why we care about what we wear
August 15, 2014 4:00 PM   Subscribe

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Why Can't a Smart Woman Love Fashion?
I had learned a lesson about Western culture: Women who wanted to be taken seriously were supposed to substantiate their seriousness with a studied indifference to appearance. For serious women writers in particular, it was better not to dress well at all, and if you did, then it was best to pretend that you had not put much thought into it. If you spoke of fashion, it had to be either with apology or with the slightest of sneers. The further your choices were from the mainstream, the better. The only circumstance under which caring about clothes was acceptable was when making a statement, creating an image of some sort to be edgy, eclectic, counterculture. It could not merely be about taking pleasure in clothes.

... I dress now thinking of what I like, what I think fits and flatters, what puts me in a good mood. I feel again myself—an idea that is no less true for being a bit hackneyed. I like to think of this, a little fancifully, as going back to my roots. I grew up, after all, in a world in which a woman’s seriousness was not incompatible with an interest in appearance; if anything, an interest in appearance was expected of women who wanted to be taken seriously.
*Pacific Standard - What to Wear?
*Avidly/LA Review of Books - Lady Professor Conference Fashions
*Racialicious - Haute Couture In The ‘Ivory Tower’: "The spread presumes that when a professor walks into a classroom she is a blank slate, a model to be adorned in fine clothing and given an identity. The reality is that scholars of color, women, and other groups whose bodies are read as non-normative have never been able to check their race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation at the door. As soon as we walk onto campus, our bodies are read in a certain (often troubling) manner by our students, our colleagues, and school administrators. Our professionalism and our intellectual competence are largely judged by how we style ourselves. Therefore, we are highly aware of how we adorn our bodies. And, like our foremothers and forefathers who innovated with American “street fashions,” we, too, use our fashion sense to define ourselves, our professionalism, and our research and teaching agendas on our own terms."

Tamara Shayne Kagel: The Feminist's Dilemma: Why We Can't Stop Caring About How We Look
I find myself constantly trapped in a world where I desperately want to be judged by my work but at the same time, I want other people to think I'm pretty. I'm permanently berating myself for caring about my appearance, because I am aware on a mental level that to care at all is to be superficial. But at the same time, I find myself squirming uncomfortably when I run into someone at the supermarket when I'm a sweaty, disheveled mess... This cognitive dissonance is a state that most modern women inhabit all the time, but refuse to acknowledge. Instead, we talk and write and judge like we live in a post-superficial world. [...] It's a rare breed of woman who truly doesn't care about her appearance, and there are some women who only care about their appearance. But most of us fall in the middle -- wanting to be appreciated and loved and valued for more than how we look, but unable to completely expunge all interest in our outward image. If this is where most of us live, shouldn't we be asking for acceptance to be in this middle space?... Isn't it normal to hope that the picture of you is not taken from a horrible angle the moment you wake up and at the same time be concerned with society's obsession about the ubiquitous worship of an unattainable ideal of the female form?
Sociological Images - The Balancing Act of Being Female; Or, Why We Have So Many Clothes (previously):
"And, of course, all women are going to get it wrong sometimes because the boundaries are moving targets and in the eye of the beholder. What’s cheeky in one setting or to one person is flirty in or to another. So women constantly risk getting it wrong, or getting it wrong to someone. So the consequences are always floating out there, worrying us, and sending us to the mall."

*This Kind Choice - I Am Woman, Watch Me Shop? Part 1 – The Ever Changing Clothes
*Part 2 – Appearance as Identity, A Double-Edged Sword
*The Nation - For Women’s Office Wear, Who’s Making the Rules?
*The Atlantic - No, It's Not Sexist to Describe Women Politicians' Clothes
*Feministing - Learning to dress “professionally” in a white man’s world

Already Pretty: Why Caring About Your Appearance Is Valuable to Self-Care
In order to move through most peopled societies, we are required to wear clothing. Nudist colonies aside, we’ve all got to get dressed every day if we want to leave our homes for any reason... And in my opinion, since we’ve got to get dressed anyway, we might as well do it expressively and in ways that feel good. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Dress, grooming, and overall appearance constitute the first levels of information about ourselves that we offer to the observing world. They may not be the most important, but they are the first, which makes them worthy of effort and attention.

...I’ve already acknowledged that how you look isn’t the most important thing about you... But thinking of your body as a brain-and-personality-holder strikes me as short-sighted. Consider this: Someone who focuses virtually all attention, care, and love on their body is generally considered to be vain. So why would focusing virtually all attention on your intellect, creativity, and personality be any less imbalanced? You’re not a zombie – a body that moves through life without a functioning brain. But you’re also not a brain in a jar – thinking and creating in the abstract alone. You have a body. As long as you are alive you will have a body. In fact, without your body, your intellect and creativity and personality wouldn’t exist. Pitting your mind against your body is like cooking up a personal civil war.
Bridgette Raes - Are You a Devaluist and Don’t Even Know It? (Guest Post):
"Clothing is often seen as a superficial shell, and fashion a frivolous, flighty thing that gets in the way of the serious stuff. The real stuff. But I don’t believe that. I don’t believe we can neatly divorce the way we look from the way we live. I believe the way we look is a reflection of the way we live."

Dress A Day - You Don’t Have to Be Pretty:
"You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked "female". I'm not saying that you SHOULDN'T be pretty if you want to. (You don't owe UN-prettiness to feminism, in other words.)"

(responses to "The Princess Effect", previously on MeFi)
*Washington Post - Being informed and fashionable is natural for women
*Flavorwire - The Catch-22 of Women’s Magazines
*Kat Stoeffel - Finally, ‘Serious’ Women Are Standing Up for Fashion Magazines:
"As long as we all need to get dressed each morning, clothing will be a communication tool... Men and women both choose how they deploy the language of fashion; but women, deprived of the suit-as-uniform, still face unique challenges in fashion fluency... Women’s magazines — especially when they work with women like Clinton, Abramson, and Mastromonaco — offer other women a map for navigating style and other sexist minefields without compromising their intellectual integrity. For that, we should celebrate them. And if we want to level the playing field, we should start by posing the same “frivolous” questions of men."

*Ms. Magazine - If the Clothes Fit: A Feminist Takes on Fashion: "If feminists ignore fashion, we are ceding our power to influence it. Fortunately, history has shown that feminists can, instead, harness fashion and use it for our own political purposes."
*GirltalkHQ - Fashion Vs Feminism: Can You Like Both? We Break It Down
*Greta Christina - Fashion is a Feminist Issue:
"In fact, fashion and style are so much like a language, I’m always a bit baffled when people say things like, “I want to be judged on who I am, not on the clothes I wear.” It’s a bit like saying, “I want to be judged on who I am, not on the words that come out of my mouth.” ...Fashion is a form of expression. A language of sorts. An art form, even. It’s also one of the very few art forms/ languages/ forms of expression in which women have more freedom than men... And I don’t think it’s an accident that it’s typically seen as shallow, trivial, and vain."

Medium (Backlash Book Club) - And Another Question: What Ever Happened to Pantsuits?:
"Faludi writes about fashion as if women were totally subservient to its dictates (and as if its dictates were unified), but, of course, most women—precisely because they are judged so much by their appearance—know how to manipulate, subvert, and use clothes. To some extent, they’re tools, like hammers."

The New Inquiry, Vol. 20 - Sept. 2013, "Off Brand" issue (link opens PDF file)
"We are told we must be clothed, and then that our clothes are not good enough.That fashion is predicated on this cruelty—making luxury of necessity, and necessity of a luxury—makes it as morally questionable as the behavior of foodies. Fine: We accept this. But we are also told that we must be bodies and that our bodies are not good enough, and fashion (at least for those who fit into it) can provide an escape from the disappointment of our flesh. Some of us feel we were born into the wrong body; for that, fashion is the first corrective. For others, fashion is the first rebellion... In selecting appearances, we want not only to be seen but sometimes to be heard before we speak. Fashion can be a weapon of the silenced, even when it is seized and wielded by those who have always talked loudest."

*Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa - Fashion for Feminists: How fashion and dress shape women’s identities
*Migrant Woman Magazine - Asalet Tulaz: I like being the colour of feminism
*Buzzfeed - How Iran’s Young Women Are Using Fashion To Influence Politics
*Minh-Ha T. Pham - Why Fashion Should Stop Trying to be Diverse
*À l'allure garçonnière - Fashion Blogging Culture: Demanding Substance Over Style
*Tanisha C. Ford - You Betta Werk!: Professors Talk Style Politics:
"Below are excerpts from some of the interviews I conducted with women professors of color. Together, these interviews illustrate that studies on fashion and adornment politics offer a powerful lens through which we can explore other important issues such as women’s rights, motherhood and relationship status, pleasure and sexuality, and the politics of “respectability.”"

Alison Bancroft - How Fashion is Queer:
"The feminine is as much of a minority interest in culture as it is anywhere else in life. The only exception to this is fashion. This is why fashion is a radical creative space where heterosexual gender binaries are irrelevant and queer is the default setting, and it is also why fashion is routinely denigrated and dismissed."

Final Fashion - so, is fashion feminist?:
"Why is the visual aspect of fashion so inextricably linked to feminism, and why is it worth considering how to dress like a feminist?"

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie previously on MeFi: the danger of a single story
posted by flex (33 comments total) 187 users marked this as a favorite
flex, I had things to do! I was going to finish that book! Clean out my RSS feeds! Write that article!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:18 PM on August 15, 2014 [7 favorites]

This is such a fantastic post, and I've hardly even started to dig in. Thank you!
posted by Corinth at 4:25 PM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I hope that headline was chosen by an editor not by Adichie because she would have to be blind not to realize that most of the under-40 women who are writing literary fiction dress fashionably and are conventionally attractive. It's almost a requirement, the MFA and the Sephora VIB card.
posted by betweenthebars at 4:37 PM on August 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Sally at Already Pretty expresses some nice sentiments, but I think she's got more of a shopping addiction than an actual interest in fashion.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:43 PM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, that Adichie piece was a weird article. I'm particularly weirded out by her admiration for her mother, who not only dressed well but also heaped dehumanizing contempt on women who didn't. "She doesn't look like a person"? Really?

I don't know. Sometimes I love clothes, and sometimes I loathe my body and just want to disappear. I think it's great to love fashion, and I think in a decent world, women would be able to get away with not caring about clothes very much, the same as almost all men can. And I'm mostly sick of my body being a battleground, because it's hard enough to exist in the world without dealing with the inescapable fact that all your clothing choices are a political and cultural minefield. Sometimes it's hard enough to get out of bed, take a shower, and cram some food down your throat, never mind having to worry about whether you look cute, professional, and pretty-but-not-in-a-sexy way, too.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:50 PM on August 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

As a first cut through, I read the first link and the ones related to academia, and they are fantastic. I'm looking forward to reading deeper. The delicate balancing acts that academic women of color is captured perfectly in these articles. A++++ would fashion again.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:53 PM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I believe the way we look is a reflection of the way we live.

And the flip side is that you cannot say this without implying that people who do not look good are somehow living wrong. You can't apply a standard to yourself that's different than the standard for the rest of the world. I mean, depression, for example, can make you feel like not doing a lot of things you'd otherwise want to do, and in that case a person looking disinterested in their clothes could actually be a person who would be happier in different clothes. But that doesn't make this a universal truth.

I struggle with a staggering degree of body loathing that does not actually match how I see other people. But if I expressed how I feel about my body as though it was a truth that applied to other people, it would be really potentially damaging to others, and it does not actually reflect a healthy standard. I'm cool with women who want to adorn themselves in some fashion or another, but "looking good goes together with being smart/happy/successful" is poison. My brain's inability to cope with my inability to look good has spent much of my adult life actively trying to kill me.

You have a body. As long as you are alive you will have a body.

Because some of us, as long as we are alive, will have a body that will not conform to our own ideas about what it should look like based on these ideas of "I have to communicate who I am using my body and the stuff I put on it", and at that point caring what it looks like is not self-care, it's the opposite of self-care. Words are free and I have a whole language to use, arranging them with just my brain and my tongue. Clothing and cosmetics and accessories are not free, and the body I put them on is not subject entirely to my control.
posted by Sequence at 4:53 PM on August 15, 2014 [16 favorites]

halp I don't know what to click first *_____*
posted by clavicle at 4:55 PM on August 15, 2014 [6 favorites]

What an amazing array of links! Thank you!
posted by bq at 5:07 PM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I get where Adiche's mother comes from, even when I don't agree with the sentiment: it's the same one my dad and the male members of my family share. (And also my mother/the women, but my dad's super passionate about it.) You want to show that you actually give a damn? That you are worthy of respect? Dress up, you're the Managing Director's daughter, look the part! And no thrift store clothing!

(though most of my clothes are thrifted or free and they look fine)

I feel like I'm in a weird bind when it comes to fashion. Being a racial minority who was raised and also migrated to foreign lands, a lot of attempts at coding myself through fashion doesn't work on me. I get misgendered, mis-raced, mis-everything regardless of what I wear. (I was on a Singapore Airlines flight in a dress and I kept getting Sir'd the entire flight. Not the first time.) This is still the case within smaller subcultures, which claim to be above the whole "superficial fashion" thing but still have their own norms - e.g. the Queer Uniform, either a dapper suit or a rockabilly dress, or the burlesque scene, which is whta I call "1940s Victoriana". When I do wear the Uniform, I don't fit, I look ugly, I look like a poser; when I don't wear the Uniform I'm betraying the cause and should leave.

I didn't get any interest in fashion till maybe the last few years - I was really perfectly happy to be a brain in a jar. I was tired of being told that as a girl/woman I had to care about my appearance, and went complete radfem in retaliation: all things feminine are bad! It took me a while to really learn how to see femininity as not against feminism, and now I find some solidarity with queer femme culture.

Even so, I still feel frustrated with fashion. As many of the links bring up, sometimes you just can't win. Don't act like you care, because that's superficial, but look like you care, because we're not going to take you seriously otherwise. Just like "natural" makeup. It doesn't help that there aren't a lot of clothing options that fit the trifecta of My Style, Fits Me, and Affordable: if I could I would dress up like Joan Jett most days.

It was interesting to see Adiche's article, as a fellow woman of color. I wonder if her interest in fashion serves as social protection: would she be taken as seriously by others if she didn't dress up? My friend, a Black woman who is a professional burlesque performer, did a video of the sort of shapeshifting she had to do to get by, including taking about how she feels conflicted between wanting to support the right to wear natural hair and dealing with the reality of being taken seriously and having safety if she dressed up a different way.
posted by divabat at 5:17 PM on August 15, 2014 [11 favorites]

Great post!

I'm noticing that women and fashion and feminism seems to be a theme on Metafilter lately. I like it. I especially like the discussion mostly consisting of people/women telling their stories and very little direct judgement.
posted by hydrobatidae at 5:42 PM on August 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yeah I really hope there comes a balance to the point that some people of any gender like fashion, some don't, and both "sides" and those in between stop trying to make any one not in their camp out to be perceived as morally inferior. Some people aren't into appearance because they ARE focusing on more important things, like say, coping with chronic pain, poverty, disability, domestic violence, or just plain other interests that are more important to them and they just don't give a fuck.

While there are plenty of things we shame men for (and sexism is problematic for this) we just don't do this thing to men. Yes work attire might need to be dressy and if you're really rich you might need to match your class/economic positions-- but really, it should be ok for people of either gender to be not into or into fashion.

I think it's fair game to talk about the benefit of fashion, or the benefit of NOT focusing on fashion, it's just that like all extremism in moral absolutism- the lack of flexibility for people who have perfectly valid reasons that any given pet "way everyone should do things" just doesn't work for them. And that should be ok.

But really the pressure should be on people who treat those wearing makeup better to change, not on women to be more compliant either direction. People with or without makeup or fancy attire deserve the same amount of respect and equal opportunities.
posted by xarnop at 5:44 PM on August 15, 2014 [6 favorites]

As a working class woman still new to grad school and taking on my first TAing duties this year, thank you thank you thank you for the rich, in-depth post.
posted by WidgetAlley at 6:21 PM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

You don't owe prettiness to anyone. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked "female".

This is so where I'm at right now. I try to tell myself this all the time, and for a really long time. I hope the more I say it the easier it will be to believe. I tend to almost get to a place where I buy it, and then I see a picture of my ugly messed up teeth and then I have to start all over.

It's hard because as much as I can decide to love my corporeal form for being what it is, I know that I can't change what goes on in other peoples' minds, and how people get the wrong idea about who I am based on how I look, and that's really what bugs me. I want people to know the real me and making how I look convey that is just hugely stressful and time consuming and expensive.

But if I want to have the feminist scholars take me seriously (which I do, because they’re among my valued colleagues), looking like a drug rep just marks me as a clueless tool of the patriarchy. My feminist Ph.D. colleagues expect me to show up in relatively baggy clothes, wearing sensible shoes, with no make-up other than the kind of lip goo that keeps your lips from chapping in winter.

This shit. Do people who think this way understand that this is what gives feminism a bad name?
posted by bleep at 6:55 PM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Those patterned blouses she's rocking are AMAZING, those should be in style everywhere. Even certain stuffy academic conferences I could mention.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:19 PM on August 15, 2014

Fashion is like a game and games are fun! Except when you aren't allowed to stop playing them, ever.
posted by emjaybee at 7:36 PM on August 15, 2014 [21 favorites]

What I really resent about these conversations is that the accusations of frivolity, foolishness, and shallowness are almost entirely reserved for things which are traditionally feminine. There is nothing inherently sillier about being interested in fashion than being interested in sports, or about enjoying crochet instead of handcrafting chairs, or appreciating the aesthetics of makeup and well-made clothes instead of classic cars, or something. There are certainly things worth critiquing about fashion and expectations for how women present themselves, but it can be very easy to take that all the way to vilifying traditionally feminine interests and activities.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:23 PM on August 15, 2014 [32 favorites]

What I really resent about these conversations is that the accusations of frivolity, foolishness, and shallowness are almost entirely reserved for things which are traditionally feminine.

Amen. Why can't I contain fucking multitudes while rocking awesome shoes?
posted by sfkiddo at 8:47 PM on August 15, 2014 [11 favorites]

alien Life Fibers controlling our every move, *thats* why.
posted by young_son at 10:17 PM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

How much does the underlying cultural norms of the society of origin inform one's own attitudes and thoughts towards feminism?

Ultimately, is it not about feeling self empowered and worthy regardless of the choices one makes regarding external signals, which are contextual?

Adichie's home culture is very different from yours and yours and yours. Perhaps all of these PoV's are new slices of feminism from a different dimension and angle, rather than a measure of right and wrong.

Its okay, in Finland to not shave your legs if there's a few days stubble, its not a signal or rebellion or hill to die on. Its just... whatever, haven't gotten around to it, yeah... similarly, different cultures will have different takes on elements of the "feminist stance" prevalent in English language internet's dominant culture.
posted by infini at 4:46 AM on August 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

There is nothing inherently sillier about being interested in fashion than being interested in sports, or about enjoying crochet instead of handcrafting chairs, or appreciating the aesthetics of makeup and well-made clothes instead of classic cars, or something.
I don't know if you read the links, but an awful lot of those links are about how women experience fashion as a double-bind and a burden. Dressing the right way take huge amounts of effort, time, know-how, and money. Not dressing the right way can have very large social and economic consequences. This burden falls disproportionately on women who are already marginalized, as is described in many of the articles. If you're black or Latina, clothes that are taken as professional on white women are going to be read as inappropriately sexy on you. If you're poor, you can't afford clothes that will be read as professional. If you're fat, you can't find them. And yet you are responsible for how you dress no matter what, whether you want to be or not. This is not a burden that falls on men in the same way, because most men can easily dress appropriately without the same amount of time, money, effort and know-how. This has not a fucking thing to do with crochet or handcrafting chairs or sports or any other fun hobby that you can put away when you don't want to participate in it. It's about a system that oppresses women, some more than others. And the fact that some women personally like clothes is sort of not the point, or at least not the whole point. The point is that it doesn't matter whether any particular woman personally likes fashion, because fashion is an obligation that comes with being a woman. And it's an obligation that many of us cannot fulfill easily and some of us cannot fulfill no matter what we do.
Adichie's home culture is very different from yours and yours and yours. Perhaps all of these PoV's are new slices of feminism from a different dimension and angle, rather than a measure of right and wrong.
Adichie is writing for American Elle, a fashion magazine that exists to sell things to American women, sometimes by giving them the same message that her own mother, she says, gave her: a woman who is not well-dressed does not even look like a person. Our humanity hinges on our ability to look well-dressed to the people who have been appointed arbiters of these things. Maybe in Adichie's home culture that's a totally benign idea. I doubt it, but maybe it is. In the pages of Elle, it's not. And I say that as someone who sometimes likes fashion and sometimes enjoys reading Elle.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:22 AM on August 16, 2014 [7 favorites]

Maybe I'm interpreting that sentence slightly differently, taking more of an ex colonial/class based understanding of how if you're not well groomed, you're aren't a "person" i.e. you aren't "somebody" i.e. you're nobody...

That is not the same as attacking one's humanity so much as evaluating one's standing in society... clothes maketh the man... et al

Did blue stockings give up on fripperies first or vice versa?
posted by infini at 7:04 AM on August 16, 2014

You know, maybe if women's clothing could fit our multitude of body shapes and sizes, then maybe it would be easier for some to dress as nicely as they feel. But women's clothing frankly sucks for most women over a certain "size" ("size" being variable to what manufacturer you're looking at). My husband is often amazed when we go clothes shopping together at how my body just doesn't look good in most clothes.

As far as makeup...for me it was so freeing to stop caring about makeup, esp for work. It felt like an expectation, even though men never wore makeup (I'm big on equal expectations for both sexes). Once I finally became ok with myself for not wearing makeup (including being ok being in public with dark circles that are permanenty there), it was SO FREEING. One less thing to worry about. Like not menstruating, it just makes life a little more easy between not buying stuff, the time, the frustration of when formulations change, etc.

I'm a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of person and if you want to judge me because I'm not wearing makeup or don't like the proportions of my outfit, go right ahead because I don't care -- it is your problem, not mine. I believe in knowing the person inside.

I guess that's partly because my philosophy and partly having struggled with mental illness -- I know the outside isn't necessarily the inside. It also helps tremendously now that I'm in Vermont :) No more subtle pressure to look a certain way.
posted by evening at 7:15 AM on August 16, 2014

A big part missing here, too, which is I think embedded - but not often explicit - in the distaste for Fashion is the clothing industry. I'd love to have everything done by a local family tailor, made in places with fair labor laws, but to do that I'd have to spend a fortune. So I choose to wear old things, sometimes raggedy, or to buy very few things of quality/good labor and wear them *all the time*.

TLDR I feel the anti-anti-fashion people (Adichie types) often don't think about the industrial/capitalist origin of their clothing. Like the locavores, they care more about where their mushroom was sourced than whether their immigrant busboy has health care.
posted by yonation at 7:33 AM on August 16, 2014 [9 favorites]

> But really the pressure should be on people who treat those wearing makeup better to change, not on women to be more compliant either direction. People with or without makeup or fancy attire deserve the same amount of respect and equal opportunities.

This is perfectly said, and I just quoted it elsewhere to show how I feel about the use of "proper" language.
posted by languagehat at 7:49 AM on August 16, 2014

But Adichie lives part of the time in Nigeria, where labour is cheaper than branded clothing, which in any case must be purchased on a shopping trip to London, highly unsustainable unlike supporting the tailor and his family.

Clothes are also cultural. West African clothing, like what Adichie's mother is described as wearing, probably is designed to flatter an entirely different bodily shape and figure than off the rack stuff in Target. The same goes for all the "ethnic" clothing composed of flowing bits of cloth that tends to trend across Asia.

From the first article linked in this FPP:

As a child, I loved watching my mother get dressed for Mass. She folded and twisted and pinned her ichafu until it sat on her head like a large flower. She wrapped her george—heavy beaded cloth, alive with embroidery, always in bright shades of red or purple or pink—around her waist in two layers. The first, the longer piece, hit her ankles, and the second formed an elegant tier just below her knees. Her sequined blouse caught the light and glittered. Her shoes and handbag always matched.

posted by infini at 8:30 AM on August 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

People with or without makeup or fancy attire deserve the same amount of respect and equal opportunities.

Lunch time! We have a choice between Smart Good Eats, where the staff is well-groomed and wears starched shirts, pressed pants, and clean aprons.

Or we could go to Eat At Joes where the staff - isn't and doesn't.

All else being equal....
posted by IndigoJones at 9:57 AM on August 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Makeup and fancy attire are not in the same category as cleanliness.
posted by bile and syntax at 11:45 AM on August 16, 2014 [9 favorites]

Well groomed is a term with cultural, social and class based contexts in meaning.
posted by infini at 2:03 PM on August 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Eat at Joes likely has better food anyway.
posted by divabat at 5:31 PM on August 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I'd probably pick Eat at Joe's. Starched shirts and pressed pants on waiters seems a bit stuffy for lunch.
posted by lunasol at 8:08 PM on August 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Consumption of consumer goods means something.
posted by memebake at 5:20 AM on August 17, 2014

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