Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Clothing Comfort

The following quote from Jane Smiley's novel A Thousand Acres catapulted me back to my anti-jean, childhood days of stretch pants and high ponytails:

“…another thing I distinctly remember about being a child is that awareness of oneself inside one’s clothes. Pinching shoes, a prickling slip, a dress that is tight across the shoulders or around the wrists, ankle socks bunching in the heels of my shoes. Mommy and Daddy never complained of their clothes, but mine seemed a constant torment.” (page 278)

I remember abhorring tights, because they itched. Forty minutes-a-week for dance class was almost more than I could bear. When I would stand out at the bus stop in the dead of winter, my neighbors’ grandmother would poke her head out of their front door and holler, “Aren’t your legs cold?” I always answered, “No,” even if I was shivering. Being cold for ten minutes was far preferable to wearing clingy, itchy tights under my jumper all day long.

I did not start wearing jeans until at least fourth grade. Before then, I generally had not had to worry about what others thought of my fashion sense, since I attended Catholic gradeschools. However, fourth grade is about the time when kids start having their birthday parties at public places. Public places mean being Seen in Public, and so everyone begins to regard their own appearance critically. When kids start being self-critical, they start criticizing others—how else can they come out on top? In effect, I knew I had to conform or else be rejected from society as I knew it. So I wore the jeans.

The same can be said today: conform or face rejection. Throughout high school, I continued to prize comfort over what most people would consider “fashion,” substituting sweatpants for the skintight jeans or dangerously short skirts that seemed to be required of every girl who was anyone. If you wanted to be looked at, you dressed nicely. Period.

I could claim that I simply didn’t want to be looked at, but I don’t think this is true. I didn’t find the payoff worth the cost, that’s all. Sure, I wanted boys to be interested in me. I just didn’t want them to be interested in hooking up with me. I felt confident that if they were truly interested in me for Me, then they wouldn’t care what I was wearing. I successfully found one guy who fit that description; we became very good friends.

I have always upheld the opinion that as people get to know one another better and grow to like each other more, they become more attractive to one another. This is not to say that they physically change, but their subjective opinions of one another’s appearance become more positive in spite of any initial aesthetic perceptions. My “close high school friend” Ben completely disagreed with me. Four years after knowing me, he revised his opinion. Now, he will only admit to one exception to his rule that if you’re not initially attracted to someone, you never will be. One is enough for me.

Ben liked me in my sweatpants. And while no one else has, I’m certain someone else eventually will. In the meantime, I’ll dress “appropriately,” when I must, to appease the masses. Otherwise, look for the sweatpants.


Dad said...

There's an OLD SAYING, "CLOTHES MAKE THE PERSON." While I will agree with you that there are clothes for comfort, there are also clothes for dress. Don't you ever feel good or better about yourself when you dress up? Check yourself out in the mirror & say to yourself, "damn, I look good." Think about what may 1st attract you to someone else. Take that same person. Put them in sweats (pants & shirts) a hat & sneakers. Now take that same person & put them in a blazer, crisp shirt, cleanly pressed slacks & polished shoes. 1st impressions to count. Which one would you be more attracted to or want to approach for whatever reason.


rome said...

all i have to say is interesting

Kelly said...

to me, it's not so much how dressed up you are, it's the over all flattering appearance. if you have on comfy clothes, and you look good in them, by all means, it's all good. and if you're built like a model (cough), you're already at an advantage. from an attraction point, i'm just as attracted to a guy with good shoulders in a t-shirt as a suit. (and let's just note- the suit lets them cheat the 'hot shoulders' look too).
so yeah. flattering and comfortable is the epitome. for me. but i'll go with a medium- jeans and a t-shirt in the meantime.

Colleen said...

I have to agree with your dad. Even when I am sick, sometimes just doing my hair and getting dressed up makes me feel better. I love comfy clothes, but I like trendy clothes too, I just try to combine the two! However, I must say that the guy who would attract me first would be in uniform... there is just something about them! I initially have much more respect for a guy in khakis and a polo than a guy in a t-shirt and shorts. But to each his/her own!

Kelly said...

You don't have to dress like a skank to get noticed. I dress tastefully and somehow guys still want to talk to me. I do go to CMU, though, which is such a different world. CollegeProwler rated our girls' attractiveness at a D+.