A few days ago, a co-worker told me that his wife was going out that evening with her friends for a “girls night out”. He shook his head as he commented that he didn’t understand why they always got all dressed up “just to have dinner together.” I just laughed and said “Silly boy, women dress up for other women, not for men!”
And let’s admit it – it’s true. We worry far more about the opinions of our female friends than our men when it comes to fashion, don’t you think?
Even back in high school, we watched the girls’ magazines to determine how to dress. Why? Because we wanted to fit in with what was “cool” at the moment. My favorite outfit ever (sadly, no pictures) was an outfit that featured crushed robin’s egg blue velvet hot pants and a creamy satin top, with a long, hip-length velvet vest to match. It was a dressy outfit (seriously!), and I wore it with cream-colored lace stockings, off-white sandals, and a long, swinging necklace. I was groovy in that outfit, let me tell you! And while my boyfriend (Ken – what a sweet kid) may have appreciated the hemline, he surely didn’t care about the time I’d taken in color-coordinating the ensemble. For example, he didn’t care, or even know, that it was “robin’s egg blue”, but my girlfriends did.
If we really dressed for men, we’d still be wearing hot pants and mini-skirts today. They never would have let us stray into midi-skirts, and then to the 80’s “office girl” attire of plaid skirts and blouses with bows under our chins. Did we then turn to those “Dynasty”-inspired suits with football player shoulder pads for the opinion of men? I doubt they were impressed.
Even in those “meat market” bars of our single days, where we admittedly dressed with a particular goal in mind….when we weren’t checking out the guys, we were checking out the other women and assessing the competition.
Of course, I know that the correct response to who women should dress for is to say that we should dress for ourselves. Bunk. Yes, comfort is important, and more so as we grow older, but still…. The days I “dress for myself” (baggy pants, rumpled loose shirt, baseball cap, old sneakers) are the days I’m mortified to run into someone I know at the grocery store. My mortification is proof that I’m not really dressing for myself after all.
No, women follow the fashion trends because we want the acknowledgement of other women. When a man comments on fashion, it’s usually no more than a “nice dress”, or the ever-generic “you look nice.” But when our fellow women notice an outfit, we get far more detailed feedback: “That color looks great on you!”, “Pretty blouse – is that silk?”; “I love that outfit – is it new?”, and our favorite – “Fabulous! Where did you find that?” Why is that the favorite? Because it allows us to display our shopping prowess among our peers. Very similar to the guys bragging about how they beat par on the country club’s toughest hole – the story has to be told with a bit of bravado.
My husband scolded me once for telling another woman that my dress, which she admired, had been found, tags still on, at the church rummage sale for $5.00. After she gasped and praised me, we giggled together over for my great bargain. But Hubby thought I should have told her I found it at an expensive department store for far more money, as if there were shame in buying something on sale.
I tried to explain to him that, unlike a man’s preoccupation with how much they spent, women honor bargain-hunting skills. She admired that red polka dot dress far more because I’d found such a bargain with it. “Can you believe I found this on the sale rack at Macy’s for 80% off?” “Oh, you like these slacks? I got them at Kohl’s for 8 bucks!” When we get a great buy, we’re not only seen as fashionable by our women friends, but we’re also seen as wise shoppers. Skilled hunters, if you will.
To be clear here – I’m not saying that every morning I stand in angst, trying to decide which outfit I should wear to impress women at the office. Good grief, I barely have my eyes open in the morning, much less being able to function at that kind of level. No. I’ve made my purchases, and have a closet full (over-flowing actually, with two sizes of everything, but I digress….) of clothing that I know meets the standards of acceptable fashion. So I guess I really am dressing for myself at that point, but that’s because I’ve already selected the clothes based on the women I see in fashion magazines and on TV. I’m not a clothes-horse, but I have enough style to get by. I don’t fret about what other women wear, but I notice.
Of course we dress up for “girls night out”! We fuss over our clothes, our shoes, our purses. We check our hair and make-up, too. We may do the same for dinner with our husbands, but they see it as us “looking nice”. Our friends observe us as a complete package – “Oh, my God, where did you get that bag?”; “Did you just get your hair colored? It looks great!”; “Those shoes look fabulous with that dress! Are they the ones you got on sale last week?”
Somehow putting this in writing makes it sound just a little shallow, but it’s not. It’s reassuring to us to know that we have our “woman” act together, even after all these years. That’s empowering. It’s good to know that we’ve got each other’s backs (while we covet each other’s handbags). Thanks, girls!