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skirts and skins

June 3, 2012

Women, but not men, are hemmed in by their clothing. If women could move in any direction at any time they wouldn’t be sexy anymore because sexiness in women seems to be based on constriction and confinement. Corsets, push-up bras, sheath dresses, skintight skirts or jeans, high heels.

Men’s clothing is cut for movement.

Except that you have a full range of movement in skirts, but not pants. Yet in our culture, with rare exceptions, men don’t wear skirts.

Earlier today, I was ambling around outside, my long skirts swirling in the breeze. And I got to thinking. Pants restrict movement somewhat (less desirable), but they also provide a barrier between the wearer and the wearer’s physical environment. Not much air can circulate; it’s harder for insects to find your skin if they want to bite or sting you. Pants are armor.

Skirts, though, provide almost an extra layer of skin, but one that moves freely, giving the wearer even more information about their environment. Skirts are hair.

Skirts converse with the environment. Skirts create liminal spaces.

Twirling or billowing skirts create performance. Wearing one such, I want to dance. More, all my movements feel like they are dance. The skirt inspires me to be bolder, more graceful, more expressive.

I feel more myself in a skirt.

For several years now, a thought keeps recurring that I should stop wearing pants altogether, and only wear skirts. I’ve resisted that thought; it seemed impractical and vaguely ridiculous.

But now I think there’s more to it.

There isn’t much you can do to pants that makes them more interesting, or more functional. They can certainly be more decorative. But to make them look really good, they pretty much have to be constructed conventionally. Otherwise they just look like the maker didn’t know what they were doing.

But a skirt can look like almost anything, and still be functional, expressive, and socially acceptable. It doesn’t have to be tailored at all. It doesn’t have to be symmetrical. Skirts can be layered.

And philosophically (or do I mean metaphysically? metaphorically?), skirts navigate and negotiate boundaries.

Because even though I need my boundaries to be less permeable (at least sometimes), the nonhuman environment is not what I’m trying to keep at bay. In fact, the more time I spend immersed in the nonhuman environment, the better I feel. So physical armor won’t help me learn to set limits with human beings; taking up more space, though, since skirts move away from the body, may help me learn to see myself differently, and thereby, act differently.

The more I wear skirts, the more I will experience my bodymind more fully than I do now. Which must give me fuller sense of what and who I am now.

Men seem to want armor more; maybe they feel they have more to defend. I’ve never been a man, but I no longer feel entirely comfortable calling myself a woman either. I want a third option. I like genderqueer, because it doesn’t constrict or confine me. I don’t like androgynous, or anything similar, because to me that seems to imply something more or less midway between men and women. What if I thought of things I wanted to do that a man wouldn’t do, and a woman wouldn’t do either? Why should I be restricted to what’s already allowed?

Men are allowed a bunch of the coolest stuff. Women are second class citizens, at best, but can get caught up in beauty standards and sexiness, thinking that’s an end run around patriarchy. It isn’t. Why can’t I just be a human being, and see where that takes me?

I want to make clothes for human beings to wear. Skirts will definitely be part of that.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. June 5, 2012 21:31

    I like my pencil skirts for work because they have a sense of tailoring and neatness that I often don’t have on my own. I feel more put together and organized, which helps me feel more professional. But I certainly enjoy flowing skirts and dresses more. I was at a wedding this weekend in a dress with a fitted top and flowing skirt and it was just so much more fun to twirl around on the dance floor than it ever could be with a more constricting one.

    On the other hand, I feel more inherently mentally comfortable in pants. Perhaps it’s because I never wore skirts or dresses much between the ages of 10 and 24. Which is unfortunate, because most dress pants and my body don’t get along very well.

    • June 5, 2012 22:56

      ‘Tailoring and neatness’ are two things I’m trying to escape from, personally. But people are different, so if you like them, that’s cool.

      I like the idea of dresses better than the reality. When you’re flat-chested, but have a big stomach, most dresses don’t look good. I keep wondering if there’s a way to salvage dresses – can I make something that I feel good in? Jury’s still out…

  2. Kathy permalink
    June 6, 2012 11:28

    I think storiteller raises an interesting point. For some of us, “work” may require that we play roles different in some way(s) from those we play elsewhere in our lives.

    I’ve often heard actors say, usually by way of complimenting their costumers, that putting on particular costumes really helps them get into character – think as their characters would think, feel as their characters would feel, behave as their characters would behave. The farther a character lies emotionally from an actor’s day-to-day experience, the more valuable “getting into costume” becomes.

    Sometimes a costume or uniform provides true physical benefit (protection from danger, say)… but it often just provides an easy transition point. So, by putting on a pencil skirt, storiteller eases the transition from her “regular” self to her organized, professional self.

    I’ve definitely noticed that at work as well. Normally I tend towards sloppy but, if I need to be really “on” for something, I go for a specific couple of outfits/shoes. It’s how I put on “kick a** and take names” me. I also noticed it back in my EMS days… it was a lot easier to get into that role in uniform than it was in street clothes, regardless of which was most comfortable.

    I think we tend to tell ourselves that we dress certain ways in certain settings because it’s what’s expected… and there is some truth to that. What we often don’t – or can’t… it’s uncomfortable! – see is that we’re doing it just as much for ourselves.

    Superman was on to something.

    • June 13, 2012 20:16

      I had a uniform for school. I liked that: it saved thinking. And now my work clothes are completely unlike the clothes I wear anywhere else. I find that helps to create a sense of separation between work and leisure, which I think is good for me.


      • June 13, 2012 20:47

        I had uniforms in school too. And I liked them, not just because it ‘saved thinking’, but because I went to school with a lot of rich kids, who had lots of posh clothes. My family wasn’t rich, and I wore hand-me-downs a lot, until I got too tall. So uniforms meant I wasn’t teased as much for having nonstandard clothes.

  3. June 10, 2012 00:32

    I’ve always liked skirts –and now I’ve read this know why, it’s mostly the same reason for me– but wore mostly jeans for years and years because I was living in the suburbs and the neighbours thought we were weird already, even without me looking unconventional. Then we moved to the town center and I decided to wear only skirts (well, and some kind of top, and usually also footwear, but YKWIM) unless there was a good, practical, reason to wear pants. This was in 2007, and I’ve kept it up all this time, so much that all of my jeans are now paint-splattered because painting is a practical reason and I couldn’t use them as normal day-wear even if I wanted to.

    Also, my other half likes me in a skirt. He’s brought me armfuls of lovely ones from India– pity his work doesn’t take him to India once a year any more.

    I’m glad I’m a woman, or I’d have to explain too much.

    • June 10, 2012 18:42

      Hi Irina!

      Women get a wider selection of clothes – a definite perk. But I like seeing guys in skirts – wish I saw them more often.

      I’ll likely hold on to 1 pair of jeans, mostly for hiking. (Anything that makes it harder for ticks, chiggers, and other biters to get to my skin has to be good!)

      • June 13, 2012 20:20

        I find it interesting that you’d keep jeans for hiking. I don’t like jeans anyway: they’re hardwearing, but I find them uncomfortable. I’d certainly never wear them for long-distance walking. When they get wet, they’re ridiculously heavy and take ages to dry. Not my idea of practical. Also, I can’t bend my knees in them.

        Actually, I don’t like the way any trousers sit on my knees. It is confining. That’s why I so often wear shorts. Perhaps that’s my way of escaping the armor of long trousers.

        But the idea of clothes as armor is interesting. I do wear shorts, and I do wear short-sleeved shirts, but I never wear the sleeveless things some guys do. I’d feel exposed in them. (I think I’d almost prefer to be topless than to wear one of them, but I suppose that would depend on the context.)


      • June 13, 2012 20:52

        I agree that wet denim is not fun to wear! However, I have worn wet denim while hiking, and I still prefer denim jeans to shorts. We have chiggers, ticks, and other biting arthropods, and I am one of those people who apparently tastes delicious, so bug bites are always an issue. I had a chigger infestation once, and I never want that to happen again. Spouse has gotten bit by deer ticks and thereby contracted Lyme disease, twice, in 2 years. If he hadn’t been wearing jeans, I assume it would’ve happened more often.

        I think I’m with you on not liking my knees confined – but I wear skirts to get around that!

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