My name is Emma and I’m a hopeless romantic. For a good decade I have lived off a tonic of John Hughes rom-coms and no doubt would score a 99% match rating if Pretty Woman were to ever land on Netflix. Though I am now starting to wonder if these films are just awful (stay with me…) Why? They all go entirely against my Man Repeller school of thought when it comes to fashion. Specifically: The Makeover Scene.
Take She’s All That (revisited more times than I can recall). In case you have not watched this film though, the premise is that a high-school jock makes a bet with his friend he can turn any 'unattractive' girl into the school's prom queen. Rachael Leigh Cook “Laney Boggs” (the art school ‘nerd’ in her paint splattered dungarees, who prefers a black swimsuit to a bikini) puts on a red mini-dress she doesn’t like, and preened to perfection for Freddie Prinze Jr’s arrival she appears hours later, walking down the stairs to ‘Kiss Me’ playing in the background, naturally. BAM! The boy finally notices her. It’s not the fact she’s wearing the red dress (it’s a great dress FYI) it’s that this is the moment she is fully realised as the ‘cute’ / ‘sexy’ leading lady in his eyes. Ba-bye dungarees.
Looking back, I have been aware of wearing clothes for the male gaze in the past, or paying closer attention to what I thought he liked best on me or seemed 'sexier'. An exhaustive and pointless exercise indeed. But as I’ve got older, the less I care, if at all really, about what men think about how I dress.
Sienna Miller spoke out about her new-found love of modest dressing recently in an interview with WWD: ‘I don’t really know where it came from, but I’m into quite masculine workman’s clothes,’ she said. ‘I keep getting drawn to big, baggy, sort of chimney sweeper trousers and tweeds. High-waisted, bunched up things and slightly odd shoes. I used to be quite flirty and sexy, and now it’s just like, ‘Do not fancy me’ clothes. The more unattractive I can make myself, the less flesh I can possibly show, the better.’
Of course, it would be too simple (and incorrect) to suggest big trousers = not attractive. And y’know, maybe just keep that look for a solo Sunday rather than a Friday night out. In fact, I asked someone who I have been seeing for a month or so (for the sake of this article let’s just call him Guy. Die-hard Never Been Kissed fans will get that reference) his thoughts: ‘If a man finds you attractive there's no amount of clothing that will prevent him looking at your body. You don’t need to highlight it. In most cases more skin just leads to a man being greedy with his glances at you and his imagination lazy.’
There is also a definitive shift happening on (and off) the runways too now - with designer’s embracing a soft utility in their collections more than ever. Unisex combat trousers! Oversized khaki trench coats! And the B-O-I-L-E-R S-U-I-T (historically associated as just protective overalls to cover an otherwise ‘nice’ outfit) are just a few ‘new normcore’ offerings on the sartorial agenda. I am not suggesting everyone dress like Laney Boggs pre-‘transformation’ to follow a certain fashion trend. Perhaps though, we need to redefine what we see as ‘un-fanciable’ attire towards the opposite sex and focus on embracing our signature style. Which, actually, I think Miss Miller is getting at. Yes, while her ‘flirty’ boho style in the ‘00s was a defining look of that decade, she’s moved on to pastures new.
Alex, 26, an artist living in London agrees: ‘My own fashion sense has always been dictated by what I feel comfortable in,’ she says. ‘My uniform at university was black leggings, a black top and creeper shoes every single day but sometimes I might want to wear a mini-skirt and a jean jacket to do serious DIY. I just never want to allude to being someone else.’
‘Even if you are dressing for yourself it’s still part of you to want to be desired,’ Dr Carolyn Mair, Reader in Psychology at London College of Fashion tells Grazia. ‘But being confident and most importantly comfortable is massively important. Feeling good in whatever you are wearing, makes you look good.’
‘I think if you dress for somebody else you are just increasing the chances you’ll be wasting your time with somebody you don’t actually like,’ the Guy says. ‘If two people miscommunicate themselves in their clothes before they have even spoken I think they are doomed to be disappointment to each other.’
Remember: You should be the #1 person you are trying to impress (whether that’s feeling good in a boiler suit or a body-con dress). Or if you are unofficially repping 'Don’t Fancy Me’ fashion. I would take that tag and wear it proudly.