Gendered clothing - grrr.(206 Posts)
Not a new subject, I know, but I've been suffering delayed irritation due to listening to a professional mansplainer on the subject (I was a at a party full of women. He seemed to imagine we would all gather round to hear his views, and it was Very Tedious). However, his basic point was that women have it so much better than men, as men's clothing is so very boring, whereas women can wear whatever they like and no one minds.
A youngish woman pointed out, quite politely, that women's clothing is generally more expensive and poorer quality, and obviously knew what she was talking about as she makes her own clothes. And she pointed out that this also applies to so-called 'gender neutral' clothing that women wear, such as jeans or shirts - so it isn't, in fact, gender neutral at all.
I've just thought about that again as a friend posted about seeing small girls dressed in skirts struggling to enjoy soft play.
Now, I know these things are choices. You can certainly dress girl children in 'boy' clothes. You can also be an adult woman who wears men's clothing, and I know plenty of women who do. There were several women in the room at this party who were patently doing so. But it got me wondering why this bloke just assumed that it was 'easy' for women to wear men's clothes, but totally unthinkable for him to do the same? I know that a man wearing a skirt will probably get funny looks - but actually, so will a woman in a suit and tie.
We seem to have accepted that it is shockingly transgressive for a man to wear anything belonging to the other gender, and I wonder if that actually belittles the amount of flack I think women and girls do still get for doing exactly the same?
I agree with him. Women have a far greater choice.
I'm not sure where you live where women wearing masculine clothing is seen as odd. I haven't often seen women wearing a suit and tie , but it does happen.I have worn a black tailored dinner suit and bow tie as evening wear , with a shirt and cuff links. It looked exactly the same as my husband's dinner suit. I got lots of compliments on it.
I was on a site visit with 2 of my female assistants yesterday- both were in jeans, plain sweat shirts,desert boots and Barbour jackets. Why would they get flak for wearing exactly the same that a male assistant would have worn?
As for being more expensive, a half way decent business suit will cost considerably more than a halfway decent office dress or skirt. A plain black dress from Primark is fine - a cheap suit from Primark screams cheap suit.
But do women have a greater choice, really?
If where you live it is odd for women to wear men's suits and ties (not just a suit and tie - ones bought from the menswear department), then surely, that demonstrates that women are not exercising greater choice, doesn't it?
Though, I would appreciate a sneaky rec for your dinner suit - that sounds very stylish and I know someone who would love to be able to buy men's clothing, but tends to find it doesn't fit her. If that's you too, could you pass on where you got it?
I think it needs to be mentioned that it didn't just happen that women can wear more unisex/mens clothing (and I would say that if women don't wear the 'feminised' version of mens stuff - fitted t-shirts/jeans/shirts/hoodies, then people do consider them scruffy) - women forced society to let them.
Land girls in trousers etc. all scandalous at the time, but women kept pushing until it was normal.
Men are perfectly at liberty to do the same - like those train drivers who were told they couldn't wear shorts, so wore skirts instead - people would soon get used to it.
I agree with him to. I notice it in the office most.
I think all clothing should be socially acceptable on either gender.
I think men should have as much right to wear heels, make up and dresses, as women have to wear suits/trousers and as much or as little make up that they like.
Women had to fight to wear trousers etc. not that long ago in our history.
In my group of friends, men and women wear very similar clothes, have similar hair cuts, we are a quite androgynous group I think. Apart from the boobs, you might not be able to tell!
I like it like that, I like being able to wear what the hell I want, I think it's a shame men don't get the same freedom. When they do express an interest (I have seen it many times on here) they are automatically assumed to either a)be doing it for a fetish type sexual kick or b) trying to "ape" women. The exact same arguements that were used against women wanting to wear trousers.
Sure some men might fall into those catergories, but what if they just want to wear something different?
Maybe there would be less hand wringing about trans issues (and less sex cahnges?) if men were "allowed" to wear whatever the hell they wanted as well.
Oh I can't get into the dinner suit now ! I got it in Laura Ashey. It was a suit cut for a woman but it looked like a dinner suit when worn. Mens' suits are cut for mens' bodies- why would you buy a suit cut for a different body type?
I used to wear a very strict black tailored skirt suit with a tie with a white shirt borrowed from my husband- in theory we had the same chest size but the sleeves were too long , the collar was too big and it was too tight over my bum. The same chest size bought from Pink's women's section fitted perfectly- it looked exactly the same but fitted a female body shape.
As far as fashion goes women do have a lot more acceptable styles at their disposal than men do but I'd forgo wearing a blazer if it meant equality in other areas. Seems to me like you're conflating a few arguments. It just seems more practical for toddlers to wear leggings or similar in a setting such as soft play. A pair of jeans from Armani will most likely cost more than a pair of jeans from Primark - but that's just common sense tbh nothing gendered about it.
Ah. I see where I've miscommunicated.
lass, I was actually talking about men wearing women's clothes and women wearing men's clothes.
Not women wearing women's clothes. I know women often wear clothes that, historically, would have been only for men, as green points out. And I agree with her that it's significant and important that women did fight to get to wear those clothes. But it wasn't exactly what I was getting at.
I'm thinking about the exact equivalents - this bloke was talking about how men are stigmatized for wearing women's clothes, which I think is true. But I think you (and others) are talking about women wearing women's clothes, rather than women wearing men's clothes, aren't you?
When it comes to office wear, I think that again it's not so simple - back when women were allowed to work in offices, they were required to look nice while doing so - it still hangs over, receptionists are supposed to be presentable, waitress uniforms are often a darn site more fitted and revealing than waiters etc.
I'm just old enough that some of the places I worked when I was younger had dress codes for men and women - the mens fitted on 2 lines, the women's even specified when I was allowed to stop wearing tights in summer, along with all the other requirements.
adrenaline - YY, guilty as charged, I am conflating issues.
I guess what I wondered is, how is it that we go from little girls (or some little girls and by no means all) being put into clothes that disadvantage them, to adult women choosing clothing from a wide range of styles, which all tend to cost more than the men's equivalents?
I know an expensive suit is, well, expensive. But, I think broadly it's true that men's clothes cost less, especially when you factor in cost-per-wear.
Crikey, green. That's some dress code!
I guess what I wondered is, how is it that we go from little girls (or some little girls and by no means all) being put into clothes that disadvantage them, to adult women choosing clothing from a wide range of styles, which all tend to cost more than the men's equivalents
Part of it is, imo, the need that some parents feel to make sure their little girl is "gendered" correctly when out in public. Babies and toddlers all look roughly the same, no distinguishing features that mark them as male/female, so I think some people worry about their DD being confused for a boy. (hence those flowery head bands for little babies)
But mens' clothes which are cut for mens' bodies don't on the whole fit womens' bodies. In the very brief period when I wore jeans I did buy mens Levis and they fitted but on the whole body types make differy cut clothes necessary.
The shirt I mentioned for example- husband's shirt simply did not fit me. We both had chest 34 but my waist would have been 24, his was probably about 28 , my hips would have been 34/36 his would probably have been around 28. The sleeves on his shirt were far too long for me.
You could not possibly have one formal , tailored shirt which fitted both of us.
A friend of mine with a dd had a conversation along these lines with her DM.
DM was horrified that toddler dd was wearing jeans and t shirts "but how will people know she's a girl?"
Friend "Um, why does it matter?"
lass - precisely!
bad - that's hilarious, in a bad way. But yes, it does seem to bother people hugely. And yet, we then end up with a situation for adults where we're constantly being told that women can wear 'anything' ... except, 'anything' means 'anything, but made for women, usually less well and costing more'.
Aren't we being sold a bill of goods?
If all men drove Mercs and all women drove Ford Cortinas and Renault Clios, you wouldn't say women had more choice just because the Cortinas were souped up to look like Mercs.
And btw I am wearing mens trousers right now! They came off the mens rack, but because of the style, they fit me perfectly.
Me and DP share hoodies/trousers/t shirts and shirts.
I like that they are looser, don't see why womens versions of these things are always fitted tighter, I know I have a figure, I don't see why everyone else needs to know!
bad - sorry, I didn't mean to imply there's never any physical similarity. I know some men have figures that fit 'women's' clothing and some women can easily wear 'men's' clothing. But broadly, lass is right that often, it's no easier an option for women to cross-dress than it is for men.
Robin I know, I did laugh when she told me, but equally felt sad that people think like that!
And yet, we then end up with a situation for adults where we're constantly being told that women can wear 'anything' ... except, 'anything' means 'anything, but made for women, usually less well and costing more'.
Which is why I buy mens stuff a lot. Maybe it's the style of clothes I wear but I have never had a problem, but then I quite like flappy sleeves on hoodies etc!
I agree with you OP. Also lots of the nice things that women can wear e.g. summer dresses require us to shave/wax our body hair. Plus, with such a big range of clothing available (skirts and dresses and skinny trousers) women usually need lots of different types of footwear.
I rarely bother waxing my legs/armpits and can't afford multiple pairs of shoes so I don't actually wear a big range of clothes.
I think if this guy had to do all the shaving and waxing and trying on multiple pairs of uncomfortable shoes, he would stop complaining about his limited choice of clothes!
I can see it could be the style, bad. Your post is making me think, and actually I do notice that some styles of clothing just lend themselves far more to crossover. But (and excuse me if I'm saying the wrong thing), I think there's an economic and even social component to that. A hoodie is not 'smart' gear, nor is a T shirt - and both are often sold fairly cheaply. By contrast, something like a suit, tends to be much more 'gendered', doesn't it?
I wonder if this reflects the idea that it's most important to make men and women visible (and economically ...) different when there's a lot of money or prestige at stake? Just as I know some parents who will let their girls wear boys' clothes to play in or get muddy, but would expect a 'feminine' dress for a formal event?
Well, penguin, I could have made that argument but as I was being your stereotypical hairy-legged feminist at the time (I'm terrible at shaving and was wearing a dress), he might have got confused.
I agree, broadly, though. And that expectation about what women ought to do alongside the clothes they wear carries through to the size of your wardrobe, doesn't it? A man could own far fewer suits than a woman owns office dresses, and styles of suit go out of fashion far more slowly.
Talking at x purposes here I think!
* it's no easier an option for women to cross-dress than it is for men.*
I think this is mainly correct actually. I do think what lass said about women in mens clothes come across as scruffy, hence the female versions of things. But I don't worry about stuff like that, so I guess I'm not good at getting my head around why other people do IYSWIM?
Penguins sorry to be yet another hairy feminist but this...
Also lots of the nice things that women can wear e.g. summer dresses require us to shave/wax our body hair. isn't necessary to me!
I wear shorts and vests and haven't shaved in years!
Sorry, I'm being slow - could you explain?
Join the discussion
Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.Register now
Already registered with Mumsnet? Log in to leave your comment or alternatively, sign in with Facebook or Google.
Please login first.