Thursday, December 03, 2009

Dressing for women, dressing for men?

Yesterday I met up with Tejal to treat her to belated birthday drinks.

We went to the bar/restaurant in our building. It's nice but totally easy comfortable. We treat it as our living room - most likely because we used to spend way too much time there.

We arrived at the same time, and complimented each other with "You look great!"s.

To which I responded, "I wore my new top and put on makeup and perfume for you!"

And she replied, "I freshened my makeup and put on heels for you!"

Not because either of us would judge the other, but because it was a little occasion. And not because we might impress other patrons. I mean, it was 3:30 in the afternoon, the place was nearly empty, and anyway, I had Big J and a diaper bag with me.

I started thinking about this later, though. If I were single, would I have dressed differently? Would I have given thought to men I might meet while we were out?

And on the whole, do I dress for women or men?

I know this is not an original question.

Women often contend they dress for other women. Men tend to be sceptical of this. I don't know that most men would even consider the question for themselves. If any men are reading, I'd be interested to hear.

I think if I'd given this any thought prior to marriage and baby, I probably would've said that I dress for other women.

I mean, women will notice color and texture and fabulous accessories. Men, on the whole, notice if your ass looks good in those pants. Women compliment you on your shoes. They notice flats just as much as heels.

Have you ever been shoe shopping with a man? And every shoe he suggests has a highhigh heel? No matter what kind of shoe you're looking for? Men are never all, "What cute ballet flats!"

But I don't tend to wear flats. I love the platforms. I love the heels. I contend that this is because I'm short, and I love the height. But do I also like that men like them?


So thinking about it, though, I most likely used to dress for men when I went out. I probably still do, as I tend to wear clothing Nick likes when we're going out.

But I have my own mind and my own taste, and I like wearing funky things - things that women tend to like more than men, and when I'm out and about, I'm not trying to attract men.

In other words, I'm not sure.


  1. Speaking as a bisexual woman....I am even less sure! I would say usually women, though--both for attention and in the way you mean it. The only time I consider men is when I'm dressing to go to hockey and trying to present a jock "I don't give a shit about clothes" image. haha

  2. this is kinda tough! i think im a little bit of both. like you, i wear heels a lot when im out with my boyfriend because i know he digs them. but i also find myself really thinking hard as im looking through my closet before dinner and drinks with the girls, wondering what would be the "best" option.

  3. I have the most unusual husband in the world. When I go shoe shopping, I'm the one looking at the high heels that I know I won't be able to stand up in for more than half an hour, and he's the one standing at a different display holding up the ballet flats saying, "What about these? These are cute! I really like ballet flats on you!" Swear to god. Those words have actually come out of his mouth. I love him so... :)

  4. I totally keep both in mind. For example, I'll wear a particular pair of jeans because it does great things for my, erm, assets, but I'll wear heels because I think they're adorable (men seem less pleased when I wear heels, possibly because I wind up being 4-5 inches taller than they are, on average).

    Also, I always keep in mind that one should show legs OR decolletage, but not both - and that is clearly not a rule made up by a man.

  5. I'd say the answer is all of the above: you dress for women, men, and you, with variations according to occasion. Like so many other things, it's a question of context. I would guess, though, that women dress for other women more than for men, but mostly for themselves (not that these are mutually exclusive.

    There is a Venn diagram for this, and I'm almost nerdy enough to try and draw it. Almost

    Men dress such that they hope women swoon, but will settle for a general lack of pointing and laughing, and/or covering of eyes. Probably the only rule I know all that well is the whole belt-shoes thing, and beyond that it's a crapshoot. Which is why I spend most of my non-work time in jeans...

  6. I'm not sure either! I dress based on my mood, I think. Sometimes I dress younger than I feel, other times to feel prettier than I feel brushing my teeth in the morning...if I have an important meeting and a want a little boost of confidence I wear something which has received compliments (usually from husband or friends) or I love the way it feels (cashmere) so I feel good. I love shoes - flats, boots, heels, platform, you-name-it so the shoe selection is less for me and more for the audience. If I want to feel grown-up and like a lady, I wear heels.

  7. i dress for my ObGyn. i work from home, i live in a new city where i know exactly ZERO people that don't sleep in the same bed with me, and my ObGyn happens to LOVE fashion. so i carefully choose what to wear when i go it.
    i hardly ever get to really dress up and go anywhere anymore but when i do (if i'm not dressing for my ObGyn) i'd have to say i'm probably dressing for men. i'm going through an "i'm-old-married-unattractive" phase right now so it helps if i think guys are looking at me.
    what can i say?!

  8. As a man, I dress for work so that I look professional. On the weekend, I dress so that I am not nekkid or cold. I don't think much about my clothes, and I am fortunate to have a loving wife who married me even though I can look like I got dressed by taking the top item out of each drawer. Which I did and that I have done since I began dressing myself.

  9. Caroline - Now that is quite interesting to think about...I wonder if you find women attracted to you in different outfits than men?

    brookem - I suppose that this is probably the norm - figuring out who is going to appreciate what the most.

    Karen - That is really, really cute. I doubt Nick knows the term "ballet flats." Nothing against him, but he is so not into clothing, just knows what he likes.

    Dagny - Do you know how delighted I'd be if I could be taller than men in heels? (I mean me in the heels, not the men.) I'd totally feel empowered.

    And yes, such a good point. So not a man's rule.

    Brian - Like so many times, you've summed it up concisely. It's a question of context.

    As for your description of how men dress themselves, you totally made me laugh.

    HKW - You are so cute! I think, though it didn't occur to me to put it this way, that I too wear heels to feel grown-up and like a lady.

    notsojenny - This first sentence caught me off guard and made me laugh out loud.

    As for the dressing for men because you're feeling unattractive, I completely understand that. I hate that random male attention is helpful, but sometimes it is.

    Amateur de Fromage - You sound like a very practical man who values his wife. I'm sure she loves you dearly.

  10. i used to just dress for myself unless i went on a date with my boyfriend. but these days, i'm single, so i've been trying to be more stylish. i think the basic pieces i wear i pick with men in mind (like the tight jeans, or the short skirt), but i accessorize for women and myself in mind. guys seem to just notice the overall outfit while women seem to notice the details. shoes though...while heels are better looking, i can't wear them everyday. shoes i pick according to my personal mood =P

  11. I definitely think it's both... and it totally depends on the situation. Nowadays I definitely lean more to the "for women" side, though- being in a relationship definitely slants that, at least for me.

  12. I'm with HKW. I dress in what makes me feel confident more often than not. I want to look good but by both standards (sexy and chic.) I notice, the husband will tell me "that's a nice dress" if it's form fitting. The female friend will say "what an interesting necklace, is it an antique?"

  13. As I've never seen you looking an inch short of fabulous, I am no help here. I will say, however, that I appreciate women who dress deliberately, whether their doing it non-matching chromosomal types like me, or for other women doesn't really matter to me.


Tell me about it.