To bare, or not to bare? That is the question- well, it is when it comes to wearing stockings and suspenders, at least. Ever since last summer, with the rise of the underwear as outerwear trend, and since I first began to see pictures of the beautiful Miss Momsen rocking exposed stockings and suspenders on her endlessly long legs, I have been obsessed with the idea of wearing some myself. All last summer, I entertained visions of myself strutting the streets in a cream vintage slip, black stockings and an oversized parka, or hitting the town in heels, stockings and suspenders and an LBD, with my baggy leopard print vintage shirt thrown over the top. I have managed to wear mock-stocking tights a number of times, and did so that summer- although what I really want to do is strut out of my front door and off to to the shops in a pair of actual suspenders. Sigh. If only it were that easy.
Let me just tell you a little story detialing my daily walk to the train station. So, I'm walking down the road in my flat winter boots, black opaque tights and huge fur coat fastened up to my chin. As I round the corner, I see the work van belonging to the builders who are working on one of the houses parked along my route to the station. My stomach clenching with nerves and annoyance, I deliberately cross the road to avoid them, even though I am already on the side I need to be. I keep my eyes and head down so as not to draw additional attention to myself, but as I draw level with the builders, the inevitable wolf- whistling and cat-calling begins. The first time I walked past them, I got a leering grin and an 'alright love', which I returned with a polite, albeit embarrassed, smile. After that, I felt too self conscious to walk right past again, so I started crossing the road. Each time I get at least a whistle. The other day I got 'excuse me!' shouted out repeatedly, which I firmly ignored. Taylor Momsen gets hoards of screaming fans and paparazzi clamoring for a photograph as she walks along the street with her army of bodyguards. I get a whistle of approval from Bob the overweight, middle-aged builder. This is the sort of response I get when I am completely covered up in my winter gear. Now try to imagine the chaos I would stir up if I actually walked past wearing a mini skirt revealing supsenders and sheer, lace- topped stockings, a la Taylor. I'd be asking for it, right? But that's the thing- I'm not asking for it, and this leads me onto my next question: how much freedom do women actually have to dress the way that they want to?
This is something I have given a lot of thought to in recent months. As someone who dresses in what some would call an 'unusual' way, I inevitably tend to stand out from the crowd quite a bit. Especially around Orpington and Bromley, where I live, as opposed to in London where crazy fashion is more the norm. Having people stare at me for wearing attention-grabbing outfits and even bold makeup is something I've had to force myself to accept as part of expressing myself through my style. I think the time where I first began to really notice it was, surprisingly, in New York. I went to New York back in April for my 21st birthday, and began planning my looks months and months and months in advance. I was finally going to visit a place that I had adored and worshiped since I was sixteen, when I discovered Sex and the City. I was going to the HOME of Carrie Bradshaw. The playground of the Gossip Girl social elite. I was going to the city where dreams come true. I think it's safe to say that what I wore to the New York City was pretty damn important. I pulled out all the fashion stops- I scoured magazines for inspiration, visited Topshop.com on a daily basis and hunted through vintage shops to put together the most fun, fabulous outfits I could think of. When I got there, I spent two hours getting ready each morning, wore fake eyelashes everyday and honestly treated the streets like they were my catwalk. New York was my big date, and I wanted it to be impressed. However, I didn't exactly get the response I was hoping for. People actually stared open-mouthed as I stepped into cafes in my see-through black lace body with only a skimpy croptop underneath, deep plum lipstick and flamboyant floral headband. One woman in a supermarket stared fixedly at my legs for about five whole minutes when I was wearing my denim chambray body-con skirt and bow-print tights. I searched the streets for the Blair Waldorfs, Serena Van Der Woodsens and Jenny Humpfreys, but all I saw was a load of suits, jeans, T shirts and trainers. I was disappointed. To be honest, New York street style was nothing like I'd expected, and I stood out like a sore thumb. I did manage to find some really trendy shop owners and stall-holders, but they were confined to the safety of their thrift-stores and vintage street fairs. Unlike me, they were safe from the bewildered stares of passers-by on the streets.
Most of the stares I got were from men- and it's the same here. I stand there sometimes and watch as their eyes travel unashamedly up my legs in my short skirts, or oggle me square in the face, even when I stare right back at them. Seriously, did their mothers never teach them it was rude to stare? Don't get me wrong- it's not that I don't want people looking at me. I put alot of time and thought into my outfits and it's lovely when you get an admiring glance and a smile from a stranger. But it's the fact that no one ever SMILES. Even when I'm smiling at them (which I always do- it's polite to smile) they just stare back at me like I'm an alien from outter space (if the person is female) or someone that they are thinking very dirty things indeed about (if the person is a straight male). If ever I look at anyone to take in their outfit and they happen to catch me looking, I always, always smile. It's just a natural reaction. When I catch people looking at me and they continue to stare straight into my eyes without even the hint of a polite smile- I must admit- it totally freaks me out.
So, should we try to avoid this rude, blatant, open-mouthed staring by dressing in a less eye-catching manner, and more to the point, should we, as women, try to dress less provocatively in order to avoid unwanted leering from men, even if it means not being able to wear our favourite trends? In attempting to give out the signal that we are strong, confident women who dress how we damn well please, do we instead give out the signal that we crave sexual attention from men? What happens when the signals you are trying to give out to the world are totally misread? I don't want to be unfair to men here, and I do understand that men can't help but look at women they find sexually attractive on the street. It's natural. I even think sometimes it can be quite flattering. A little look and a smile, or even a 'you look beautiful' is actually a real confidence booster, and when that happens to me, I take it as a compliment. But when men cross the line by leering unpleasantly or repeatedly shouting things out or muttering vulgar comments to their friends as you walk by, it makes you feel really uncomfortable. When I was sixteen, a builder who was older then my dad and much, much fatter, stood and watched me as I approached him for what felt like an age, and then as I walked past, leaned towards me and growled 'you're fit.' I think it's safe to say that I didn't take that as a compliment.
Worse still, is the idea that women are 'asking for it' or are 'up for it' if they wear a revealing outfit. Or, as my ex- friend's boyfriend once convinced her, that women who wear skirts and dresses have 'no respect for themselves.' As a result, she only ever went out after that wearing jeans, when previously, she had been the most daring, fashion-forward person I knew. Now, I don't know about you, but someone who allows a man to dictate to them how they should dress seems to me to have a lot less respect for themselves than a girl who wears whatever she wants because that's what she likes. I'm not saying that every woman should wear revealing clothes, I'm just saying that women should have the freedom to wear whatever they like, without certain men assuming that they are desperate sluts who are up for a one-night-stand simply because they are showing a bit of leg. One thing I HATE when I come across it in womens' magazines, are those articles where they ask 'what do men think of they way we dress?' The article always comes to the conclusion that most men think extremes of fashion are weird, therefore we should avoid wacky trends at the cost of our boyfriends no longer finding us attractive. What do men think of the way we dress? Here's a thought- WHO CARES?? I want to wear stockings and suspenders because I think it looks edgy and cool. Also because I am a creative person who likes to have fun and experiment with clothes. Wearing suspenders would reflect a style that I like- therefore reflecting my personality, and that's why I want to wear them. Not because I want men to shout out 'oi oi' and ogle me like I'm a piece of meat.
This also begs the question of how accepting are people in general of fashion? Of course it depends where you are, but the answer, in most cases I think, is not very. But then here's another question: should we care? Having experienced this sort of bewilderment first hand for as long as I've been interested in fashion, I think it's safe to say that there are always going to be those people who just. don't. get it. For example, there are certain people who would never understand why I would never want to wear fake tan or get a sunbed. They just can't see that there is any other way to be attractive than that of being tanned. They think that there is only one way to be beautiful, whereas I disagree. I believe that beauty comes in many, many forms, and that you can be beautiful in so many unique, different ways, no matter what your skin colour/race/hairtype/bodyshape. Yes, girls with blonde hair, blue eyes, big busts and golden tans are beautiful (ie Blake Lively), but so are girls with bright red hair and milky white skin (ie Nicola Robers)- it's just a different type of beauty. But then again, there are also a lot of people who admire and appreciate the style choices of others, even if it's something they'd never wear themselves. It seems that acceptance is always the solution at the end of the day, folks. Once people stop judging each other in such a negative way and start to accept the fact that we are all different, the world will be a much better place.
So- in conclusion, no, I don't really care if some people out there don't like the way I dress. Not that it's a nice thought- after all, we all want people to like and accept us. But if you want to make a statement with your clothes, you will have to accept that not everyone will like the statement you are making. As Christina Aguilera once sang, 'I'm humanly unable to please everyone at the same time...I'm gonna carry on, I'm gonna keep on, singin' my song'. So, in light of Miss Aguilera's fantastic advice, I will keep on singing my song. Come summer, I will wear my stockings and my suspenders, and I will do it with my head held high...
Ok, so enough of the heavy stuff: Here're some pics to get you inspired:
Wearing mock-stocking tights again, this time with an amazing sparkly jumper dress. (I want this outfit.)
So many celebs were seen in THOSE famous Henri Holland tights (I've already gotten through two pairs).
Please leave your comments and let me know your responses to my article- I'd love to hear your opinions on the subject! Thanks!
Love and kisses,
The Porcelain Princess xoxo