Category Archives: Vernacular

What Not to Wear

“Personality in Your Style | What Not to Wear,” Video courtesy of TLC, Youtube.com, 2013.

What Not to Wear is a reality TV series in which women are nominated to receive a $5,000 wardrobe makeover. The show operates on the idea that clothes are a visible reflection of one’s personality, and that it is important to send the “right” message to other people through one’s style.

In the above video, hosts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly state that people should not hide behind their clothing or use “costumes” to “[mask] deeper insecurities.” Though they emphasize that a woman is more than what she wears (“people should notice you – not just your outfit”), they also state that dressing in an “approachable” manner can “help you in your career,” among other things.

While people are free to choose what they wear, Stacy and Clinton’s often caustic commentary on the nominees’ wardrobes confirms that people are not in control of the outside judgments attached to their fashion choices. At the end of the show, most nominees yield under pressure and conform to a more conventional style, in lieu of being deemed “crazy,” “frumpy,” or “unkept.”

Feminizing Menswear?

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“Raf Simons Spring 2014 Menswear,” Images courtesy of Yannis Vlamos, Style.com, 2013.

Raf Simons, currently the creative director for Christian Dior, released a menswear collection for his self-titled line featuring unique silhouettes: long tunics paired with short shorts, loose and sagging shorts that seemed to borrow its shape from the skirt.

Reactions towards the gender-bending collection were mixed. A New York Times blogger revered the “sporty shirt dress” and “girlish polo knits” as “airy, unconstrained, versatile clothes” for teen boys and young men in their 20’s. On the other hand, some Youtube users labelled the collection as “hardly wearable to the average person” and “too close to being feminine-looking” in comments on a short video of the show posted by Style.com.

Despite others’ continuous references to the collection’s “femininity,” Raf Simons himself described his inspiration as based on infant clothes – “the ultimate opposite” of the current “artificiality” of the world. In his attempts to recreate the gender-neutral innocence of infancy in adult men, Simons seems to suggest that masculinity and femininity are standards learned later in life, as members of society.

The counterculture of pink

“When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink?” Image courtesy of University of Maryland Costume and Textile Collection, Smithsonian.com, 2011.

Pink is for girls, blue is for boys – in modern times, this color distinction is an instantly recognizable indication of a baby’s gender. It is, however, a fairly recent norm. Until the 1940s, when large-scale manufacturers of ready-to-wear infant clothing established the pink and blue standard we know today, the colors, if used at all, were commonly paired with compatible hair and eye colors. When they were associated with gender, pink, considered to be a watered down version of the imposing red, was a “more decided and stronger color” and therefore appropriate for boys.

In the 21st century, pink is a decidedly feminine color. Thus, when wearing the color, males must justify their fashion choice: The above shirt makes a tongue-in-cheek statement about the wearer’s rebellious and progressive nature, but even a simple, plain pink shirt can be used as an expression of a man’s unquestionable masculinity – he can still identify and be identified as a man, regardless of the colors he wears.