Monday, December 09, 2013

Mama's Rules for Dressing Well

"One might say that the measure of women's liberation is any culture is at least partly indicated by whether or not they wear shoes that allow them to walk freely!" Rosemary Radford Ruether, Sexism and God-Talk, 176.

One might, but one probably ought not to go much beyond that, and certainly shouldn't suggest that a feminist in high heels is like Dawkins in a rosary.

I have some basic rules for dress for myself and my daughters, and they go pretty much like this:

1) Anything you wear shouldn't hurt any part of your body.
2) What you wear should keep you warm (or cool) enough.
3) What you wear should let you do what you plan to do in it (that is, be functional and appropriate to the specific occasion).
4) You should feel good about what you're wearing.

These rules are a work in progress. As my bright-shining brilliant, beautiful oldest continues to, well, get older (dang it!) I keep revisiting these basic guidelines--gauging whether or not she is following them…and whether I am, too. She's great at it--as, I think, most kids would be, if we encouraged them to think of dress and clothing in these ways. Me, not so much; I have some unlearning to do, still, especially about #4. (Not too long ago, I recall, I went on a brief FB rant about the evils of pleated pants, because I wasn't #4ing very well that day.)

But I'm getting better, and it's pretty awesome to have a 7-year-old role model to learn from.

But none of these rules mean I won't be wearing my incredible hand-knitted (yes: this is me, bragging about my knitting skillz) lace stockings and vintage heels.

The last time I put on a pair of heels for a fancy dinner out, my husband teased me about it. Then Clare, hypocrisy radar bleeping, joined in: "you shouldn't be wearing ouchie shoes!"

Yes, I get it. I worked for a few years in an orthopedic shoe store and I am a proponent of comfy shoes. I tell people all the time that putting the investment in for really good shoes is worth it. And day in, day out, I still wear the shoes that I bought years ago on employee discount from my fabulous boss at the Princeton Foot Solutions store (hi Linda! muah!).

I don't put anything on that hurts. If I can't walk in it or dance in it, what's the point? You can't look fancy or feel fabulous if you're hobbling across a room wondering why the hell your table is in the farthest corner.

But most often, I wear heels for a couple hours at a time in a context where there's more sitting than walking, and when the point is to be extravagantly, flagrantly fabulous. Maybe even (gasp!) sexy…which for me, like a lot of women brought up in the kind of purity/modesty culture of American conservative Christianity, is a reclamation of our bodies and their goodness.

My anniversary comes up in a few days and you can bet I'll be rocking some #feministheels and showing my daughter that Mama can be fancy as well as sensible, sexy as well as grubby, fun as well as hardworking. And that when it comes to Dressing Well, it's about feeling good in your body, and accomplishing what you set out to accomplish--be that dazzling your students with a philosophy lecture or dazzling your spouse at an anniversary dinner.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Good list, although I'll forever be an advocate for dressing well. Choose what goes with your body type, skin color, hair color, eye color, and height. Then you'll really feel good about how you look.