After a conversation Emma and I had over Skype last week, I've been thinking a lot about man-repelling, and how I am so very good at it.
My newest purchase, sure to cause some man-repelling when I return state-side
I went out this weekend with my friends, and wearing my new crazyboots and my signature flowy cardigan (it matches nearly everything and it's easy to wash club-nastiness out of), my friends as usual commented, "Liz, you look too classy. Look at you in your boots and your clutch. Who are you?"
"I feel like those boots are something a really kooky 40 year old mom would own."
"I dress like a women's studies professor, I know." I said.
"That is the best thing I've ever heard."
Let me back up. The term "man-repelling" that I am using here comes from the hilarious blog, The Man Repeller. As defined by the Man Repeller herself, Leandra Medine, man-repelling is:
outfitting oneself in a sartorially offensive way that will result in repelling members of the opposite sex. Such garments include but are not limited to harem pants, boyfriend jeans, overalls (see: human repelling), shoulder pads, full length jumpsuits, jewelry that resembles violent weaponry and clogs.
–verb (used without object),-pell·ing, -pell·ed.
So... I've been reading this blog for a little while, after I was linked to it on the Bust blogs. And while the stuff that's usually on the blog is way more outlandish (and expensive) than the repertoire in my wardrobe, talking to Emma last week about our inclinations toward man-repelling items made me realize... I am a true man-repeller.
I mean, other than having been told by several men that I am intimidating and occasionally emasculating, my fashion tendencies often cause confusion for man-brains.
Example 1: I like neon. I love neon.
A couple years ago Last year at Christmas, my dad gave everyone in the family wind-up flashlights, all in normal silver color. However, there were two neon yellow ones. I was of course, excited, and also greedy, and as he'd asked me to hand them out, I was trying to figure out a way for me to end up with one of the neon flashlights. Thankfully, I was saved from being devious on Christmas when he said, "And the bright yellow ones are for my daughters, who have such an affinity toward neon." Yes!! Score!
Example 2: I love retro stuff. This is a love that started early for me, and in 8th grade, my friend Sarah and I, in true fashion of future man-repellers, went to our eighth grade semi-formal wearing 80s bridesmaid dresses. We were inspired by Romey & Michelle's High School Reunion, a movie featuring 2 fabulous man repellers. Since then, collecting strange and impractical vintage outfits has been a hobby of mine.
on a snow day, my man-repeller roommate (but not really because she has a boyfriend, she's a secret M-R) and I decided to not do homework and instead have a photo shoot of us in man-repelling outfits
This gem is a southern belle dress I found in Texas. I wore it to my friend's birthday tea-party. The tea kind, not the conservative kind.
I wore vintage to prom senior year... obviously.
Example 3: My love of fashionable denim. I think this one really confuses men. Man-brains see denim and think: Cowboys! Working on the farm! Levi's! But since denim has been re-reincorporated into high fashion, they are not sure what to do.
me, a fashion monster.
I love the Man Repeller blog for many reasons.
1.) Obviously, I relate.
2.) Leandra points out all the ridiculousness of high fashion. It's somewhat of a love-hate relationship. You can look fabulous(or fabulously WEIRD), but that likely means your clothing is a form of contraceptive.
3.) After pointing out how ridiculous and man-repelling these outfits are, there's often a picture of Leandra in a similar outfit.
And finally, besides pointing out the fallacies of high fashion, I like that the blog implicitly brings up the interesting question: Who should women be dressing for?
As I am a normal American type girl, I have grown up reading fashion magazines (GL, YM, Seventeen, Teen Vogue, Elle Girl, Cosmo Girl, Teen, Vogue, Elle) and have gleaned various things about the ways that magazines want me to dress. YM, Seventeen, and GL generally feature(/featured, YM no longer exists) affordable clothing, while Vogue, Elle and their teen version counterparts tend to feature more outlandish (man repelling?) high fashion outfits out of reach for most teenagers living off of babysitting money.
Being the natural man-repeller I am, I always tended to like the more unattainable or outlandish outfits in Elle and Vogue than the Hollister/Abercrombie type things in the mainstream teen magazines. (And often tried to emulate the outlandish outfits as best and cheaply I could.)
However, I did read these things cover to cover a long time ago, and the mainstream magazines are very intent on selling a certain image of what a girl should look/act like. (I always had such a problem with the quizzes... stuff like, "Is he a flirt or a friend?" Partly because they're dumb, but also partly because I rarely had an answer that fit one of the choices.) Not just through clothing, but through dating advice, health advice, and beauty advice, the messages were pretty clear. Teen girls should act like this, wear that, and buy those. For purporting to be magazines about teen girls, these kinds of magazines spend a lot of time on consumerism and boys.
Anyway, back to the question. Who should girls dress for? Well, first of all, I'd like to point out that boys certainly don't dress for girls. If that were true, they'd all be wearing suits. (Fun fact: half the reason girls sign up for Model UN in high school is that you get to meet boys from other schools and everyone has to wear "Western Business Attire." AKA suits. Okay maybe that was only true for me and my friends... but I bet it's true for others as well.) Or dressing like Ralph Lauren Models.
Hm. Now I'm distracted. Where was I? Anyway, this is a feminist question ... OBVIOUSLY... since it brings in all sorts of social conditioning. What about girls who like girls? What about people whose personal styles don't mesh with teen magazines? What about girls who can only afford to shop at Walmart? The correct answer is that we should be dressing to like, keep from exposing ourselves in public. I don't wanna be nekkid. And then beyond that, it's my opinion that clothing is a form of expression, and if you are dressing for a person in particular (male or female) or because a magazine told you to dress a certain way, you're misrepresenting yourself.
"Man-Repelling" outfits are fun, but sure to cause confusion. Wearing a mini skirt and boots might not man-repel (unless you have a particularly man-repelling personality... as I do). Personally, I think I'm in between. While I occasionally like to be a subject of the male gaze (in Ecuador I tend to not... because the male-gaze here is really creepy and aggressive about it), I do enjoy my patterned boots and sequined dresses and denim jumpers and belts that don't actually hold clothing up. I love my big plastic jewelry and wooden earrings shaped like animals and really impractical high heels in really impractical colors. All of those things are FUN. Whatever I'm wearing, I usually feel good in it, so it doesn't really matter to me who's being attracted or repelled by it.