picture by Diana
I’m not entirely sure why I still even follow The Atlantic on Facebook anymore, as their articles are tedious to read and I often disagree with what they’re saying anyway, but I’m glad I do so that I could see the absurdity that was Why Women’s Fashion in Washington, D.C. Is So Terrible- And Patriarchal. Catchy title, right? As a budding fashion blogger, D.C. born and raised, it immediately grabbed my attention, although, it took me several tries to read the whole thing because it was so angrily and awkwardly written. I was brought back to a time in high school where I was graded on “actively reading,” as an assignment- taking notes and asking questions in the margins of books while reading. I never fully understood the concept, until reading this article. I had to take notes to understand the haphazardly insulting “political” piece. Ms. Cintra Wilson, the author, from what I understand, has lived in San Francisco, LA, and now, New York City. I wonder if she’s ever lived in D.C. I would venture to say no, as she clearly doesn’t understand the city that I know and love so well.
In Washington, D.C., there is an excruciatingly narrow margin for acceptable female dress; all women, no matter how attractive or plain, no matter how many postgraduate degrees they have, or how well they fly fighter planes, walk an inescapable fashion tightrope. Their style will fall into the binary categories of either “dowdy” or “slutty”; there are virtually no fashion grey areas.
As my roommate, a journalist for the navy, pointed out, “If you fly a fighter plane you wear a goddamn uniform to work.” This is true. And like the women who fly fighter planes, those of us who work at law firms or for the government or in most office situations are expected to present ourselves in a professional manner. There is a bit of a uniform mentality, but I can’t say that I, or anyone I know, leave the house looking “dowdy” or “slutty”. Which brings me to her next point:
The default answer to this no-win fashion conundrum, for an alarming amount of working women, is to buy their wardrobes at Ann Taylor…
K. What’s your point? Most of what I wear is from Ann Taylor, or its slightly trendier little sister store, LOFT. The clothes there are fairly timeless, in classic silhouettes that last forever. I see nothing wrong with that. Ms. Wilson goes onto describe the kind of girl that I, and all of my friends, allegedly are:
…single girl in her late twenties whose self-esteem has been almost beaten to death by the beauty-industrial complex, and whose decent education has been punished with a thanklessly demanding office job. She’s a can-do Cinderella who has always had to change the oil in her own pumpkin and is too overworked to have a healthy social life outside the workplace. Her outfits must therefore be corporate-respectable, yet body-conscious enough to attract a nice tax-attorney husband.
Well that was harsh. And untrue. While I am not where I want to be quite yet carrier-wise, I quite enjoy my firm and the people I’m surrounded by there. Too overworked for a healthy social life? Please. Last week, I had a date on Tuesday, a concert Wednesday, and was at Landmark Music Festival all weekend, and I’m currently planning a party with my roommate at our place for mid-October. I think my social life is pretty healthy. And-oh- I have no interest in finding a tax attorney husband, and I wouldn’t need a short skirt to do it if that was what I wanted. She then goes on to really hate on the older crowd:
Washington’s permaclass of wealthy Georgetown-establishment socialites has always ruled the roost on D.C.’s domestic front. The older rich ladies are the keepers of the social rulebooks—and the keepers of all the best HUMINT (human intelligence) and RUMINT (rumor-based intelligence) in town. These are the Mean Girls who make or break political aspirations, who get to wear big hats at polo matches, make disparaging comments about social climbers, and police the actions and/or styles of younger, more fertile women.
I have seen about zero evidence of this. If anything, I am in awe of the ladies of my generation who work full time, sit on the boards of charities, pursue side hustles, and still have time for brunch on Sundays. We are carving our own place in this city, but I don’t see anyone even trying to stop us or hold us back. She continues by critiquing the old-fashioned style of these imaginary older socialites that hate us so much. But you know what? If their style is old-fashioned, that makes sense. Because why would these old socialites be dressing like the young sluts in the office getting their tax attorney husbands? She goes on and on about republicans ruining fashion and women dressing like babies (but dowdy babies) and this is what reeeeally gets to me:
All the high heels seemed to evaporate from department stores in favor of quiet little ballet shoes that might enable a wife to tiptoe out of the dining room so that the men, freshly cigared, could talk like grownups.
Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of heels. I’m starting to wear them more though, in the office. When I’m wearing flats, it’s not about being demure. It’s about hustling. I have to get somewhere or do something fast and without wobbling or worrying about my feet hurting. Try again, Ms. Wilson. I’m running around this beautiful city living my very full life. Her last paragraph had me seeing red, after describing her first visit to an Oscar de la Renta boutique:
Clothing this advanced just might guarantee a lady the center of attention, in most rooms—even if she lacks charm, looks, and substance. It is the haberdashery equivalent of a Maserati; people are likely to be a bit hypnotized, no matter how unspectacular the driver may be.
But wait, I thought she was just describing us as boring? Or slutty? Now she’s saying the clothes are advanced and we only wear them to mask our being unspectacular? Pick a thesis and stick to it. Here’s mine:
The women in this city are incredible. We’re smart, charming, driven, and fashionable. We know how to dress for work, and it has nothing to do with impressing or kowtowing to our male counterparts. We may stick to classic shapes like the powerful pencil skirt, but dammit if we don’t rock it. If you need me to share some amazing young fashionistas from the city with you, please let me know. I’d love to introduce you to some of my friends.
I was warned that I might get some backlash for writing this piece, and that’s ok. I just hope I made my opinion known in a clear and concise way. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. What do you think about the fashion in DC?