"Toddlers and elderly women get to stand outside the male gaze."
August 2, 2016 7:29 AM   Subscribe

Toddler Grandma Style, like any style, does have a message. The message is “boys, this isn’t about you.” posted by explosion (95 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Because toddlers and elderly women are seen as devoid of any sex appeal, they stand outside the male gaze and as such get to ignore the rather limiting “rules” set out for women (in culture, and by ourselves) when it comes to personal presentation. Nobody would ever suggest that you outfit a baby in head-to-toe tailored neutrals, or that a tutu on a 3-year-old is inappropriate outside of a dance studio. Similarly, you would never suggest a silver-haired septuagenarian was unprofessional or “underdressed” if she’s not wearing impractical toe hammering stiletto heels."
posted by amanda at 7:36 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is a cool article, but I truly, truly disagree with "what matters is getting outside of your comfort zone." What you wear should be about looking clean and comfortable in your own skin and own clothing. This woman DOES look comfortable.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:37 AM on August 2, 2016 [16 favorites]


“Toddler Grandma Style has a message: I don't work in a professional setting."*

* Does not apply if you're in "creative"
posted by leotrotsky at 7:39 AM on August 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


Toddler Grandma Style has a message: I really like John Waters films.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:41 AM on August 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


As Maurice told Buck so eloquently in the film Boogie Nights: Wear What You Dig. Words to live by.
posted by tittergrrl at 7:47 AM on August 2, 2016


oh hey it me

Here are the two biggest things that have informed my fashion choices since I've become an adult:
1) what my Girl Scouts wear
2) Vanellope von Schweetz and the other kids from Wreck It Ralph

also shoutout to 3) having some money finally that I can throw at silly, happy-making things, the importance of which cannot be overstated
posted by phunniemee at 7:47 AM on August 2, 2016 [38 favorites]


This reminds me a lot of my love/hate relationship with Modcloth. In the past, if I wanted to dress like Miss Frizzle, I had to thrift and craft my way into those outfits. Now, thanks to Modcloth (and others), it's readily available and even expected of a certain demographic to look like Miss Frizzle with minimal effort. Reading this, I guess it's no different from a "I liked it back before it was cool" elitism, so I'm sorry. I can't really begrudge anyone their desire to look comfortable and thematic at the same time. It pretty much rules.
posted by witchen at 7:52 AM on August 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


Does anyone know where they sell her glasses with the light blue bridge?
posted by griphus at 7:53 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is why my fashion muses are Blossom and Holtzman.
posted by the_blizz at 7:55 AM on August 2, 2016 [14 favorites]


Reminds me of one of me friends tweeting about gothic lolita/sweet lolita fashion--it's one of the few styles where you can look extremely feminine but repellent to male attention, because it's a "frilly princess" type of femininity and not femininity defined by sex appeal. But yeah, not usually workplace friendly, depending on what your work is.
posted by picklenickle at 7:57 AM on August 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


I've spent the last two-three days spraypainting my Sanita clogs with pink glitter. I will wear the FUCK out of them once they're dry.
posted by Lucinda at 8:02 AM on August 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


The thing about this article is that she's saying you have to try on a lot of stuff to find what looks good on you personally. But at the end of the day this stuff looks good on her. Because she's pretty. Pretty clothes make pretty person look more pretty. In the grand scheme of things you do have to have a certain look to pull this off, and the message is "I'm so pretty I can wear whatever I want and make it look good" Some of us aren't so lucky. If you don't have the right kind of face it makes you (me) look deranged and confused, not cute. This "personal style" that she's talking about being so revolutionary is in every store right now and if it doesn't work for you (me) then you're (I'm) SOL. It's very frustrating.
posted by bleep at 8:03 AM on August 2, 2016 [16 favorites]


It's interesting that this is essentially weaponized fashion, not because of anything inherent in the style (it's pretty harmless and silly) but because of where it sits in a broader culture that aggressively sexualizes women's clothing choices.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:03 AM on August 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


But yeah, not usually workplace friendly, depending on what your work is.

I am now imagining an office, say a law office, where Sweet Lolita was the standard dress...
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:07 AM on August 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


This "personal style" that she's talking about being so revolutionary is in every store right now and if it doesn't work for you (me) then you're (I'm) SOL. It's very frustrating.

Her particular style is the one that happens to be very in right now for the rejecting-fashion-rules set, and that's fine. The message though is fuck the rules. And one of the "rules" is that you have to achieve some particular aesthetic. Or you have to look a particular way to wear some particular thing. Reject that.

Sometimes I leave the house and I know I look like a fucking dweeb, but I'm wearing like ok maybe 4 different shades of purple, and ultimately that's what's important to me. Not that other people might think I look like a dweeb.
posted by phunniemee at 8:12 AM on August 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


Oh p.s. this thread seems as good as any a place to make sure folks know about Bandelettes. You got thighs? Game. Changer.
posted by phunniemee at 8:13 AM on August 2, 2016 [15 favorites]


We could all do with a bit more Kimmy Schmidt in our wardrobes.

Purses shaped like animals or fruit are probably the best purses. (I have an apple-shaped purse I often put an apple in. That bit never gets old to me, or to anyone who witnesses me take an apple out of that purse).

I'm going to be thinking about that all day.
posted by roger ackroyd at 8:13 AM on August 2, 2016 [21 favorites]


I am getting there with my wardrobe. Being 50 helps, in that nobody is expecting me to be sexy, so no one is offended if I'm not. If you are not yet middle-aged, you have no idea how freeing that feels. Personally I think I look amazing and my husband still wants to bone me, so I'm all set with the male gaze.

I wear bright colors, I mix patterns, sometimes I like to throw something oddball into the mix just for fun. Yesterday I wore an Indian-style top with a Mexican-style skirt. The thing that pulled them together was that the multi-colored geometric print on the black skirt picked up the eye-searing lime green and pink of the top. That outfit made me happy all day yesterday. It was bright and girly and cute and comfortable, and my boobs stayed inside my shirt all day.

Today I'm wearing little black owl earrings with a chunky crystal and gold necklace. Pink, black and gold-sequined boho style swing dress I bought for 8 bucks at Ross, topped by a long black crocheted vest with fringe, black and gold sandals. I work in an office and it's professional dress day. They're just happy I'm not wearing capris. (I realize there are still citified places where professional dress requires a jacket, but out here in the 'burbs we can get away with more even in decidedly uncreative fields.)

I love my clothes when I dress like this. During the winter I have more trouble pulling together outfits I love, because I haven't yet found comfortable tights and pants rarely fit me right so I usually wind up with a couple of pairs of black yoga pants I wear the shit out of. My winter wardrobe bores the shit out of me. I need to fix this.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:13 AM on August 2, 2016 [12 favorites]


Bleep, I agree that not everyone can make every type of fashion "work" from the perspective of looking good for others. But I think part of her point is that she isn't doing this for others.

As a non-skinny person who like fashion, I am sometimes frustrated that I can't copy a look I see and have it look as good on me. OTOH, in my experience, a surprising variety of things can look good on anyone. If you find a very large thrift store and are willing to try on 20-30 garments, you will likely find one that looks better on you that you'd expect.
posted by mai at 8:14 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


(I have an apple-shaped purse I often put an apple in. That bit never gets old to me, or to anyone who witnesses me take an apple out of that purse).

I adore this woman.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:14 AM on August 2, 2016 [12 favorites]


I am definitely going to go into H&M and buy all the clothes they're selling in order to reject the rules.

I have never felt expected to look sexy in my life, but if you're a young woman and you dress "old" and it doesn't come off as cute and fun, people treat you like you're older than them. It's no fun.
posted by bleep at 8:15 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's pretty disorienting, for this fat lady, to hear a fat woman's manifesto criticized because she is too pretty for it to be universal.

I exist in a space where I am simultaneously objectified for being a woman, and dehumanized for being fat. I am expected to satisfy male desires while I am told that I will never meet that standard. I would be surprised if the author didn't know exactly what I'm talking about.
posted by muddgirl at 8:16 AM on August 2, 2016 [46 favorites]


I haven't yet found comfortable tights

hey girl hey
posted by phunniemee at 8:20 AM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Also I am excited about her purse commentary! I just bought a watermelon-shaped purse at the thrift store! For a dollar! And many people have complimented me!
posted by mai at 8:24 AM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


I am now imagining an office, say a law office, where Sweet Lolita was the standard dress...

I once got reprimanded at a law office where I worked because I wore slightly below-the-knee pink and black striped socks with a slightly above-the-knee black skirt.
posted by Lucinda at 8:29 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


hey girl hey

If the crotch of these tights stays where it belongs without my having to keep hiking two feet of extra length up to the tops of my thighs, while the waistband also does not cut off the circulation to my kidneys, you will have changed my goddamn life.

Edited to add: And I just saw the link for the Bandalettes. I may have to put a statue of you on my altar!
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:29 AM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


The thing about this article is that she's saying you have to try on a lot of stuff to find what looks good on you personally. But at the end of the day this stuff looks good on her. Because she's pretty.

You talk about her being pretty as if that is an objective fact. She looks pretty because she tried on a lot of stuff and messed with makeup sufficiently to find the style that makes her look pretty. Luckily for her (and people who like this style) it seems to also be "in" at the moment.

Even that being said, there are plenty of people who will still consider her to be fat and ugly even though you and I might consider her to look pretty in those pictures.

Some of us aren't so lucky. If you don't have the right kind of face it makes you (me) look deranged and confused, not cute. This "personal style" that she's talking about being so revolutionary is in every store right now and if it doesn't work for you (me) then you're (I'm) SOL. It's very frustrating.

Her personal style isn't your personal style. If you care about looking good, then it behooves you to find the style that you look good in. It sucks when what you like/look good in isn't the norm (I'm longing for the death of skinny jeans and leggings-as-pants so that I don't look out of place in my medium-rise boot cuts anymore), but that's the curse of women's fashion for you.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:29 AM on August 2, 2016 [15 favorites]


I love this manifesto and I wish I wanted to dress like this. But I lack the energy! I lack the energy and will to choose more than one article of clothing per day, hence I love a dress. I look at these outfits and I am so impressed, and I like the idea of thwarting the straight male gaze, but in my life it's so much easier to have a closet full of interchangeable slinky jersey black and grey dresses.

(And I hope someone dresses their toddler in tailored neutrals, because hee)
posted by millipede at 8:32 AM on August 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


There are so many layers of male gaze around this. The non sexual status of grandma and toddler are enforced homosocially between men. To cite references in this thread, the fashion worlds of a John Waters film or Lolita come from media positioned as by and for men.

It's a fun and cute subversion (I'd also connect it back to riot grrl and the punk / queer Olympia scene in general). But in that it addresses a problem, it's a male problem. I think it's good to remember that the "fashion police" are dudes who respond with actual violence against those that don't conform. And that's seriously fucked up and us men have to make that change.
posted by idiopath at 8:36 AM on August 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


I've always figured stuff old people wear is probably the most functional and comfortable because they don't give a damn about what other people think of how they look. Fanny packs? Big wrap-around sunglasses? Sandals with socks? Probably super-great and useful.
posted by straight at 8:42 AM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


One of the funnest things about shopping at thrift stores is seeing the outfits that other people have obviously put together from their previous thrifted finds. It's fun because usually the outfit is clearly carefully put together but it looks ever so slighty... wrong, somehow. Offbeat, and not in that arty-cool way but in a slightly dorky way... like that one piece isn't retro so much as it is just out of style, but you can tell they totally love it. It makes me happy to see these folks confidently rocking this totally unique look they created out of random things they found and loved. It's a little bit endearingly weird and magpie-ish, and it just makes me happy to see them there, doing their own weird little thing.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:46 AM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Wow, I have been a toddler grandma for YEARS! you guys am I cool?

Also, I wish to hell this was the stuff in stores around me right now. It's on modcloth, sure, but the brick-and-mortar places in my area are selling 70s cut-to-navel jumpsuits and teensy rompers, or alternately "HI THIS DRESS IS ACTUALLY JUST A SUPER GIANT PILLOWCASE ENJOY."
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:58 AM on August 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


This is also an area where making your own clothes can come in handy. You learn what styles look good on you, what don't, and fabric choices are like whoa.
posted by Lucinda at 9:04 AM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Hello comfortable shoes I can walk in and dresses with pockets! Hello cardigans that keep me warm but that are also sunshine yellow & I can put awesome vintage brooches on because why not. Hello funky sunglasses that make me giggle when I put them on. Hello dresses that look fancy but which are actually socially acceptable pyjamas. Hello bright red lips that make me feel freaking powerful and teal nails that make me feel rad.

Yeah this is for me and not anybody else. Hell yeah.

PS anybody who thinks it takes super-human effort to look amazing. My strategy: comfortable dresses (because already matching top & bottom) + tights + comfortable shoes + bright cardi + bright lips (two brights distract from whether rest of outfit matches). And OUT THE DOOR.
posted by kariebookish at 9:05 AM on August 2, 2016 [14 favorites]


Also, it's interesting to note comments about ModCloth etc because this is a look I really, really associate with the feminist revival of craft.
posted by kariebookish at 9:12 AM on August 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


I don't think all the fashion police are men.
I remember a female manager in my old office declaring that all women should wear heels at work.
(And I'm thinking, 'you're requiring women to wear something demonstrably bad for their health??')

I'm looking at the pictures in the article, and that is pretty much how my 4-year-old granddaughter dresses. Hope she keeps it up.
posted by MtDewd at 9:14 AM on August 2, 2016


Want a new funky dress? Here's a fun way to find a new funky dress:

Step one: go to amazon.com
Step two: type your favorite thing into the search bar followed by cowcow (so, like, if your favorite thing is pizza, "pizza cowcow" or if cats, "cats cowcow")
Step three: hit search

Tip courtesy of a comment from masquesoporfavor on a previous thread about clothing that I can't find now unfortunately.
posted by phunniemee at 9:16 AM on August 2, 2016 [28 favorites]


Clothing as politics and fashion as commentary is fascinating to me.

Of course, I'm basically Edina Monsoon, throwing things out of her closet, shrieking "But I don't want to be this person, sweetie." most of the time when I'm called upon to get dressed.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:17 AM on August 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


I still work for a law office, though a much more casual one. My fashion choices for work are "oh crap I woke up late again I need to put something on and leave NOW", which usually results in "solid colored blouse (I have six that are exactly the same but for color) and black skirt".

Though I will totally wear the pink sparkle clogs once they're ready and I don't think anyone will complain
posted by Lucinda at 9:20 AM on August 2, 2016


Wondering where Penelope Garcia falls on this spectrum..
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 9:20 AM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Wondering where Penelope Garcia falls on this spectrum.

She is a Toddler Grandma Diva Goddess.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:22 AM on August 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


PS anybody who thinks it takes super-human effort to look amazing. My strategy: comfortable dresses (because already matching top & bottom) + tights + comfortable shoes + bright cardi + bright lips (two brights distract from whether rest of outfit matches). And OUT THE DOOR.

I tend to think the superhuman effort, for most people, comes in the acquiring of these objects, not so much in their assembly once acquired....?
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:24 AM on August 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


(I mean yes, I now have all of these things and can throw them on before fleeing out the door, but it took me like 5 solid years to put that wardrobe together. And it still fails me on the regular because I live in the dumbest climate imaginable.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:25 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've seen this article making the rounds elsewhere and I've been actively avoiding it because I have some sort of deep squick reaction to the phrase "toddler style."

I 100% support not dressing for the male gaze and I certainly don't myself. I like Cynara's style and I have a bunch of clothing with animals on them, and love to wear patterns and bright colors but am not as nearly as femme. But I just can't with being an adult and willingly calling anything about myself "toddler." Makes my skin crawl.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:27 AM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


I am totally down with opening up "fashion rules" that are mostly imagined in our daily wear, but it's still a huge hurdle in the professional world. Young women, especially petite ones, cannot wear 'toddler clothes' without getting treated even younger than they are. If you want to be a lawyer, or something corporate or marketing-y, IDK, there are plenty of jobs where you cannot commit to this style. I have been an admin assistant, and occasionally I perused "Executive assistant" jobs that paid more, and I didn't bother applying because I KNEW those jobs expected blazers and heels. I imagine many other women have not pursued possibly lucrative jobs because they didn't want to dress for it. We may be free to reject fashion rules outside work, but inside, well, you are privileged if you are able to find a job that pays well AND lets you dress like this.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:29 AM on August 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


> This reminds me a lot of my love/hate relationship with Modcloth

Mine is hate/hate because they don't carry my size and I want their clothes.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:32 AM on August 2, 2016


PSY seems to like this style, he wrote that one song about it
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:36 AM on August 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


> what my Girl Scouts wear

I went to Girl Scout summer camp last week with my troop. It was interesting seeing what the girls and counselors wore. Mostly:

1. Loose short-shorts with pompoms or rickrack sewn along the hem, with amusing T-shirts
or
2. Dresses that looked like the Tardis
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:38 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


PSY seems to like this style, he wrote that one song about it

He's like toddler That Guy from Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
posted by phunniemee at 9:39 AM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Ug, dresses. I hate dresses. Dresses are made in one size. Whereas I am inexplicably a size larger on my top than on my bottom, despite being both pear shaped and quite normally proportioned. Dresses never ever fit. Turns out there are so many different ways one item of clothing can be ugly and uncomfortable and just horrible to wear. No more.

I also hate fuss and extra material and loose things and random crap tacked on. I also don't like colours and patterns and never wear makeup or jewelery because who has time for that. So I think I'm exactly not the target audience for this stuff.
posted by shelleycat at 10:30 AM on August 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


I once got sneered at on a London street for wearing my favorite turqouise-and-lime-green top (it was an amazing top, I miss it). Because sophisticated people wear black. At the time it made me feel like a rube but also angry, because who hates colors?

What Not to Wear regularly filled me with rage for exactly the reasons she points out--everyone ended up boring-looking and kind of uncomfortable.
posted by emjaybee at 10:32 AM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Dressing well is too much work. I'm about to do an Ask Me to get help putting together an office uniform. I like to rock out in thrift finds on the weekend but now that I'm more than fully employed I just don't care what I wear as long as it's comfy and I can find it and put it on even when I'm brain dead. But I love the post, so not dissing that in any way.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:35 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Want a new funky dress? Here's a fun way to find a new funky dress:

Step one: go to amazon.com
Step two: type your favorite thing into the search bar followed by cowcow (so, like, if your favorite thing is pizza, "pizza cowcow" or if cats, "cats cowcow")
Step three: hit search


But don't limit yourself, otherwise you might miss out on gems like these:

Cute Ghosts!
Organic Chemistry!
Corn!
And, best of all, Egg and Sperm Fertilization (SFW)!
posted by Diagonalize at 10:37 AM on August 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


We may be free to reject fashion rules outside work, but inside, well, you are privileged if you are able to find a job that pays well AND lets you dress like this.

this is probably the third-place reason why I am much happier in the job I have now. It isn't as lucrative as the Finance Admin job, but there literally is no official dress code. And I can indeed say "literally" because - I work in HR and we would be the ones who'd know. I have in fact been asked for the dress code, only to be told by my boss that we didn't have one - "we just expect people to use their best judgement", because there are so many different types of work going on here.

So I've seen button-down business-casual types, jeans and shirts, button-up corporate types, and just yesterday I saw someone rocking a blue flowered frilly skirt and a brown t-shirt that said "Refugees welcome". My first boss here was a biz-casual guy, the next boss occasionally went Stevie Nicks, one of my co-workers always has cute fitted dresses that sometimes show off her arm tattoos, and I saw someone actually wear a snood once.

I tend to go by Gilda Radner's rule: "I base my fashion taste on what doesn't itch."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:39 AM on August 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


Cowcow dresses are too short for my personal preference (knee length for me!) but Amazon did suggest this amazing T. Rex necklace to me, which would be work appropriate for me, obvs, because I work with geologists.

I call my style the "Boho Top & Jeans Don't Care" look.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:56 AM on August 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


because who hates colors?

Me. But I have no problem with other people wearing what they want. As long as I can get my boring black/neutral/plain denim clothing that makes me feel good I'm good.
posted by shelleycat at 11:00 AM on August 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


My wife showed me a Facebook or Instagram picture over the weekend of babies made up to look like old people (wigs, thick glasses, etc) and I thought that's what this post would be about because it was pretty cute.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:18 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's a certain amount of privilege in being able to adopt this style because it makes you 'feel good', and it ignores the real fact that you may not be taken seriously in the world. It is also 'quirky' and 'fun' when you're young and thought of as creative. It might not carry through your middle age so well, when you would be likely to be just judged as weird or unbalanced.

Now, I am old (enough to be a grandmother, although I'm not) and I dress in a particular way because I don't want to become 'middle-aged invisible' and to shake up ideas about what is becoming and suitable for women over 50. It's not the same style as this woman, but it's not the usual 'tasteful' way that women my age are supposed to dress. However, I can only engage in this type of role-playing because I don't exist in the corporate world; I live on a combination of freelance work and disability pay and previously I was in university.

There is no way to avoid the 'male gaze' phenomenon. Men are still looking at her, and judging and if she were petite or buxom, men would still sexualize her appearance. There's no magical armor against it. If she likes this type of style, brava to her for wearing it confidently but it's not making her immune to the male gaze. (and all those patterns and colours...hurt my brain)
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 11:30 AM on August 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


Something else that's fun is seeing the effect your own wearing-what-you-want has on others. There have been a few women in my office who have come in wearing something slightly off from what they normally do, specifically saying "I was inspired by phunniemee."

Like my coworker who had a skirt she loved but was fretting about not having a blouse or anything else "nice enough" to pair with it. She solved that problem by wearing it with a t-shirt and sneakers a few days after I wore the same thing.

Or the other coworker who usually wears beiges and blacks and came in in a HOT PINK dress one day, saying "I've had this forever but never felt comfortable wearing it, but you wear bright colors all the time and look so happy, so I'm giving it a try!" (Now she wears the hot pink dress a few times a month.)

It's pretty cool. I love love love that me doing my thing can help other people feel better about doing theirs.
posted by phunniemee at 11:41 AM on August 2, 2016 [29 favorites]


Toddlers and grannies don't escape the male gaze. They're just less likely to be sexualized by it.

Since I turned 50, I've definitely gotten more slack, but it was never just men who perpetuated the male gaze. I've had plenty of women policing me for them, too. Largely based on some completely unfounded assumption that women should dress to attract attention. Everything is supposed to 'pop' or make you stand out in a crowd or something.

I am super-relieved to be getting out from under the street harassment type behaviors, and one of the best things about getting old is that people are less likely to assume that my goal is to sexually appeal to men. But they still perpetuate this idea that women are supposed to develop some personal style and define themselves by their appearance. My husband is the frumpiest frump who ever frumped, but nobody tries to give him makeovers. (Except me, once, when I called a family meeting to demand an explanation for his stupid, practically transparent shirt with epaulets.)

About 90% of my fashion boils down to "move along, nothing to see here." And the other 10% is trying to avoid the 'middle aged, socially conservative white lady' stereotype where people say fucked up shit to me assuming I will agree with them.

And many people seem to mistake my boring aesthetic for no aesthetic at all. I wear almost exclusively black, gray, and blue. A good portion of my wardrobe is men's clothes. Getting really dressed up means putting on my Soviet space dogs pendant and my one pair of shoes that isn't Docs or Birkenstocks like I'm Beyonce or the Queen of England.

I still get other women trying to give me makeovers and fashion advice sometimes, though, always based on this assumption that I want people to look at me more. I do not. Not because I have bad self esteem or because I am too timid to fly some freak flag or another. Because I am tired of people looking at me all the time. I want to go around and do the things I want and need to do without feeling like I'm on display somehow. Sexualized or not.

What's funny is that What Not to Wear gave me the heebie jeebies for the opposite reason. They were always taking away people's comfortable shoes and putting them in uncomfortable looking clothing with the purpose of making them stand out and attract attention. They had a woman on there once who dressed almost exactly the way I do, and when she resisted the makeover, they ganged up on her and told her that the way she dressed was disrespectful to her family and friends, until they made her cry and she agreed to go along with it. She looked clean and her clothing wasn't tattered or anything. It was just simple and practical. That was the Great Offense she committed against society. She didn't 'pop.'

I am all 100% for people who do have interesting or important fashion statements to make making them. I genuinely appreciate the creativity and the sheer amount of skill that goes into that sort of thing. I think it's fucked up that people consider fashion to be some uniquely superficial form of artistic expression and look down on it. I really admire the work some people put into their appearance. It's just not something I am interested in for myself.

As with a lot of other weird gender normative assumptions, it's dismissive and reductive from every angle. It's insulting to women to assume you know her interests and skills just based on her gender, and it's insulting to women who do have those skills or interests to assume it's something that comes naturally to them just because of their gender.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:42 AM on August 2, 2016 [31 favorites]


It is also 'quirky' and 'fun' when you're young and thought of as creative. It might not carry through your middle age so well, when you would be likely to be just judged as weird or unbalanced.

I'm in my forties and I'm happy to wear my mustard-yellow knitted cardigan on top of my blue/red thrifted dress, red tights and yellow shoes. I mean, I am really, genuinely happy when I wear this combo.

I've reached the point where if people judge me as weird or unbalanced, I worry more about them than I do about how I look. Because mustard yellow cardigans.
posted by kariebookish at 11:45 AM on August 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


Didn't want to comment too early for fear of thread-sitting, but I think there's an important distinction to be drawn between "professional" and "every day," "casual," or "fancy."

As a man, I have very limited options for professional, too. I can wear a suit. "Business casual" is an oxford and pants, or perhaps a polo shirt. "Professional" is very narrow for all genders, really. Workplaces requiring "professional" dress are their own problem. Maybe one day professional and conformity won't go hand-in-hand.

But at least I'm not expected to wear high heels or pants that make my legs/ass look good to be considered professional.
posted by explosion at 11:48 AM on August 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


1. Loose short-shorts with pompoms or rickrack sewn along the hem

I realize I just saw some of these on a hip young lady, and I thought they were some kind of bloomers. Which I guess they kind of are? They looked poofy, but maybe they were just loose.
posted by emjaybee at 11:49 AM on August 2, 2016


Is anyone else imagining phunniemee as some sort of wonderful magical being that hands out Lisa Frank stickers?

Today I wore this rainbow dress from Modcloth to my grown-up desk job. I put a jean jacket over it to combat the bare shoulder "problem" (not to mention my aggressively air conditioned office). And I added a bright blue skinny belt, because I think it looks cool. I'm pretty sure people take me seriously because I get my work done, not because of what I wear.
posted by giraffe at 11:54 AM on August 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


Want a new funky dress? Here's a fun way to find a new funky dress:

Step one: go to amazon.com
Step two: type your favorite thing into the search bar followed by cowcow (so, like, if your favorite thing is pizza, "pizza cowcow" or if cats, "cats cowcow")
Step three: hit search


"llama cowcow"

0 results. Sad face. But everything is so cute I want to buy it all!
posted by altopower at 11:56 AM on August 2, 2016


I love this, but I've basically been dressing this way since 1994, but with much bigger earrings and, when possible, more tulle and brocade. Still trying to get rocococore off the ground, y'all.
posted by thivaia at 11:57 AM on August 2, 2016 [22 favorites]


But at the end of the day this stuff looks good on her. Because she's pretty. Pretty clothes make pretty person look more pretty. In the grand scheme of things you do have to have a certain look to pull this off, and the message is "I'm so pretty I can wear whatever I want and make it look good" Some of us aren't so lucky.

I am quite fond of dumping on myself by saying that this only works because they are pretty and I am not pretty and people who know me can attest (I'm looking at you, D.C.) And this is usually rather true. That skinny little 18 yr old in the acid washed denim pantsuit makes it look smokin' hot because SHE is smokin' hot.

However, I doubt Mz. Geissler is most people's definition of drop-dead gorgeous. And, while Modcloth fashion shoots may touch on this vintage thrift store wackiness, they certainly don't take it this far and you definitely don't see even the fashion shoot level of eclectic walking around on the streets that often. And yet, she looks amazing and awesome and I'm totally jealous of her fashion sense. She doesn't look fabulous because she is crazy beautiful and could pull anything off, she looks fabulous because she delights in dressing and wears it with a confidence that makes her whole being shine. And far from putting me in the dumps for being an unwanted, unattractive sack of crap, this makes me want to go into my closet and get out that loud print dress that makes me happy and everybody else be damned.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:18 PM on August 2, 2016 [18 favorites]


Today, I turned a smartly dressed woman's head with my outfit, on the subway platform. Not in a sexy way, she was with a man and I am straight, but because I knew I was looking smart yet unusual. Yes! This is not about boys, indeed.

Uniqlo.
posted by infini at 12:23 PM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I spent the majority of my twenties wearing dull horrible clothes because I had no self-confidence and had completely internalised fat hatred. And then I thought well fuck it I like that flowery dress and I became someone who wears flowery dresses.

And then I got pregnant and there was like one plus-size maternity dress (black) and had the baby and walked around a hospital in my pyjamas and then there was one plus-size nursing dress and suprise! It was black. Gah. Really trying to get back to that level of self-confidence and don'tgiveafuckidness. It's tricky.
posted by threetwentytwo at 12:34 PM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yesterday I donated five garbage bags of clothing that I didn't love. That didn't make me happy. That I held on to for the "someday" that I'd be thin and fit the social convention of beauty. And then someone posted a link on FB about getting rid of clothes that don't make you happy, and I thought "Eff it, I'm 43 this year, it's time to love my clothes and not dread getting dressed every day." So I hope there's someone shopping at the thrift store that can make good use of those clothes, because it's not me.

I'm in a professional position. And I've always been plus sized (I joke I remember going from 6x as a kid straight into 14s) and I honestly think that young women like this are part of the big change in fashion acceptance for me. That and internet shopping. God bless Gwynnie Bee, eShakti, ModCloth, and lord now I can get an organic chemistry dress on Amazon. When I was a teenager I was stuck shopping at the mall and hating myself for it. So seeing so many young women finding their clothing niches makes me happy, and screw it, if they can be happy so can I. Do the heels I have on today make me stop down the hall like Godzilla? HELL YES. Did the dress I wear yesterday make me hear the Imperial March in my head as I walked to meetings? HELL YES. Keepers both of those. Does my boss need to know either of those things? Not necessarily. It's as much internal attitude (I'm not pretty. On really really good days I'm cute. And every day I'm fat.) as it is the clothes. So bless these women for inspiring the rest of us.
posted by librarianamy at 12:41 PM on August 2, 2016 [24 favorites]


I must say I was disappointed to see what "toddler grandma" actually looked like. What I was imagining when I read it was totally different. I've always thought very little girls get the best clothes, and I also love how my mom (80-something, though not a grandma) dresses, very simple and comfortable. So I was picturing clothes with simple lines, neutral colors, lots of soft cotton, loose but not baggy sillhouettes, neither sexy nor edgy. Like a cross between Eileen Fisher and Baby Boden. Those are the kind of outfits I'm often drawn to, but I mostly don't wear them, because I feel like I have some kind of "responsibility" to attempt to dress "nicer" or "cuter" than that. Not that that's imposed by the outside world, just by myself. It's as if, in my 30s, I feel I shouldn't give in to the inevitable total invisibility quite yet*, I might still have a small shot at being seen as sexy, sophisticated, or attractive. Not that anyone has ever seen me as any of those things, but I'd like to be seen that way. Maybe it's just that I'd like to see MYSELF that way. Also, I'm too large to look good in my imagined version of "toddler grandma." Toddlers and (many) grandmas are very small people. Of course I know I could wear whatever the fuck I want. I don't even work in an office. Maybe what I want or how I want to look and feel is too complex to be captured in any one style of dressing.

But I would say, the clothes the writer is talking about (which honestly, look like nothing new or special and just remind me of high school and the 90s) wouldn't look the same on everyone. Put them on someone who looks like Kylie Jenner or Ivanka Trump and I bet most people would call it very sexy, even an icky-provocative type of sexy, like a reverse prostitot. I mean, the males would be gazing, you know?

*Tangentially, this is what I always assumed those "I will wear purple" women were fighting. Saying "Damn it, we will wear identical hideous clashing outfits and parade around in a loud group and you will finally have no choice but to notice us, god damn you."
posted by ocksay_uppetpay at 2:05 PM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Tangentially, this is what I always assumed those "I will wear purple" women were fighting. Saying "Damn it, we will wear identical hideous clashing outfits and parade around in a loud group and you will finally have no choice but to notice us, god damn you."

Funny, I always took it as "I will be too busy doing what I damn well please to notice or care if you notice me or not." That is the goal for me, anyway.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:25 PM on August 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


I have just transitioned from all camo colors, cargo shorts and pants, various tops, to the most garish sun dresses I can buy cheap, yeah for rayon. The ten year old cargo shorts are staying, I have one set with a blown zipper I will pay someone to repair. Mostly I would dress in an invisibility cloak, if they came in cotton. My whole look is generally "I am not the droid you are looking for."
posted by Oyéah at 3:59 PM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


My ex-wife practically invented this style a handful of years ago.
posted by ostranenie at 4:16 PM on August 2, 2016


I am now imagining an office, say a law office, where Sweet Lolita was the standard dress...

Their tea parties were EPIC.

Also, a shoutout for Holy Clothing which has sizes from small to 6W. It's largely faux Renaissance chic but I get a ton of complements on what I wear. I also love~ it~.

ocksay_uppetpay: So I was picturing clothes with simple lines, neutral colors, lots of soft cotton, loose but not baggy sillhouettes, neither sexy nor edgy. Like a cross between Eileen Fisher and Baby Boden. Those are the kind of outfits I'm often drawn to, but I mostly don't wear them, because I feel like I have some kind of "responsibility" to attempt to dress "nicer" or "cuter" than that.

My read of her article was that she was saying, "ocksay_uppetpay - wear those awesome simple lined, neutral colors, loose by not baggy clothing and love it!" I'm inclined to agree with her - rock the clothing you love, not what you think you should wear (dress codes taken into account).
posted by Deoridhe at 4:18 PM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


OK, this thread has motivated me to try eShakti for the first time. If I can find a source of fun dresses in Tall sizes, holy crap, look out world.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:10 PM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


ocksay_uppetpay, your cross between Eileen Fisher and Baby Boden is an exact articulation of the style I'm going for! Thanks for putting it into words.

This girl reminds me so much of how I dressed in high school in the mid-90s, with my thrift store vintage, suburban California, riot grrl style.
posted by apricot at 5:50 PM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Okay, eShakti is so great not only because the dresses have pockets but they're also a goldmine of the 50's-style fit and flare types of dresses that Michelle Obama likes which are helping me fulfill my longtime dream of dressing as cute as the lady herself.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:03 PM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I also interpreted the granny toddler style to be choosing clothes that say "I'm happy, I'm comfortable, I don't care what you think." As an objectively giant woman with no hope of ever sufficiently complying with Beauty Standards, this has been my approach for as long as I can remember, though at times this declaration has been more defiant than honest, and clothes have felt more like armor than any sort of joyful personal expression.

I'm wondering what sort of reception this manifesto would receive if the resulting wardrobe was, say, baggy jeans, faded black t-shirts, and no makeup--warmer or cooler than deliberately exuberant, colorful, girlish femininity?

Finally, important cowcow news: some dresses come in tall sizes! (example)
posted by esoterrica at 7:51 PM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


I love this idea. I do think so much of fashion is just about not giving a fuck and just 100% owning whatever you are wearing.

I was (am?) a weird kid who had a mom as a dressmaker. She was absolutely fashionable, but probably in a more high fashion way. I had a childhood of rainbow skirts and prairie dresses and what I can only call space-hippie clothes (that was my high school aesthetic) and jackets inspired by movies that took place in the 18th century. This was fun. Clothes were fun. Clothes should be fun.

Today I wore an outfit I'm not 100% sure looked good -- it was a calf-length royal blue pencil skirt, this V-neck black and white striped short-sleeved sweater, gray leggings (mostly to cover my tattoos but also because my office is freezing) and my "Agent Carter" shoes (high-heeled black and white wingtips, basically). I don't know how good it actually looked -- the proportions were maybe a bit off -- but I also know I felt good in it. And it was more I felt unique and stylish, even if I was imperfect.

Clothes cost money and I 100% get that, but there are also worse things in the world if you buy something, wear it and feel like it's not quite you. It's a pretty low-risk thing. You don't have to wear it again. Or you can wear it with something else.

I'm a big fan of finding a personal style. I'm a big fan of just wearing clothes you enjoy wearing even if no one is looking at you. I get this can be a hard thing to find. But I am a huge fan of dressing for myself first. If other people like it, that's cool. If not, whatever. I still know I look awesome.
posted by darksong at 8:05 PM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Why can't I dress like a man at an Indian wedding? They have the most comfortable looking clothes and they are still blingin.
posted by Trifling at 8:36 PM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


> I'm wondering what sort of reception this manifesto would receive if the resulting wardrobe was, say, baggy jeans, faded black t-shirts, and no makeup

That's a good point. If I don't deliberately remember to find my brighter colored clothes, or a skirt, I'm going to end up in my favorite grey cords and a plain v-neck T-shirt four days out of five. Shouldn't that feel liberating, as well?
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:24 PM on August 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


Why can't I dress like a man at an Indian wedding?

Fab India
. previously
posted by infini at 11:07 PM on August 2, 2016


[scrolls down, views photos of said style]
No, dressing like a manic pixie dream girl will not save you any trouble. Sorry.
posted by 3urypteris at 11:40 PM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


but in my life it's so much easier to have a closet full of interchangeable slinky jersey black and grey dresses.

Yeah, I LOVE this style and I really admire the women who dress like this, and I really wish that I had a whole wardrobe full of clothes like that, but god damn does it look like a lot of work, a lot of money, and a lot of storage space. I can't be arsed.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 2:55 AM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Y'know, I realized I actually have no idea what my style profile is. I tend to swing between "nautical prep" and "understated boho" with a little bit of "tomboy" and plain "honestly don't stress too much about it".

Like, today I'm wearing khaki pants with a navy boatneck top, and a silk red-white-and-blue scarf. yesterday was pink pedal pushers with a pink tank and a short sleeve cardigan and a scarf, and tomorrow may be a poet-y sort of top with a long vest and pants or a skirt. The only kind of "signature" is that I tend to go with scarves and stoles and long statement necklaces (my friend in Ireland has an uncanny eye for picking out awesome necklaces for me; every single time I wear one of the two she's given me as gifts, I get people doing double-takes and telling me they look awesome).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:23 AM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm wondering what sort of reception this manifesto would receive if the resulting wardrobe was, say, baggy jeans, faded black t-shirts, and no makeup-

Well, I mean yes, much of women's fashion reporting and blogging focuses on very feminine styles. And I've found plus size fashion blogging even more studiously feminine, to the point where I would love to follow many more plus size fashion bloggers but I don't, because I don't wear make up, jewelry, coiffed hair, heels, and dresses every day so I don't relate to what they're doing. I do think there's an unspoken higher bar of femininity set for plus sized women interested in fashion, or looking professional, or whatever.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:11 AM on August 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


I think of this as Bi Girl (TM) style more than anything else. Reclaimed femininity for women who may have felt they were outside the Typical Girl box at some point in their lives.
posted by subdee at 8:47 AM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


(And I hope someone dresses their toddler in tailored neutrals, because hee)

I'm always on the lookout for black and gray stuff to put my toddler in, basically whatever Gender Neutral Beatnik Sweatpants would be. I managed to find pull-on herringbone sweatpants for him, but otherwise it's difficult to find stuff that's neutral and easy to move around in and inexpensive enough that I won't feel bad when the kid gets spaghetti sauce on it or outgrows it in six months.

Meanwhile, my own wardrobe has exploded in prints since the guy's birth, because I'm super jealous that Zutano doesn't make anything in my size.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:55 AM on August 3, 2016


I went to Target last November and bought a hair trimmer and then gave myself a buzz cut for Reasons (mostly because I didn't have the patience to go to a professional and it was late when I decided to do this). Since then I've had professionals keep it trimmed. It's been great to stop colouring my hair and to keep it super short. It feels like I am no longer obligated to give a fuck about my looks or to attempt to look girly, which I've never, ever been good at. (I don't shave my legs, I don't wear make up and haven't for years and years.) The only problem with my haircut is that it feels weird if I look at myself in the mirror while wearing a dress or a skirt. It's like my brain has decided that my hair obligates me to wear flannel shirts and chinos the rest of my life. And I'm okay with men's shirts (not flannel so much) and chinos, but not only that--my closet is filled with lots of other things that I actually liked to wear when I had longer, more traditionally female hair. I don't know what's going on but I want it to stop. I want to be able to wear my goofy HM bright red skirt with colourful banding no matter what my hair looks like because I love that skirt. And yet I haven't been able to wear it for 9 months. Sick, it's just sick.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:14 AM on August 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I love aging out of male gaze, but I pretty much dress the way I've always dressed...black, sort of witchy without treading too far into goth, like a short, round, Stevie nicks circa 1980. But I still keep pta appropriate clothes for dealing with school events and the like, because junior high is hard enough, without your mom drawing attention because she looks so different from the other parents. That said, I still wear tiaras to the grocers. As you do.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 5:51 PM on August 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Bella Donna, have you considered adding hats to this skirt?
posted by bq at 8:32 PM on August 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm fifty and self-employed. I'd love to be able to say I DGAF about what people might think of me based on what I wear, but I'd be lying then.

But when I have to wear shoes, it's pretty much always gonna be my combat boots that have pockets. They're comfortable, useful for holding stuff like credit cards and lip pencils, and ready to kick anyone who doesn't like 'em.

Several years ago I switched from music performance to working from home. Begone, stage clothes! Normcore frumpery for me! I shall blend into my surroundings in this grey hoodie! But lately I don't want to embrace the drab. I've taken to skirts and wild leggings, which is weird for me after a lifetime of hating to wear skirts and dresses.

And many thanks for the CowCow tip!

(brb ordering green dress covered in huge insects)
posted by salix at 12:57 AM on August 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


The New York look - how? Why?
posted by Segundus at 7:45 AM on August 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


bq, nice idea. I have not considered a hat because I also wear glasses. But if somebody can suggest a hat or hats or headgear, I am completely open to that. For example, I once went to an event to SF that was basically an indoor concert/playground event for burner types (which I'm not). I wore a vintage blue lace dress (heavily beaded around the neckline) with a white headband that I'd tweaked by adding a faux robin nestled in a white ribbon bow. Just because I could. So feel free to reply or message me if anyone has ideas about hats or headgear that can coexist happily with buzzcuts and specs.
posted by Bella Donna at 3:26 PM on August 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


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