Unlike men who claim to look at Playboy magazine “for the articles,” I really do look at fashion magazines for the pictures, not the articles. Some of the articles in fashion magazines are interesting, especially those that address women’s social and health issues around the world. But the majority are not. They are the same superficial interviews with superficial celebrities, the same 10 ways to trim your thighs and figure out what your man (or partner) is thinking. Enough already.
I do enjoy looking at clothes, however, both in magazines and in stores. Even though I buy fewer and fewer the older I get and don’t need many for a simple, work-at-home lifestyle, I still enjoy the fantasies that these costumes evoke. As with enjoying a painting, or a sculpture, or a tree or a flower, I appreciate the mixture/interplay of colors, fabrics, forms, textures. As with enjoying a movie or a play, I can transport myself into the lives they portray – jet setter, businesswoman, rock star, cowgirl, surfer, artist, Palm Springs or Palm Beach socialite.
Then I can return to my more plainly dressed life with a sense of relief and appreciation. I don’t have to walk through airports or down hallways in 6-inch heels. I don’t have to retrofit myself into a 50s style sheath dress with a girdle underneath. (Today called body shaper or Spanx, but still a girdle.)
I’m not sure I understand why today’s successful businesswomen have adopted the tight, sleeveless sheath dress and high heels as their uniform. In the 1970s, we fought for the right to hold certain jobs, but also to be able to dress comfortably. Granted, some of the polyester pantsuits of the 70s were less than appealing and the wide-shouldered power suits of the 80s were over the top, but at least we were able to move freely. And I remember going to many parties wearing flowing pants and tunics that were attractive, feminine, sexy, and comfortable! When I look at women today in dresses out of Mad Men, I have a hard time breathing and my toes hurt.
Are women dressing this way to impress each other, or to impress men? Are they trying to project a sexy image so as not to threaten others with their increasing power? Most men I know, while enjoying sexuality and an attractively dressed woman, would rather walk stride-in-stride with a partner or friend who can keep up with them than one who minces along.
And the day I see men sitting around a conference table in sleeveless tops beside women in sleeveless tops (bare arms, chest showing) will be the day I know we’re playing on the same level. But the fact that tanks on men are called wife beaters might cancel this out.
What I enjoy seeing on women (and men) and what I take away from fashion photos is the fun of expressing individualty, creativity, imagination, freedom. Even though I like certain looks more than others, I think we should be able to dress the way we want. I admire those who are brave enough to dress in costume. In the writing world, I know many like this, showing up at a reading one night looking like a 40s movie actor and the following week like a punk rocker. Wearing a long skirt with a military jacket one day and gold lame jeans and boots the next.
These brave dressers don’t pay attention to the fashion rules that set age limits or admonish against this or that for certain seasons of the year or of life. Nor do they squeeze themselves into modern-day corsets and crippling footwear. Like me, they pull on a lot – or a bit – of fantasy with their clothes in the morning and then walk quickly out the door without looking back.
2 thoughts on “Is It a Mad Men World?”
Linda, In the 30+ years since we met, I have yet to see you dressed plainly! That word conjures up images of drab, boring colors and dreaded frumpy-comfy clothes that so many people envision us work-at-home writers wearing. No, no, no! You have always dressed smartly and imaginatively, with an artistic eye for colors that accentuate your great hair and complexion. To be able to select styles and accessories that add interest, yet don’t shout loudly over who you are or are blare age inappropriate messages shows a self possession I wish more women had.
But back to the fascination with fashion magazine fantasy. Aside from edgy designs, I agree with you and share the enjoyment. Yeah. Forget the dumb articles. The photography itself is inspiring, a well-deserved vacation from reality. A glossy $5 or $6 travel ticket to an hour or two into that realm of creativity can provide just the right kind of recharge.
Oh — when you were describing wife beater tank shirts, I was thinking back to the Seventies. Remember the guys wearing the wide open shirts with gleaming chains? It was as if they were proclaiming their manhood in the face of the female “invasion” into the business world, while we battened up the goods with high necklines, low heels and boxy suits. Now, it’s reversed. Guys wear what would then have been considered boring or worse, and nobody bats an eye at gals immodestly revealing (and reveling in) their gender differences with plunging necklines, curves and stiletto boots. Lately I started thinking . . Maybe the 6″ heels and the figure smoothing spandex underthings say, “We have arrived. We aren’t going away. We can get away with it — and you can’t” Like, it’s some new status statement. Just sayin’
Linda –You are right on the mark! The older I get, the easier it is to pick out an outfit for the day. I am less self-conscious about how I look and feel truly free to be me.