!), the pressure to look perfect at every moment, to be the right thing/part/person to everyone we know; why would we want to compound our difficulties by cowing to the cultural concept that youth should be displayed publicly as sexual? We need to redefine ‘sexy’ instead of throwing ourselves into someone else’s definition. We need to be happy enough with who and what we are that we stand out for being ourselves and for being comfortable with who we are, or at least who we are becoming. How a culture chooses to adorn itself says a lot about what that society values. I want us to value ourselves and other young women more. We are a precious commodity; we are going to make the future happen. That future would look so much brighter if it didn’t have thong panties peeking out of the back of our skinny jeans. Add a little mystery to your ensemble. Dress to impress, not to show off. Always remember that we are worth more than our fantastic exteriors suggest, even if we don’t always feel that way.