Awesome Comment Award: Tsara on “Girl Clothes”

Reader tsara left the following comment on a post about the modesty doctrine and rape culture:

…seriously, guys actually think that women dress for them? What sort of thought processes do they imagine go into picking out clothing? For me it’s mostly

‘is this clean?’

‘does it more or less match’

‘will my mother say it makes me look like an old woman with too many cats’

‘would I get looked at funny for walking around the mall like this’

‘is it comfortable enough to wear all day’

‘is it situation-appropriate’

‘is it weather-appropriate’

‘does it reveal the fact that I haven’t shaved my armpits/legs in way too long’

‘is my hair going to get caught in the zipper/buttons’

‘is my bra visible through my shirt’

‘do my pants stay up without a belt’

‘do I flash people when I bend over’

‘where did that nice shirt go — why can I never find anything’

‘these pantyhose have a run in them — can’t wear a skirt’

‘this shirt is getting see-through — why are girl-clothes so flimsy’


Girl-clothes are complicated. I, personally, am not a particularly ‘on top of things’ sort of person and just getting dressed in appropriate clothes requires way too much thought to add the variable of ‘what will dudes think of me in this’. Mind you, I’m also asexual and things like that just don’t (usually) occur to me. I will think of ‘will this make people stare at me’, but sexual attraction-related thoughts tend to come somewhere after clothing-related doomsday scenarios.

Also, I will sometimes say ‘I give up’ and go with, I don’t know, sweatpants and a corset because I like sweatpants and I like corsets and I sometimes just don’t have the energy to think of everything. (Seventeen years of school uniforms, plus ADD and sporadic depression, in case you’re wondering.)

I think tsara makes an excellent point, and it’s one I plan to follow up on in some future posts. There seems to be a subset of men that assumes that women dress always and solely for the benefit of the men around them, and this seems to feed into both the idea that women are fair game for public consumption (think street harassment) and the idea that women should be dressing for men, but so as to avoid men’s attention and not vice versa (think the modesty doctrine).

So I have to ask. What goes through your head when you get dressed? What considerations do you weigh? Do you dress only for yourself, and when do you dress for others? And guys, how about you? A comparison might be interesting.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Ollecwolley

    I dress for myself, always. I’m a bit of a clotheshorse, and I usually care about looking my version of awesome (or, when I’m just going to Costco, at least matching). This isn’t to say that I won’t be flattered by a compliment on my clothes from someone else, male or female, or that I don’t sometimes enjoy understanding that men (my usual preference) like my appearance. But I can’t stress enough how much that is on the back-burner. If I’m in a favorite outfit that makes me feel and look good, I couldn’t care less who else is thinking what about it.

    • Karen

      I, too, am an enthusiastic clothes horse, although ay age 49 I have a hard time finding appropriate clothes as much as I’d like. Dressing is an art form to me; I don’t do it for anyone specifically.

  • formerHACgirl

    When I get dressed, I look at a few things:
    1.) Is this comfortable/weather appropriate?
    2.) Can I wear this all day without feeling embarrassed?
    3.) Is there any possible way that anyone can accuse me of looking/dressing like a tramp and/or trying to get men’s attention with my outfit?

    If the answers are yes, yes, and no, I wear it without another thought. I should mention that although mentally I have checked out of the patriarchy, physically I am still there for the forseeable future. Also, having worn only the Baptist Burka my entire life, I wouldn’t know how to put together a fashion-forward outfit if a how-to manuel bit me on the behind!

    Great post, this is certainly an issue that could use your fantastic way with words and incredible insight. I really enjoy your blog.

  • GemmaM

    I alternate between skirts and jeans, so my first thought is often either “Have I got tired of jeans yet?” or “Would I prefer jeans for a change?” Sometimes I “dress for men” because I work in a male-dominated environment and I’m conscious of how I may be viewed if I dress noticeably (short skirts are out; long skirts sometimes occasion comment too but if I had to stop wearing those, as well, that would just be too depressing for words). This then leads to “dressing for me” on weekends: no, that short skirt isn’t for you, it’s just me rejoicing in my freedom to wear it.

    I have been known to dress to sexually attract my boyfriend, if I’m in the mood for sex and I want a slow lead-in to it. But this is the exception rather than the rule. Most of the time, if I’m considering how men would view my clothes, it’s from a societal standpoint rather than a sexual one, and it’s under duress, because I wish I didn’t have to.

  • OurSally

    Firstly: is it comfortable. Also secondly, thirdly and fourthly. That includes keeping me warm or cool as appropriate, and not getting ogled at, and not shaming me when I pass a mirror. But then I’m a software person and jeans/shirt is normal. I suppose if I worked in a night club I would have to wear something else (one reason for not doing so).

    My brass band uniform is a dirndl, and rather fetching, I must say. When I put it on I twirl with pleasure in front of the mirror. I have been known to wear dresses at weddings. Evenings I might wear newer jeans, and a glittery shirt. I don’t own more than that.

    It bothers me a lot that my daughter wears low-cut and tight stuff. I hope it’s just a phase. In fact she says herself that’s just casual wear, at university or working she covers up because “they are supposed to be looking at my face”.

    • GemmaM

      To be fair, I used to wear a lot of low-cut and tight stuff when I was perhaps a little older than your daughter (after I had finished my bachelor’s degree, in fact), and it was part of developing a sexual identity for myself: trying on what it was like to be publicly viewed as sexual. I think it’s an important thing for many women to come to terms with. We get to understand that having a sexuality doesn’t make us less human, even as we grapple with the fact that some will see us as less human because of it. So I don’t think you should worry too much. It sounds like your daughter still knows she’s a person, so she’s probably not aiming to be treated like an object — she’s just figuring out how to have a sexuality, and our society sometimes conflates the two.

  • yulaffin

    These are my criteria:
    1. It must fit.
    2. It must be clean.
    3. It must be comfortable (and weather/situation appropriate).
    4. The pieces must match.

    i haven’t worn dresses or skirts since the middle school dress code was dropped.

  • Annie

    As a graduate student working in a research lab, my considerations are thus:
    1) Is it comfortable?
    2) Am I going to freeze in the lab or roast under a lab coat?
    3) Is there snow on the ground/how likely is it that I’m going to get caught in the lab in flip flops?
    4) Penguins, polar bears, or sheep? (my pajama pants rotation)

    So yeah, I dress like a college freshman just rolled out of bed most days :) Doesn’t matter, I don’t get to leave the lab anyways, haha!

    • Lauren F


      (From someone who did actually make the freshman go home to change. ^_-)

      • Annie

        hahahaha yeah I’m the world’s worst about it – but nothing I work with is actually hazardous and is usually as dead as its ever gonna get, so unless I’m working with phenol or liquid nitrogen, or it’s snowing, chances are I’m in flip flops :) I keep a pair of “oh crap the safety inspector’s here” flats in a drawer just in case

      • jemand

        yeah. I dripped solder on my foot regularly during a summer internship where apparently they let me be stubborn and stick with my flipflops without comment :P

    • acoustic_alchemy

      Our lab was always some sort of SUPER FRICKIN COLD, so layers were a must. If I dressed “modestly”, it was only because some of the solvents we worked with had a nasty habit of burning holes through vital tissue. And +1 on the closed toed shoes :D

  • Meyli

    I usually just wear jeans and a t shirt, because its easy and comfortable. But if its a long day at work I might try to dress more work-casual. That’s to attempt to stay professional so my (female) boss keeps her good view of me.
    My main concerns with clothes are
    1. Are they comfortable?
    2. Does my bra/undershirt show through?
    3. Will I get too sweaty in this?

  • Marlena

    My criteria are:
    Is it clean and still in good shape, without holes?
    Is it comfortable, given weather and other factors?
    Is it appropriate for where I am going (for example, if I am working I probably shouldn’t wear a band t-shirt)?

    The only time I consider what males will think is if I and my husband are going out somewhere special for a date night, and even then it’s about what he thinks, not what some other male thinks- not that I need to do that for my husband, I just like to sometimes. But random males? Nope, not on my radar ever.

  • Brightie

    Is it clean?
    Does it mostly match?
    Does it cover however much of me I don’t think looks good right now uncovered?
    Is it warm enough/cool enough?
    And, somewhere down the list, depending on the day, maybe “Is this something my bf has said looks good on me?”

  • Jayn

    Am I going outside today?
    Will I be too warm?
    Am I likely to be doing anything physical?
    Do I feel like wrestling with anything difficult to pull on?
    Attractiveness to guys didn’t make my list at all until I met my husband, and even now I only take his tastes into account on occasion.

  • neotoma

    1) “Is this weather appropriate?”
    2a) “Is this work-appropriate?” — since I work in a lab during the weekday, the priority is safety and durability over being fashion forward .
    2b) “Is this appropriate to the venue I will be at?” — during my weekends, I might go from places ranging to fancy restaurants and theaters to a trap-and-skeet range. The clothes I wear to see a Shakespeare play are not the same as I wear to shoot clay pigeons.
    3) “Is it clean and without damage?” I’ll wear jeans a second time if they’re still clean and I’m too tired to do laundry, but I really hate holes or stains.
    4) “Is this well-fitted to my body?”
    4) “Do the colors/patterns clash?”

  • Malitia

    When I go somewhere:
    Is it clean / comfortable / weather and situation appropriate / not entirely colorblind?

    The color thing is my least concern. My favorite winter jacket is eye-searingly-neon-blue and I personally described it looking like a “cloud on drugs”.

  • Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

    I wish I could wear girls’ clothes :(

    Stupid transphobes.

    • Vixi Dragon

      My wife has been out for about six months and has really come out of her shell since she started dressing for herself instead of who biology said she should be. It has been scary at times (for both of us) but transitioning has been so worth it for her. You can’t let other people’s opinions dictate what makes you comfortable in your own skin.

    • MI Dawn

      You look stunning in a skirt, Katherine Lorraine, and you darn well know it!!! Or must we tell you again….

  • Kodie

    I don’t like to be too self-conscious about what I’m wearing and generally stick to a small variety of clothes. That helps me get dressed when I’m running late because they are dependable.

    I don’t like feeling itchy or too hot or too tight or too colorful. If I am uncomfortable physically in what I’m wearing, I can’t stop thinking about it, and it’s too late to change. Although I’m not really fashion-y, I strive to balance well not dressing too boxy just to be comfortable either. I guess I am trying to fool other people that I have some effortless classic style at the very most, I have myself fooled, and if I don’t analyze it too much, I guess it’s ok. I don’t stink and my clothes match and I’m not tugging or twisting anything through the day or needing to check myself out in a mirror to see if I look as good as I did when I left the house. That’s about it.

    When I was an admin, I sort of collected this basis of work-appropriate clothes which consist of knit tops (usually black) and slacks with lycra in them, so I look professional but feel like I’m wearing t-shirts and sweats to work. Combined with the.. what I call “secretary sneakers” black ballet flats with rubber soles, Skechers makes a pretty popular line of those, so do a few other brands. Anyway, consider how much the average admin has to walk, and how dirty we could get changing the toner, etc., these clothes were minimal upkeep and nobody ever said I had to improve my fashion sense or look any more ladylike than I could manage. I just imagine wrecking my really nice blouses and not getting paid enough to keep them cleaned at the cleaners, my “uniform” seemed to fit in well and easy to get out the door looking like a woman with an office job but feeling secretly so comfortable, I could have slept in my clothes. That’s pretty much what I’m thinking about when I get dressed.

  • chervil

    My top criteria, besides not being too self conscious also is, will this make me itch. I have excema, so if I know I can’t change within a few hours, I need to know that clothes will not torment me in 4 hours.

    I live in a cold clime, so I buy clothes from the mens department because they do not make warm women’s clothes, at least not warm enough for me. I have this amazing toasty warm gray mens cardigan that I have gotten so many compliments on.

    Sometimes I look at something hanging in the store and I have no idea what it is or how to wear it. It seems like women’s clothes need to be layered, so you have to buy several things to make 1 outfit. Way to scam more money out of people, thanks fashion industry.

    • Jayn

      “It seems like women’s clothes need to be layered, so you have to buy several things to make 1 outfit. Way to scam more money out of people, thanks fashion industry.”

      Layering keeps me from having to change my wardrobe between summer and winter. I have a couple cardigans that cycle between being sweaters and being jackets, but otherwise few long-sleeved shirts which makes dressing for the weather a matter of ‘do I throw this on over top?’ My wardrobe is probably more compact as a result (I’m also starting to cycle in some arm warmers, but since they’re all hand-made the fashion industry isn’t getting a dime out of me there).

      • Christine

        I like that kind of layering, but when almost every shirt requires that I wear a cami under it, not only do I have twice the laundry (and wardrobe budget) requirements, but I’m never sure what I’m supposed to do when it’s warm weather. I have a dress that can’t actually be worn on it’s own – if it’s cool enough that I would be able to get by without tights or shorts underneath, there is no way I’d be able to skip having a shirt under it (I prefer the shirt because I don’t like my bra to show through the arms, but in warm weather that’s a choice0.

    • chervil

      Yes, when it’s layering by choice, that’s one thing, and I do layer for weather, but I get the sense that the fashion industry pushes the layering concept to the point where you don’t really have a choice, because it increases their bottom line. It must be the cynic in me.

      If you have to dress a certain way for work, for example, you kind of don’t have much choice in the fashion department either, what they have, what you have to wear, vs. what you want to wear don’t always line up. And it is a strain on your budget, for me anyway. I need to wear work clothes sometimes, and purchase the type of clothes I wouldn’t normally buy. I did end up buying dresses for work, because it’s much easier and cheaper for me, but I don’t wear them usually. I think what I was trying to say is that money enters into the decision of what to wear as well (as opposed to what others may think), and you don’t always have a choice.

  • machintelligence

    Hmmm. It took 14 comments for the word fashion to appear. Either fashion is assumed or it doesn’t matter. It also makes less difference as you get older, since we old farts are presumed to lack a sense of fashion.
    I tend to follow the Pluggers (a cartoon) dress code for males:
    Winter–jeans and long sleeve plaid shirt.
    Summer–jeans and short sleeve plaid shirt.
    Here is a sample comic, if you are interested.

    • Rosa

      there are levels of fashion – I don’t want to be so out of fashion that I look “old” (especially at work, where looking my actual age is pretty deadly) or so on the spot that I look like I’m trying to be fashionable. It’s another balance, like between “not too sexual” and “dowdy”

  • RMM

    Ha ha, I work for a high school in the south, so mostly for me it is: “will I be warm enough inside the over air-conditioned arctic tundra that is my office?” Followed by more mundane concerns such as “do I match?” and “if a client’s parent meets with me, will they fear for their child’s safety?” ROFL! Can’t say the opinions of males are far up on my list of concerns.

  • sylvia_rachel

    I’ll preface my comments by noting two things: I have been a performer (mostly amateur) of one kind or another since I was six years old; and in high school I used to tech wardrobe on the school plays. So I tend to think of clothing (and makeup) in costuming terms.

    Question number 1 always is, “Will I be comfortable in this?” If the shoes hurt my feet or the waistband is too tight or the tights are falling down, or if I have to spend energy worrying about whether I’m showing leg or armpit hair, too much chest, too much knee, etc., then I can’t focus on whatever it is I need the costume for. Wardrobe fail.

    Other considerations include:
    - Is it appropriate to the occasion? (Subcategories for various occasions: Would I be self-conscious talking to the rabbi while wearing this outfit? Do I care if this outfit gets dirty? Will this outfit show wet patches if I’m super nervous and get really sweaty? Will I be warm/cool enough in this outfit? Etc….)
    - Does it project the image of the role I need to play today? (For example, Competent Manager Who Has Her Sh!t Together is a role I have to play at work from time to time…)
    - Does it make me look fat? (I wish I didn’t think about this, but I’m afraid I do.)

    And of course if I spot holes or missing buttons or something while getting dressed, I stop to fix them, if I have time, or else I say a couple of bad words and look for something else to wear :P

    Apart from the occasional occasion when I’m dressing to go out somewhere with the spousal unit ;) — in which case I just ask him, “How do I look?” — I can’t remember the last time the question “What will men think of this outfit?” crossed my mind. Just … not a factor. At all.

  • Christine

    “Am I leaving the house today?”/”What do I have that meets the requirements of ‘not too worn out’ which apply to where I’m going?” I’m a SAHM (well, I will be in a month when my mat leave is up), and I’m currently in charge of wearing out all the old t-shirts that aren’t quite ratty enough to throw out, but not good enough to wear to campus (even to the machine shop). (Husband t-shirts are great for nursing, because they’re big enough both for my larger bust, and to provide some coverage when rucked up).
    “What’s the weather like?” If it’s below about 10 C or so I start to want to wear leggings instead of tights. If it’s too warm I don’t want to wear a tank top or other form-hugging articles of clothing, or bare legs with a skirt, etc.
    “Can I get away with t-shirt and jeans?” If not, then “Can I get away with a skirt?” (I do still have some professional obligations, so I need to wear work-appropriate clothing instead of skirts some days).
    “Is this the exact same outfit I wore last time I saw the people I will see where I’m going?”
    That’s about it.

  • Rosie

    1) Is it clean?
    2) Is it likely to get caught in any of the tools I’ll be using today?
    3) Is it comfortable?
    4) Is it weather-appropriate?
    5) If I plan to leave the house in it, is it free of holes and does it mostly match?
    6) If I’m attending an event, is it at least sort of dressy enough/not too dressy for said event?

    When I pick out clothes to buy, the texture and feel are most important to me (silk is luscious, as is velvet; cotton and rayon are very nice for summer, and wool and alpaca are snuggly for winter). The color (whether I like it or not) is second most important. Then, do I think I look good-ish in it? Sorry guys, I don’t usually even consider what you’ll think of how I look in it.

  • John Small Berries

    There seems to be a subset of men that assumes that women dress always and solely for the benefit of the men around them

    Well, yeah. I mean, look at the “fake geek girl” attitude in fantasy/science fiction/comic book fandom: there’s a whole bunch of guys who believe that women can’t possibly be interested in these topics in their own right, but are merely pretending to, in order to appeal to the guys who are.

    (Because guys who tend towards poor social skills, poor hygiene, and ridiculously sexist attitudes are such a catch!)

    • Kelly

      Egads, I wish for an upvote or like button for comments like this!

    • Carys Birch

      Being a geek girl myself (and one not hot enough to ever be accused of being fake), I do think you do the geek guys a disservice. The sexist attitudes are unfortunately widespread in my experience, but the poor hygiene is mostly a (mean) stereotype. I spent most of last week smelling a particularly clean, yummy geek boy with great enjoyment.

  • Anat

    I prepare my clothes the previous night. Jeans, t-shirt and sweatshirt year round. (There are about 2 weeks in summer when I’m comfortable without the sweatshirt all day.) If it’s a winter weekend, substitute sweat pants for jeans. I also have a small collection of clothes for those rare events when upgraded attire might be warranted – a few nicer sweaters, some nicer summer shirts.

    • Paula G V aka Yukimi

      Mostly like you.

  • dawn

    I’ll admit there was a time when I did dress to try to impress the opposite gender. I wore tight shirts and bras that would make my breasts stand out. I would wear clothing that accentuated my curves seductively. I also dressed similar to what the girls in my fundamentalist church wore. My best friends were the pastors younger daughters.

    In my mid to late 20′s, I still dressed to accentuate my body but in a different way. I was perusing a career in acting, theater or stage but all in comedy. I dressed professionally for my auditions. I dressed appropriately for whatever stage or filmed production I was in. Everyone comfort, but still to impress others as that was the career path I had chosen in the public eye.

    Now that I’m in my late 30′s, been married twice (my 1st husband died), and have a 6yo and a 9mo, I dress for comfort. I’m normally wearing nursing tank tops, t shirts two sizes too big, and pants or shorts that are so big and baggy that when I catchaglance

  • dawn

    I wonder what my husband can ever see in me because all of my curves have gone and are hidden by these shapeless pieces of clothing and about 100 extra pounds. But It’s something I can change if I decide to. Why bother with dressing fancy when the fanciest thing I’m gonna do is grocery shop? I’m sure as heck not gonna dress in heels and pearls to scrub the bath tub.

  • Kodie

    It should also be noted, for the education of men, that women dress for other women more than they dress for men. I don’t generalize and say all women do, but women police each other’s clothes and men are probably just staring at whatever they can get a look at. Women who know other women like this, know women can be mean talking about what another woman is wearing, so that type of criticism more often determines how we dress ourselves than whether we can attract men by how we dress. Men don’t (hetero men don’t tend to) talk to each other like this and can’t fathom when a woman tries to dress them what’s wrong with how they were dressing before. It’s a stereotype, yes, I know, but I do think what I wear is within a range of (a) what I feel good in and (b) what will be acceptable among women. I hate myself for it, but I feel like a mangy slob if I don’t have it somewhat together compared to someone who dresses head to toe in fashion and trend.

    I was maybe not until my 30s when I felt like I was comfortable dressing myself. My mom and I are tall-tall. Have to shop in special catalogs and departments of the store, and often enough from the men’s department. It didn’t allow me to develop any flair or comfort finding my own fashion sense. My sister is a little shorter, I would say on the taller side of average, but she had free rein over the shops. Everything fits, everything looks cute on her, and so a lot of my self-esteem issues compared myself to her – when I tried to fit in, my clothes didn’t fit. The harder I tried, the sloppier, and yet, less at ease, I felt and looked. But it’s one of those things – you either care or you don’t, and if you care, you probably get your cues from other women and not from men at all. They don’t notice the colors or fit, as long as they can see your body. I’ve had exes talk about not wearing something because it was too loose or a color they don’t like, so to my regret, I stop wearing colors he didn’t find attractive. If you don’t care, you can do what you want and you can probably pull it off because self-consciousness about an outfit is one thing I think that detracts from the ensemble most of all, more than being too small or too boxy or even stained, out of style, mismatched, etc. If you’re not self-conscious about what you’re wearing, you probably look like a million bucks in anything you pull out of the hamper compared to someone trying too hard, clean and stylish, and checking themselves all throughout the day.

    • Rosie

      There’s a lot of truth to that. When I feel like I goofed and dressed “badly”, it’s always about what other women will think of my clothes in a particular situation, not at all about what any men might happen to see.

    • smrnda

      I think it’s also that the little choices one makes to appear fashionable are almost never noticed by men. Are men going to notice how my hat, scarf and shoes are all color-coordinated?

      • Kodie

        I’ve noticed that men don’t notice at all except when would wear a skirt very seldom – being an admin isn’t just sitting in a chair, but kneeling on the ground or crouching to get to files and I don’t already love skirts – they might say “great legs, you should wear skirts more often.” That kind of sickens me. No, I don’t like skirts, no, I don’t want you to get a nice pervy view of my legs and maybe up my skirt, and no, it’s kind of hard to do my job wearing a skirt. And they’d notice if I had a low cut blouse or sweater. I had gained a bit of weight at one time and was still trying to thrown on an old blouse I liked. That’s one of those days I wish I had a sweater at the office to cover myself. Another time, I had a temp job where I was told to dress business-like and when I got there, my whole job was filing. Sitting on a grubby stool all day and moving heavy boxes is labor, it’s not secretarial. They were moving to another building, and when we got there, it was like an oven, it was like working in the boiler room. While there were only women at the office and I was in a tiny file room putting the files away, I took off my pullover and had on a camisole, something you might call a tank top if it were summer. Among women, I didn’t feel indecent, but the only man in the office came back and took a long stare at me. Hot and itchy as I was, I put my sweater back on. Well, two weeks later and my temp term is up, they throw me a little send-off, and he mentioned in the card about his memory of me will be that day in the file room. I’m so glad that was my last day.

        Nope, I don’t know men who notice what you’re wearing, not fashion-wise, unless they are stereotypically gay. Men might compliment a color you’re wearing, or notice how much it looks like a school uniform. Men who were in my life might notice other things like it has “too many buttons” or if they’re possessive, they might like you to dress a lot sexier when you go out so other men are jealous of them, or more modest so you don’t attract attention, or to dress “better” so other people don’t think he can’t afford to buy you things. They don’t notice if your shoes have the right toe this season or if you just bought a new scarf or anything like that, only if the neckline is too high or not high enough, depending on which way their insecurities are manifested. Then again, my experience is with insecure men. As far as I can tell, secure men notice even less, or at least keep their mouth shut and let you dress to please yourself, which would be ideal.

    • Noelle

      Yeah. Anything I might’ve picked up that’s fashionable has been on the advice of women. When I happen to wear something fashionable, it is usually only other women who mention it. When I have to wear something nicer than my usual fare, it’s my sisters and female friends I ask advice from, not men.

      As a very short person, I also have trouble finding clothes that fit.

  • Makoto

    Does it fit? Is it clean? Is it at least not horribly inappropriate for the situation (no convention tshirts at weddings, thanks!)

    I’m somewhat fascinated by anyone who expects a person to dress nice for them. If I’m going to an event, sure, I’ll likely dress up. If someone else also dresses up, I may comment on that fact, but that’s about the end of it. Then again, I don’t tend to find dressing styles to be attractive. I prefer to sit down and have long talks with a potential dating partner, rather than looking for one dressing in skimpy clothing or whatever.

  • TarnishedHalo

    I dress for myself. When I think I look good, I have a much higher self esteem so I wear what I think I look good in. I like the way my body looks in clothes that hug my form or reveal a little bit of cleavage, but I don’t do it for men. I do it for me. There is nothing to perk up a mood like taking the time to make yourself look good, no matter what your definition of “good” is.

  • Tracey

    1) Is it a workday or can I wear jeans? (dress code)
    2) Is it a holiday that I might not be out of place dressing formally?
    3) Is my midsection in enough pain to warrant a dress or jumper which has no waistband? (I have IBS, gastroparesis, and painful periods)
    4) Are my armpits shaved or do I need sleeves?
    5) What is actually clean and what is in the laundry?
    6) Can I match any of the colors especially to my many-colored socks?
    And finally:
    7) Is every piece of my outfit comfortable or should I take everything off and start over?

    I don’t screen for how cute or revealing an outfit looks because I wouldn’t buy it if it looked like hell or revealed more of me than I’m comfortable showing. I also don’t screen for weather because I keep a summer drawer and a winter drawer.

  • Maria Lima

    I love fashion, I love to dress up. In my experience, women who are interested in fashion dress for themselves, they like to dress fashion information and to create characters and personal fantasies. It is really not for men, to the extent that it oftens repels the standards of what men find attractive. There is a fashion foward blog that perfectly illustrates this: “The men repeller”.

    • Kathleen

      Exactly! “Totally utilitarian” and “for the pleasure of men” are far from the only two options. I love dressing up, but the only man I have in mind when I do so is the hypothetical street fashion blogger who stops me because I look so fabulous.

  • That Other Jean

    I’m one of those people who wears long skirts every single day, including the dread denim—not for religious reasons, but because I have a medical problem that causes my feet and ankles to swell, and nobody needs to see that but me. I pair them with cotton tees for summer, long sleeved tees in spring and fall, and sweaters or whatever is appropriate in our weird winter weather. I prune my wardrobe at the end of the year, so it all fits. I do have some dress-up outfits, also long.

    Apart from that, the considerations are:
    Is it clean and undamaged?
    Do the colors look good together?
    Am I going to freeze or sweat to death in this?

    Occasionally, if we’re going somewhere together, I ask my husband–the only man whose opinion I actually care about–”Hon, do I look OK in this?”

  • AnotherOne

    This isn’t pertinent to today’s post, but it’s relevant to other posts where you’ve discussed your UU church and people have talked in the comments about UU and atheism. It’s an interesting example from today’s New York Times of a UU minister speaking up about atheism and morality:

  • Amethyst

    Four things:


  • Dani Kelley

    Usually I dress for myself. Will this make me feel comfortable and happy today? But if I have recently been triggered or harassed, I usually cover up from neck to wrists to toes because I’m afraid. Granted, I usually also work from home those days so I don’t have to see or be seen by anyone.

  • AnotherOne

    And in terms of today’s topic, for me clothing is a form of self-expression, constrained by weather and situational appropriateness. I’m inhibited by lack of time and disposable income to spend on clothing, and most days, like today, I’m working in jeans and a hoodie from my study at home. But I find what I want most in my clothing is for it to “look like me.” I want to like what I wear, and to feel like what I’m wearing reflects my personality, my interests, and (when the situation is appropriate) my sexuality.

  • Stony

    I work from home in the south, so I own a zillion pairs of shorts, tank tops from Target, and flip flops. In the winter, switch to sweat pants and add a cardigan. When I do go into the office, however, I dress “up”, skirts and heels, since I get to do it so rarely. I dress for me, and the shoes are for the other girls in the office…we’ve got some serious shoe ponies and it’s fun! (In the field, I dress for OSHA. I can rawk a hard-hat.)

  • Stephanie

    I was raised with the modesty doctrine, so what other people think of my appearance is never far from mind. Additionally, I was rather unfeminine and fashion-challenged for most of my developing years. Since then, I’ve become more confident and gathered a wardrobe I really enjoy – so for me, getting dressed in the morning is a combination of practicality and exciting self-expression, even more so now that I’ve left any concerns about modesty behind me (at least on the conscious level).

    That was a fairly personal explanation – lots of first person pronouns! But I guess that’s the point. What people wear and why is very personal and subject to individual fluctuation. It’s pretty ridiculous to look at 50% of the population and assume you understand their motivations based on gender alone.

  • H. Mallory Rosen

    I moved cross country recently, packing all my belongings in a small sedan, so most of my clothes went to charity, and I can be reasonably sure that what I have with me fits and is in good shape to my current college student standards. So my dressing list is:
    1) Are either of my pairs of jeans clean enough to wear? If yes, wear jeans, if no, dig out skirt.
    2) Am I really in the mood to explain the joke on my T-shirt? If no, pick different T-shirt.
    3) Is today’s obnoxious southern winter weather going to require layers?
    4) Warm enough for sandals, or wear clogs?

  • Stony

    - Does it project the image of the role I need to play today? (For example, Competent Manager Who Has Her Sh!t Together is a role I have to play at work from time to time…)
    - Does it make me look fat? (I wish I didn’t think about this, but I’m afraid I do.)

    This, exactly. Am I presenting to a bunch of people? Will I be on my feet all day? At some point, will I be walking the length of two airports? Will I have to take my shoes off for security? (Don’t wear white or cream onto a nasty-ass airplane.) Can I sit in this skirt? Can I run for a train in this skirt? Will I have to constantly fiddle with the belt all day to get the right “hang”? Will I be able to give my presentation so that what I’m WEARING is the last thing on my mind??

    • sylvia_rachel

      Yes! I forgot that I have a particular pair of shoes that I always wear when I have to fly to the US, because they are professional-looking and comfortable BUT ALSO quick and easy to take off and put on again.

      Also, it’s important not to wear a white shirt if I’m going to have to eat anything drippier than a tuna sandwich, since I will inevitably spill or splash something on myself.

  • Emily

    I’m a performing artist who works part time at a pizza place, so I feel like I can get away with a little more (I have a mohawk at the moment :)). I’ve been working on this new thing called MAKING DECISIONS FOR MYSELF AND NOT FOR ANYBODY ELSE since I’ve historically been very bad at that, so my main question to myself lately has been, “Do I like this?” Crazy, I know. But I went to bible college where I felt extremely pressured to look like all the other girls (who categorically looked like pinterest models) and became frustrated when I couldn’t. It’s funny cause I was actually dressing more for the GIRLS than for the guys: so I could feel like I fit in and they would want to be my friend. I felt more judged by the girls there than the guys by FAR, mostly cause I felt like the guys probably didn’t notice as much. Does anyone else ever find themselves dressing more for other girls than for guys?

    • formerHACgirl

      Since you’ve been to Bible college, you will probably understand my screen name. I also dressed almost entirely for the other girls, so I could be a part of the clique. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to dress the way they wanted, so at one point about 1 year in, I was actually paying a girl on my dorm floor to be a fashion consultant. Even with her help, I just couldn’t pull off the look. Makes me laugh, looking back on it.

  • smrnda

    I dress pretentiously and am big into vintage fashion and thrift store chic. If I had to pick a woman whose taste I admire, it would be someone like Peggy Guggenheim, though I try to be a bit conservative on jewelry.

  • Taara

    My thought process when I’m in college usually goes along the lines of:
    “I’ve been wearing this outfit for like 3 days now. It should be good for another two as long as I keep changing my underwear.”
    “It’s warm. I wearing shorts and a tank top and sitting in my room in front of the AC forever.”
    “It’s cold. I am wearing 5 layers of clothing. Yes, I know it makes me look like I have rolls where I don’t. IT’S COLD.”
    “There’s a party tonight. I have exactly one dress in my closet.”

  • jam

    My clothing thought process goes like this:

    Is it still clean? (I don’t wash after every wearing)
    Does it fit?
    Will it be warm enough/too warm?
    Will it itch without an underlayer?
    Can I skip a bra or will it be too bouncily painful to skip one? (Usually I can only go braless in winter w/ many layers)
    Does it look good/cool on me?
    Is it appropriate for the occasion?

    I don’t shave my legs but I still wear shorts in the summer… screw the male gaze. The only vestiges of purity culture still in my head are a dislike for pantylines, visible bra straps, and lots of cleavage. But mostly I don’t like looking down at/accidentally dropping things into said cleavage :P

  • jam

    My clothing thought process goes like this:

    Is it still clean? (I don’t wash after every wearing)
    Does it fit?
    Will it be warm enough/too warm?
    Will it itch without an underlayer?
    Can I skip a bra or will it be too bouncily painful to skip one? (Usually I can only go braless in winter w/ many layers)
    Does it look good/cool on me?
    Is it appropriate for the occasion?

    I don’t shave my legs but I still wear shorts in the summer… screw the male gaze. The only vestiges of purity culture still in my head are a dislike for pantylines, visible bra straps, and lots of cleavage. But mostly I don’t like looking down at/accidentally dropping things into said cleavage :P

  • jam

    My clothing thought process goes like this:

    Is it still clean? (I don’t wash after every wearing)
    Does it fit?
    Will it be warm enough/too warm?
    Will it itch without an underlayer?
    Can I skip a bra or will it be too bouncily painful to skip one? (Usually I can only go braless in winter w/ many layers)
    Does it look good/cool on me?
    Is it appropriate for the occasion?

    I don’t shave my legs but I still wear shorts in the summer… screw the male gaze. The only vestiges of purity culture still in my head are a dislike for pantylines, visible bra straps, and lots of cleavage. But mostly I don’t like looking down at/accidentally dropping things into said cleavage :P

    • jam

      Sorry for the triple post… there was some sort of weird erro r on my smartphone… >_<;

  • Jinx

    When I dress for work I think about trying to look professional so I’ll get that promotion and if I’m not too depressed, I wear something bright and new so I feel better about not ever getting that promotion. Out shopping I dress for comfort and keep in mind that I might run into the boss. Going out on a date I do try to look pretty. Not sexy just pretty. Of course I never dress to attract random guys ’cause duh I’m a lesbian. But I don’t dress to attract random women either, just my wife.

  • Noelle

    1. For work, home, or the very rare out somewhere that needs to be nicer than home?
    2. What temperature range am I working with?
    3. Is it clean? Are there holes? Do I have to iron it? (I have clothes I haven’t worn in over a year because I don’t want to iron)
    4. Does it match?
    5. Did I already wear it in public this week? (Applies only for work)

    Work: slacks and a shirt. Long-sleeved or sweaters for cold weather, short-sleeved for warm weather. It must be thin enough to fit under my lab coat. Skirts are last-resort for when I run out of pants prior to laundry day. I maybe wear a skirt a few times a year. It’s not that I hate them or whatever, but it’s more a bother with the needing shaved legs and hose without runs and then I have to wear pinchy shoes. I cycle through my 7 different colors of pants, and grab a shirt that matches. And repeat.

    Home: depends on the weather, but either shorts or jeans, then some sort of t-shirt, flannel, sweatshirt on top.

    “Fancy-wear”: um, I haven’t gone anywhere so fancy that I couldn’t wear something from the work category in a long, long time. Prior to getting married, were I to go to a bar or something with friends, it was the same jeans and flannel combo from earlier that day, with an extra check to make sure I hadn’t spilled something on myself that day. Maybe for a date I would change to look nice. But after 13 years of marriage, dating involves babysitters and dinner and a movie, and nobody to impress.

    I don’t dress to impress, only to meet some basic professions standards, which I guess could be called business casual.

  • Callie

    I only keep clean clothes in my closet and dresser and have pretty much gotten rid of everything that doesn’t fit and that I really don’t like. So for me the thought process is:
    1. What is appropriate for today’s activities (work clothes, staying home clothes, staying home but maybe also running errands clothes etc.)
    2. When was the last time I wore this and is it too soon to wear it again?
    3. Will this combination of clothes look OK together?
    I’m definitely not concerned about impressing men per se, I’m more concerned with impressing people in general. If I have a meeting at work I’ll make a bigger effort to make sure to pick something that makes me look good.

  • ibelieveindog

    Denim shorts or sweatpants and a tank top or t-shirt. If I plan to leave the house, I add a bra and Birkenstocks or boots, maybe a jacket if it’s cold. On dressy occassions, I tend to wear flamboyantly colorful outfits and lots of jewelry. I’ve been told that I dress too young for my age, too revealing for my age, and too flashy, all by men. Don’t care. My main goal is being comfortable and pleasing myself aesthetically.

    I’m in college, though, so I can get away with a lot. When I worked in an office, I dressed appropriately for the setting. I may tend toward the tacky, but I’m not foolish!

  • Bix

    I dress for the weather and with the appropriate level of formality. I can’t remember ever dressing with a mind to what random men might think of me, although I can remember dressing with a mind to the impression I would be making on female acquaintances. I went from rural New England, where people tend to be very utilitarian in their clothing choices, to a very posh British university, where I spent a lot of time feeling that my wardrobe was hopelessly outclassed. Now I live in LA, where people are much more casual and I sometimes find myself overdressed (but still underdressed by East Coast or British standards). I’m really just starting to develop my own sense of style, but now I think: Do I feel confident and comfortable wearing this? That’s the main thing, really.

  • Omorka

    On a workday:
    1) Does this have any stains on it?
    2) Is my boss going to think this is sufficiently professional?
    3) Is this going to be warm enough if they have the A/C on in the building and/or cool enough if they have the heat on in the building (in the summer, substitute “if the A/C breaks” for “if the heat is on;” I can’t control the temperature in my workspace except by opening windows).
    4) Do any of the colors clash?

    On a non-work day, if I’m going out in public:
    1) Does this have any stains on it?
    2) Does this project the image/role I want to portray? (I will wear different things if I’m going to a Pagan meetup, where I have to be the representative of the local festival organization, than I will to a meeting of the con-com of the local university’s gaming conventions, where I have to be the sub-chief in charge of LARPs, for instance.)
    3) Is this comfortable, and will it remain so if the weather changes?
    4) Do any of the colors clash?

    On a non-work day, if I’m staying at home all day:
    1) Is this comfortable?
    2) Does wearing this use up an article of clothing that I could use in one of the previous two situations, and thus bring me a day closer to laundry day unnecessarily?
    3) Can I step outside to pick up a package off the porch in this without scandalizing the postal worker?

    Each of these does have a check for what other people will think, but not specifically for what a dude will think (although in the first case, it happens to be the case that my boss is a dude and he has somewhat conservative ideas about what is professionally appropriate).

  • Sarah

    I DO think of the male gaze when I get dressed, but not in the way that most people think of it, I think.

    I work in a homeless shelter. I work with a lot of people who are very troubled – mental health issues, disabilities, addictions, etc, and it’s a mostly male population. My self imposed “uniform” is ankle-length skirts, usually long-sleeved shirts or a short sleeve with a jacket, and I keep my hair covered. I look like a Duggar! But it’s because I see how my female co-workers get treated. It’s hard for us to serve our clients/patients if they’re distracted by too much skin. Is it BS? Yes, it is, and I wish all people all the time could act decently. However the men I work with are already facing an up-hill battle. It’s the one time when I think “Could I cause a man to stumble?” is actually a reasonable question.

    For what’s it’s worth, I am not religious at all, and I really like my Duggar uniform. No one cat-calls me, it’s comfortable, warm and durable. On a good day, I think I sort of look like a Disney princess, pre-princess. Like Aurora chilling in her cottage with the 3 fairy godmothers.

  • Kodie

    Nobody ever seems to wonder who men dress for. In my experience men do have limits on what is considered masculine and men police other men. I would not say men dress for other men, but if they try to be fashionable, or are overdressed, other men do notice. Women also notice. For some reason, trying to dress to attract the attention of women is “gay” or something, or it might be perceived as gay compared to most straight men. Another cliche is that a woman with a man will try to dress him better, and the other men will notice that too. I tend to think of men not caring what other people think, and maybe it’s my demographic – younger men seem to be more fashionable if they want to be and that’s a great thing. At least as far as I can tell, women are constrained to a certain dress code depending where they work and otherwise don’t care. It may depend on who is answering – if you are single and young, you may want more attention than someone who has been married or who is mature … I don’t think of myself as very mature, but age-wise, I’m mostly to the point where I don’t want attention. I don’t want to have to navigate for the time being if someone really likes me or only likes what they see. I am tired of the game, but that doesn’t mean I don’t dress pretty sexy sometimes. It’s hard to say what it is. I want to say I still got it, but not necessarily to men or for sexual reasons. I don’t know who I’m doing that for actually, it’s more of “why not?” If a man wanted to know me better because of the one day I feel like a knock-out, I would actually be too suspicious and turned off by it to pursue. Then I guess it is for myself.

    So who do men try to impress? It seems for a date, they might have some idea how to be a step up, but for everyday, just like women, they just want to be comfortable and not think too hard. It’s a ridiculous question that assumes women care about fashion entirely to attract men, when it seems women care about fashion for the fun of it, if that’s something they like anyway, and not if they don’t. The fashion “police” among men or women dictates a minimum of effort to dress like one’s sex ought to, in order to project qualities of femininity or masculinity but women seem to have more freedom than men do, and men police each other as far as things that stand out, like a pink shirt or a sweater vest (guesses). Men notably feel less comfortable if they have to wear a suit or shoes that aren’t hiking boots, unless that’s what they wear every day, so I don’t know why there is some idea that women like dressing up in support hose and high heels and lacy bras and all that stuff that is tight or itchy and unnatural, while a man wears jeans and if the sneakers are clean, a woman is penalized for prioritizing comfort and utility.

    Do not even get me started about – mostly college women who don’t wear a coat in the winter and mini skirts to the bar. Brrrr! I’m cold! It’s Boston in January and I’m cold! I do not know what that’s about. I would wear a coat. I think it’s really stupid if that’s how women police each other to be not just sexy, but not covered up even when waiting for the bus when it’s 10 below. It’s nice to dress up to go out, but I will “police” you as stupid if you care more about how you look than smart enough to wear a coat, hat, scarf, gloves, any one or some or all of those. Who are they impressing with their fortitude only to complain later? Do men like this? Do men like taking off their coats to keep some woman too stupid to wear a coat warm? I see this a lot, since I live near one of the major colleges.

    • Cara

      One of the sucky things about women’s fashion and clothing in general is that it’s really hard to find clothes that look good and are warm, especially if you’re young, as for some reason it’s more acceptable for older women to wear warm clothing, but if you’re young, it makes you look old. I’d never be caught dead in some of the “winter” clothing I see in the stores, but I understand, on a certain level, the women who do wear it, because the alternatives aren’t good.

    • Rosie

      My husband has complained to me about the lack of variety in men’s casual clothing. It’s somewhat better if you live somewhere where, say, hippie or punk or goth attire is acceptable on the street. In the rural Midwest, it will get you a lot of stares, though. From everybody. And of course work clothing is much more restricted, whether you work a blue collar or white collar job.

      • Judy L.

        Very true. Men’s ‘mainstream’ casual clothing pretty much consists of Dockers (khaki pants) and golf shirts.

  • jaimie

    1. Are my work scrubs clean?
    2. Are my school scrubs clean?
    3. Are my pajamas clean?
    My life does not involve fashion.

    • Noelle

      The problem with the parts of my life that involved wearing scrubs is that I got to the point I didn’t much notice or care when I was wearing other people’s blood.

  • Cara

    Here’s what I think about when shopping and getting dressed, in approximate order of importance:

    1) Is it comfortable? I don’t wear uncomfortable clothing. The most socially-nonapproved case is shoes, because I refuse to wear heels, but I also don’t like itchy (wool bothers me) or otherwise unpleasant-feeling (100% polyester often falls in this category) fabrics or stuff I can’t move in. I also don’t find baggy clothes comfortable, I prefer my clothes to fit me well but not so tight they’re constricting.

    2) Will I be warm or cool enough? I need to take into account not only the outside weather, but how I adapt to going inside to overheated buildings in the winter (I don’t have this problem much) or freezing air-conditioned buildings in the summer (I have this problem all the time—I end up carrying a jacket or sweater most of the summer ). I spend a lot of time being cold no matter what I do, so this is really important.

    3) What would be appropriate for where I’m going? I’ll pick different clothes for academic settings, going out casually, corporate environments, etc. I’ll also choose clothes based on who I’m going to be around, so for instance with my technically-oriented friends I might wear something a little different than with my queer friends.

    4) Do I look good in this? This is personal aesthetics more than anything.

    5) Am I coordinated? I try to put together jewelry and clothing combinations that look good together.

    6) How will people read my gender? Most people will gender me as female, but that’s partly because of my clothing choices. There are certain kinds of clothing I avoid, though I don’t buy them in the first place, but there are also combinations and styles of clothing/hair/etc. I don’t wear because they’re too butch.

    7) How do I want my gender presentation to look? Do I want to know people I’m gay? My default mode is on the femme side of androgynous, usually not-overtly-feminine clothes cut for women with understated touches of make-up and jewelry, but sometimes I’ll add something more butch like plaid flannel or, say, wear a dress to look more femme. My gender presentation varies depending on my mood, though usually if I go too far to one side or the other or too frequently I’ll get uncomfortable and move back to my default. Unfortunately, it kind of sucks for me since most people’s gaydar for women focuses on butchness: there’s no easy way to signal “femme” and “gay” at the same time, especially since I’m not a fan of alternative life-style hair cuts and the like. This also ties into 5: if I present too butch, people won’t read me correctly. Mostly I go with whatever feels best to me at the time, but sometimes I’ll try to signal or hide my non-normativity.

    8) What other messages do I want to send? More academic, more flirty, more leave-me-alone, etc.

    9) What will other women think of me? This is half, “Will other women recognize what I’m trying to communicate, notice the thought I put into coordinating, and think that my style is neat?” and half, “Would other queer women find me attractive?”

    10) Would this make people, usually but not always heterosexual men, think they have even more right to violate my personal space, touch my body, and say inappropriate things than usual? This is a distant last, as I prefer to deflect such people with other tactics like avoiding places where they’re around, loud “nos,” and talking to people in charge. This isn’t always possible, so I won’t say I never think about it, but it’s rare. I never wear anything because I think heterosexual men would find it attractive.

  • revsharkie

    Most days, the main issue is what’s clean, whether it’s comfortable, and whether I expect to see anybody who’s going to care what I’m wearing. If I’m going to be in my office alone, I’ll sometimes wear one of my husband’s knit tops, or one of my more casual ones, with jeans. If I know I have meetings, or I’ll be out visiting, I will pick something a bit more professional-looking. If I’m going to be working in the kitchen, I dress accordingly. Sunday mornings are dressy and professional (and free of cat hair if at all possible, which is why I keep my Sunday clothes in my office). I honestly don’t know too many men who give a hoot what I’m wearing. It seems like mostly women notice and criticize.

    • Ms_Morlowe

      “It seems like mostly women notice and criticize.”

      Not just criticize, but compliment. If I ever dress to impress, it’s other women that I’m trying to show off to; for the simple reason that THEY NOTICE. My boyfriend only sees skin, and the more the better, so he’s of no use when getting ready for a night out (:P), but girls will actually notice and appreciate how much effort I put into choosing the right dress-shoes combination, how long my hair took to get right, and all the little, important stuff. Obviously, both kinds of compliments are appreciated, but I still prefer “Your hairstyle makes your cheekbones look fantastic” to “You look nice, darling”.

      On a more day-to-day basis, I agree with everyone above: is it clean, does it fit, does it match. Who will be seeing me in this, and how much do I care. I’m a pretty casual dresser usually, I rarely even wear make-up. Though when I’m going out, I’m very much in the “Well, what are you wearing?” category :P.

      • Shari

        This is very true. I really don’t think men pay attention as much as we think they do. Generally when I dress up, I will get compliments from other women. If I ask my husband how I look, he will say I look great, but I don’t think he really pays attention. I’m pretty sure the only time he really looks is if I’m wearing lingerie! I do like the compliments, though, and it makes me feel good to look good, so I generally dress in clothes that flatter if I’m leaving the house. I also like to be comfortable, though, so when I”m shopping I won’t buy something unless it looks good AND is comfortable.

  • Carys Birch

    I usually look for stains (I spill food) and general cleanliness, and then I put it on. Jeans match everything – yay!

    In opposition to a lot of people commenting, I like things that are rather low cut. Because I feel feminine in them, and I generally don’t have body image issues involving cleavage, so it’s something I feel good about myself showing off a bit more.

    That said, I don’t see it as “dressing for men” unless I’m selecting an outfit with a particular man in mind (sometimes happens, not often). It’s more beefing up my own often-lagging personal confidence.

    • Carys Birch

      Actually, this reminds me of something… A couple years ago a friend’s husband started coming on to me aggressively when I was staying with them. It ended with him assaulting me. After that happened, I started dressing nicer, sexier. I didn’t really think about why I was doing it until later, but I was trying to make myself feel valuable, confident, undamaged. He, of course, and his wife, and everyone else who knew about it took it as evidence that i was trying to trap him and that I had it coming.

      Yuck. The idea that women dress for men carries some nasty assumptions, for sure.

  • Katherine A.

    When I buy clothes the first thing I think is “I like it but will this fit me?” And secondly “Can I afford it?” I’m plus-sized and that greatly affects what I can pick. Plus sized sections are too limited and special stores can be pricey. When dressing day to day it’s:
    1. Is this clean?
    2. Is what I’m wearing too light for the cold or too heavy for a warm day?
    3. Will I be comfortable in this?
    4. I don’t wanna look too sloppy.

    Also, there is a Cracked that talks about how weird women’s clothes are getting. Some of the stuff the article talks about (the material being too thin, greatly varying sizes) is making it’s way into the plus sized section too.

  • J-Rex

    1) Clean, comfortable, weather appropriate, and all the general things people have mentioned.
    2) Is it fashionable, whether that’s current fashions or my own personal fashion. I’m artistic and really like when my clothes match with my personality.
    3) Does it it fit my body type? Different styles work for different shapes. I wear a lot of low-cut shirts because higher necklines make me look big and frumpy.
    4) Will people be staring at me too much? If it’s too low-cut, I know I’ll end up pulling it up all day.

  • Daffodil

    Does this fit?
    Does this match?
    Will I freeze or burn in this?
    Can people see my bra or panties through this?
    If I get acid on this in the lab, will I care that this shirt/pants now has holes in it?

  • Crow Hill

    1. Where are my jeans?
    2. Are they clean?
    3. Is this t-shirt clean?
    4. DRESS UP?!? Do I gotta?

  • Mogg

    Jeans are pretty much an everyday clothing choice – a somewhat dressier pair, but as I do a lot of quite physical work and can end up getting down on the floor, handling heavy equipment, greasy or wet on any given work day, jeans really are the most practical choice even for work. About the only time they’re not is on really hot days, but in winter I have to be able to cater for being inside a warm office, outside in weather, in the car or in someone’s house, able to safely work on things which can catch loose clothing and carry tools, bag etc. I have not been comfortable in dresses or skirts since adolescence, and dislike the kind of shoes that have to be worn with most dresses or skirts. I’m already tall so heels are never something I’d wear for choice and I prefer shoes with some structure and support to lightweight flats with no padding or decent sole. I do wear dresses or skirts occasionally, particularly if it’s really hot or for events, but never for work – too much chance of ending up having to bend over or work sitting on the floor, in someone’s house or in front of an audience of co-workers and patients. For work, some kind of business casual top or shirt, at home, fitted teeshirts. It’s easy for me to get too hot at work on a hot day, but I kinda just have to deal with it. Jumpers or cardigans or long sleeves for cooler weather, jacket for colder weather but at least I never have to deal with sub-zero temperatures.

    This is somewhat of a problem, being a tall woman with a long torso and classic hourglass-to-pear shape who would really find it convenient if all humans had fur and didn’t have to bother with clothes. Trousers and jeans are difficult to find which both fit my hips and don’t gape ridiculously at the waist, and blouses and teeshirts are often made too short or without enough bust and arm for comfortable movement or too low-cut for work. Skirts and tops generally work better than dresses, unless the skirt of the dress is quite full. Once I have the clothes home, the choices are based on cleanliness, freedom from cat hair, and basic neatness – no stains, holes, out-of-shape, missing buttons. A date would probably see me in a dress or good pants/skirt with a nice blouse, but that is the only time I would be considering dressing specifically for another person, male or female. Wearing nice clothes may also happen because I want to feel particularly nice, but that’s rather rare. Attempts to dress a particular way to fit in or impress others have generally been awkward and probably ended up with me looking uncomfortable instead of fitting with whomever I was trying to please, but fortunately I got past the teenage baggy shirt phase and grew comfortable with my body.

  • ildi

    Am I the only fan here of What Not To Wear? That show taught me how to love and dress whatever my current shape is, not the shape I want to be, how to use the cut of clothes to make me look awesome (avoid pleated or tapered leg pants, wear structured jackets that just hit the hip bone and ‘lock and load’ the girls, empire tops and dresses to accentuate my narrowest part and pointy-toed shoes to extend the leg line – I’m apple-shaped and very short) and to how to wear clothes that reflect who I am on the inside. (Also, how to use color, texture, pattern and shine to make outfits interesting, and how put together things that ‘go with’ rather than ‘match.’)

    I dress for myself, because taking that extra time to put together an outfit is one of the ways I show respect for myself, and I dress for others because we are social beings.

  • Lana

    I dress for myself. But after years of modesty doctrine drilling through my head, I still feel guilty if I wear something too revealing.

  • Joy

    Is it clean? Is it appropriate to where I’m going? Do I need to cover any body hair, does it do that? Is it warm or cool enough? Is the shirt long enough to cover my stomach/butt crack (an issue with today’s low rise pants)? Will the neckline reveal my bra strap? Does the cut of the top flatter my figure (I don’t mind showing a teeny bit of cleavage as it’s one of my few assets right now) ? Can I sit in this skirt without showing my underpants? Will my legs look awesome in these boots or what? Why can I never find a pair of matching socks? How do I get around the fact that all my nylons have runs…I can wear these socks with the dress if I cover the socks and most of my legs with boots, maybe…

    I don’t dress for “dudes” but I do like to look as good as I can given the fact that I’m really the kind of person who goes around with their glasses frames superglued together. I like my husband to think I look good, too.

    Oh, and when I’m shopping, a BIG one is “is it washable” because who wants to take their clothes to the dry cleaners or hand wash them everytime they get dirty. It’s OK for a suit or formal dress but a normal top, pants or dress it’s not worth the trouble.

  • Thomas

    Re Compliments: Most of the time men don’t notice what women wear. But for me, at least, I feel kind of awkward giving compliments about clothes. I feel unqualified to say what’s nice. I remember complimenting one of my colleagues on a pretty blue dress when she snorted and dismissed it as “a cheap thing I bought in Brighton”. I just don’t know. I also wonder how my compliments will be interpreted. I am not usually trying to flirt or sound like a creep, but fear I may sound that way. I do my best to be specific, like say “That’s a beautiful skirt” or “Those earrings look very nice.” How often can someone be complimented before it becomes meaningless or I sound like a creep? What if I compliment lots of different women?

    • Thomas

      P. S. The sentence beginning “I am not usually…” is a poor one. I do not ever want to be perceived as a creep. Men do lots of nonsensical or difficult-to-understand (even to ourselves) things to avoid being regarded as creepy or aggressive.

      • Thomas

        P. P. S. Nor BE a creep.

    • Ms_Morlowe

      I’ll trust you when you say you’re not a creep! As such, the woman’s reply was rude. In a sense. Most women can’t accept compliments, and it’s often seen by other women as rude if they do: it’s an unspoken rule that compliments must be deflected and returned, leading to a spiral of You, No *you*… if you’ve ever seen Father Ted, the scene where Mrs Doyle and her friend argue about paying for dinner is what I’m trying to describe here. If you haven’t, it’s the passive-aggressive war between your parents and grandparents over who gets to pay, only with compliments instead of money.

    • Nea

      How to compliment and not be a creep: “That’s a lovely shade of blue.” “Those are nice earrings.” Saying stuff like that to a lot of women is fine. I’m a woman and I say things like “I love that shade of blue” all the time. (I think that one woman’s response was out of line, but it’s also true that we’re socially trained to deflect compliments lest we seem prideful.)

      Complimenting *objects* is fine, even if it’s a personal thing like “That’s a pretty hairstyle.” It only gets creepy when you objectify the woman for *being* something.

    • Judy L.

      In keeping with what Nea said, a compliment to a woman you don’t know may come across as you wanting to chat her up, and a compliment on an object is better than a compliment on her appearance. But these really are ‘drive-by compliments’, not intended to really start a conversation about the thing being complimented on (unlike if you complimented someone on something that you’d like for yourself and you want to know where they got it and if they’d recommend it).

      If it’s in the workplace, I think a nice compliment, to give a colleague female or male, is to compliment them on something they’ve done, either general or specific, and tell them that you appreciate them. If, say, the office clerk makes sure to order the brand of tea you like, or if a colleague is especially skilled at one of the functions of their job or always shows true dedication, tell them that their kindness/consideration/mad-skills haven’t gone unnoticed and that while you can’t say it everyday (because then you’d really come across as a creepy guy) you want them to know that it makes your world a better place.

  • KarenH

    I have a a self-declared work uniform–I work night shift as a typesetter (of the electronic variety), so I wear jeans and polo shirts or long-sleeved t-shirt year round. Most of the winter I stick to sneakers because they’re warmer and more forgiving if it snows or we have freezing rain unexpectedly (or I forgot to check the weather when I woke up). In the summer, I have a range of footgear, including dressier flip flops, sandals, dock shoes, mary jane sneakers or plain old Mary Janes.

    I’ve only recently embraced my gray hair. Before that, I colored my hair and wore it shoulder length, but now that I’m a woman “of a certain age” and subject to personal summers at a moment’s notice, having hair long enough to cover my neck is unbearable and I just couldn’t bear another summer of wearing my hair in a pony tail 24/7. So I had it cut super short and let the color grow out. It took a lot of time getting used to the gray in the mirror, but I figured if I never did, it was short enough that coloring it again wouldn’t be any hassle and as it turned out I really have grown to like the salt/pepper mix. I use mousse or other hair products when I’m feeling particularly “spikey” and really prefer the short hair for staying neat and polished all day (night) long.

    None of this is for the benefit of men.

  • JethroElfman

    For days when confidence is high, I have a collection of T-shirts with a lightning bolt on them. It’s something that shouts “look at me”. It’s about attitude. You have to be sure of yourself to dress in such an outgoing way. Other times I have casual clothes so as to blend in. Sometimes you just want to hide in the midst of the herd.

    I vaguely remember being young and single, when “I look good in this” was also a priority, but I don’t bother with that anymore.

  • Sophie

    As a wheelchair user, clothing is an issue. I’ve only been disabled for a couple of years and a lot of my pre-wheelchair clothes just weren’t suitable anymore. Jeans are not comfortable, they dig in at the waist. Short skirts are a no because they show off my knickers since I’m always sitting down. A lot of my tops weren’t long enough and they’d ride up in unattractive ways.

    It’s taken me the last year to start to become comfortable with the way my body is now, since I’ve gone from a nursing student who spent 12.5 hours a day on my feet to a disabled person who spends sometimes 24 hours a day in bed. I’m started to develop a new style for my new body, so at the moment I am dressing for me but also to show other people that being in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you can’t look good. My figure has changed due to the complete lack of exercise, and whilst I don’t love my new bigger bum and thighs I am proud of my breasts.

    I wear a lot of empire-line dresses, as they are flattering and comfortable, usually over leggings and pull on boots. A lot of my clothing choices are about ‘can I put that on myself or am I going to need help?’. I’ve spent some money this autumn and winter on new clothes and I’m happy with what I have. Staying warm is a big consideration because being out in a wheelchair you do get cold. Even if I’m pushing it myself, which I can only do for short bursts, I get cold because most of my body isn’t moving. Getting cold is bad because it leads to pain, so I need to not get cold. But I also need to be able to adjust what I’m wearing easily for when I go into a warmer environment. So basically my feelings about clothing are a lot more complicated than ‘will a man find me attractive in this?’.

  • Seda

    I pretty much dress for myself. My process is something like this:
    1. Is it appropriate for the weather and/or situation?
    2. Does it make me look feminine? (I’m trans, so that’s a necessity for ANY social interaction.)
    3. Does it match (color, texture, style)?
    4. Do I look good in it? (I always think of this as how everyone will see me – not just men!)
    5. AAAAGGGHH! I’m bored with all these clothes! I need to go shopping!

  • KristinMH

    If I’m going out with the baby: can I pull this top down enough to get a boob out? If I’m going out alone: does it fit over my newly fabulous boobs?

    So you could say I dress with a particular dude in mind…it’s just that he’s 10 months old ;)

    Also is it clean(ish) and weather appropriate and fitting my personal sense of style?

    Holla to the other nursing moms!

  • Lucreza Borgia

    Being 5’4″ and 200 lbs with D cup breasts limits my clothing options. On top of that, I still have a waist with narrow shoulders so I don’t fit in plus sized clothing and size 16 petite usually is the first to sell and is rarely seen on the sales rack (the only time I can afford new clothing). These are my shopping considerations with those limitations:

    Will these pants need to be constantly pulled up and if so, will a belt fix that?
    Will this skirt stay in place as I move around?
    Does the waistband dig into my flesh?
    Does this button up shirt pop open due to poor fit or placement of buttons?
    Does the fit of the item compliment my figure?
    Is the item a favored color and can I match it with anything I currently own?
    Is the item made of materials that are easily washed and dried and will it shrink???
    Can I wear this to school and work?
    Is it too see-through and needs layers?
    Is the shirt long enough to sit on my hips instead of my waist, thereby exposing my belly?
    Are the pants high up enough to keep my belly from poking out?
    Do I feel good wearing this?

    Men never come into the equation!

    • Judy L.

      Lucreza Borgia, my sister in clothes woes!

      I’m just about the same size as you, so I feel your pain regarding size availability and falling into ‘the void’ between ‘regular’ and ‘plus’ size clothing. Good news: many clothing manufacturers are expanding their ‘regular size’ lines and sometimes a plus-14 (or equivalent) can be smaller than a regular 16 0r 18 depending on the brand and fit (of course, I know that fit matters especially when you’ve got narrow shoulders). (Sometimes you just have to ignore the size on the label and try it on. I bought a chemise in a regular XL from Target in the States a couple of years ago and it was very big – more like a size 20).

      Also, here’s a tip that you might find useful: If the store you’re shopping at for your size 16P has a website (especially if it’s a chain store), this can, in some cases, solve the problem of lack of stock at sale/clearance time for an item you want. The in-store sale is usually also reflected on the website, and while the store probably isn’t going to get more stock in and can’t or won’t get the item you want in a size you want transferred from another store, the website is linked to the store’s warehouse where they’re more likely to still have your size in stock. This is also a good way to get another of something you’ve already tried on in another colour that wasn’t available in-store or just to get a back-up of a piece you’ve bought that you absolutely love.

      If you live in the U.S. and you’re close to the border, it might be worthwhile to take a trip north sometime. Reitmans, a huge chain store in Canada sells reasonably priced (more than Old Navy, less than The Gap) women’s clothing including sizes Petite 0-18 and Plus Petites 14-22. They ship to the U.S. too.,default,sc.html?prefn1=silouhette&prefv1=Petites

      • Lucreza Borgia

        I’m not too far from the border, but too broke to buy clothing right now. I worked clothing retail for many years and can typically size someone by sight when it comes to male clothing. Not so easy in female as we have found out! I find that I fit well in XL and 14-18 depending on the maker. The thing is tho that I absolutely HATE trying on clothing all day and that is a must unlike my husband who can go to the store and pick stuff off the rack without trying it on. I have noticed that discount retailers are more guilty of vanity sizing than high-end retailers and wonder if that has any correlation to the average size of the shopper.

        The next time I go shopping, I want to focus on a few good pants and shirts that sit on my waist. It’s so damn hard for me to find clothing that I typically wear items until they are falling apart and I am not so sure I will have appropriate clothing for the coming spring/summer :(

  • Knayt

    Speaking as a male.
    1) What degree of under layer do I need? I have no cold resistance, and have a few codified degrees of layers.
    2) Do I want to wear a buttoned shirt?
    2a) What about that one vest I own?
    3) What combination of colors works? Generally speaking, I avoid mixing dark tops with dark pants, light tops with light pants, and if there are multiple layers of sleeves I try to coordinate.
    4) Until recently: Do I want to bother with a pony tail today?

  • Mark Temporis

    Okay, here’s a guy’s version. I might be a bit of an extreme example; I live in HI, which means I: never consider weather (it’s always going to be somewhat uncomfortably warm except from November through January, which is reasonably comfortable), and what mainland people consider ‘business casual’ is actually considered ‘formal wear’.

    So usually I’ll be wearing the first shirt out of the drawer and shorts. About 90% of my shirts are from these private game-cons organized by my friends for the last decade or so. If I’m going to the gym I’ll try to find socks that match, otherwise its flip-flops. If I was employed I would need to wear the same shoes I wear to the gym though. Why people have more shoes than feet eludes me.

    Now, last week I had a job interview, which meant wearing a nice pair of black pants and a shirt with a collar. These occupy my closet and not my drawer because I am told it is not good for them to be wrinkled.

    I have absolutely no sense of style. To me clothes are something we put on because there are sanitary problems with being naked all the time (sharing seats would be a bit gross). I consider shopping for clothes more or less the fourth circle of hell because it is at best mindless tedium I want to get through ASAP or worse involves people who will be overly critical about things I have no concept of, like whether the crotch hangs too low, or whether the shirt and pants match, or whether something is ‘loud’; to me this is more or less criticizing me in Greek or some other language I don’t speak and expecting me to understand.

    I realize this probably sounds like a Poe or something — an absurd caricature of what someone thinks a male human dresses like. I assure you that this is the actual case for me.

  • Judy L.

    What I find hilariously ironic is that women “dressing for men” is usually just pointless. Typically, men do take notice of how you look but really don’t pay too much attention to what you’re wearing. And at any rate, excluding the men in your family and the many stars in the constellation of gay men in your universe, any man who ‘notices’ you isn’t going to be looking at your clothes — he’s going to be imagining you without them on, and quite regardless of how snug or loose or concealing or revealing those clothes are. (And men are more than welcome to do so, so long as they keep it to themselves unless asked under direct or cross-examination.)

    I dress ‘for men’ the same way I dress ‘for women’: I want to be comfortable physically and socially and give both men and women the impression that I’m not a complete slob whilst dressing as casually as I can get away with (At a temp job a few years ago, I wore jeans to work at least three times a week for eight months before my director (female) noticed). I’ll wear tights but not pantyhose and I’ll wear high heels (2-inch max and stable) only in the office or possibly to a wedding, because high heels are beautiful little torture devices that are not designed for human walking. I hate collared shirts. I try to dress in ways that flatter my face and body (e.g., I have a short neck, so I don’t wear turtlenecks which just make my neck look shorter and thicker). I’m quite busty and I’ve learned that an open, lower neckline gives a more balanced, less stuffed-and-suffocated look than a high, closed neck line. I get very warm nearly all of the time, so I don’t wear suit jackets or thick sweaters, and I try to collect thin garments for layering (blessed be the thin cotton cardigan that goes with everything). I also don’t buy into the notion that the exposure of certain parts of my body (specifically, less than an inch of cleavage or the very top of my breasts) is somehow ‘inappropriate’ in certain settings just because men find breasts sexually appealing. I’ve got big breasts and I’m not going to wear a binder or a veil. I find some men’s forearms and hands to be sexually appealing and that can be quite distracting in the workplace, but I’m responsible for my own distraction and I would never dream of telling men I work with that they had to wear long sleeves and gloves all the time (heaven forbid!).

    • Christine

      I’ve known men to notice if I wear a skirt somewhere that I had normally been wearing trousers. And for some reason, even if it’s a super-casual dress, they ask why I’m dressed up. (And no, they weren’t intending to pun.)

  • Emmie

    I am I suppose a bit of a nonconformist in that I dress specifically with what my mate likes in mind. When I buy clothes I think about what he would find appealing as well as if it is comfortable and if I like it. The reason being that I like it when I know he enjoys looking at me and he is very liberal with compliments about what I wear. He has a keen eye for fashion and appreciation for style.

    So while there are definitely other considerations in what I wear such as weather, comfort, situational appropriateness, and personal expression, attractiveness in general and attractiveness to my mate specifically is a high priority.