Look Like a Lady, Act Like a Woman

A month ago, I caught a post on The Sartorialist that apparently crawled deep into my brain to grow. The post was seemingly innocent enough– The Sartorialist noticed a stark difference between two of the most impressive collections of the season, Celine & Louis Vuitton; however, what really intrigued The Sartorialist was the complete gender gap in response to the collections. The Sartorialist claimed he had noticed most women said they wanted to be the Celine woman and yet most men expressed the desire to be WITH the Louis Vuitton woman. So, he posed the question to his readers. It seems the comments support his inclination and this whole concept apparently really and truly bugs me.

In case you are not inclined to click through the link and see the post and photos of the collections yourself, let me give you a quick summary of the goods. The Sartorialist put up three looks from each designer. The Celine looks are:

  1. Skinny navy pants, white blouse, large navy blue thick trench coat with slick hair parted to the side and picked up in a bun or ponytail. Her shoes are black boot looking things.
  2. Very tight black leather-looking sleeveless top paired with a navy blue pencil skirt and black tights; hair is also a slick side part ponytail thing. She holds a bright orange clutch.Her shoes are big black suede heels.
  3. A white short sleeved blouse with what looks like a slight ruffle detail and possible over-sized pockets paired with a black leather pencil skirt and black tights. She carries what looks like a burgundy portfolio and her hair is in the same super slick side parted updo. She also wears the big suede heels.

The Louis Vuitton looks are:

  1. A gray and pink floral print dress with a low v-neck and a full shin-length skirt. Her shoes look low heeled or flats with bows. She carries a large gray LV bowler bag and her hair is pulled back into a ponytail but not in the slick style. She also dons gray gloves that come just below her elbows.
  2. A gray, pink, and white floral halter bustier style top tucked into a knee-length full plaid skirt. She dons a small gray/white clutch and also has the low bow shoes as the previous model, dons gloves as well, and shares the same swept back ponytail.
  3. A tweed-looking sleeveless top with a full knee-length brown leather skirt. She wears low-heeled shoes with bows, a small bowling bag type, gloves, and the signature swept back updo.

Those are my objective snapshots of the looks. But there are other things that come through that are perhaps more subjective. In regards to Celine, I notice a hardness to the models and, dare I say, age. The colors are dark and there is a sort of slickness to all the looks. On the other hand, with Vuitton the first thing I notice is an abundance of flesh. The models are also younger-looking than Celine and there is an overall softness that permeates the looks. And so what you end up with, and this is not just me but is pretty much culled from the comments as well, is a sort of clash of women types. Immediately women associate the Celine looks with power and confidence and often dismiss the Louis looks as frilly, girly, and weak. My problem here is as far as I see it, Celine’s looks are a very masculine woman and Louis has given us a very feminine woman. We clearly associate power and confidence with manliness.

It’s an image issue I constantly see and resist. I’m a woman. My power is in the fact that I am a woman. I want to emphasize that I am a woman and I don’t want to be taken for granted, especially professionally because I fully embrace being feminine. Let’s get this straight: femininity does not equal weakness, softness, self-doubt, or a lack of intelligence. And because apparently even we women have a hard time accepting this whole concept: masculinity does not equal strength, hardness, confidence, or intelligence. Current events seem to support me here. Who portrays strength, intelligence, and confidence better– Elin or Tiger? Jesse or Sandra? Granted, I accept that showing a lot of flesh at work is not appropriate, male or female. But who is to say wearing that tweed top with leather skirt and throwing a sweater over it makes me less confident and powerful than the Celine creature in her skinny pants and overwhelming trench coat? A few comments suggested the problem with the Vuitton looks is they harked back to the 1950s– a bad time for women and their rights. Isn’t this then more reason to bring back those looks and show the country, “Anything you can do I can do better, IN A PRETTY DRESS!”?

This goes hand in hand with fellow mothers who decry their daughters loving pink. Why? It so often happens that are our children are seemingly more evolved than we as adults are. I can pretty much guarantee that my daughter feels no less powerful or confident in a full blown pink ballerina tutu and sparkly shoes than she does in a pair of jeans. As a matter of fact, my daughter loathes wearing jeans and pants. She feels these are contrary to what she is. Maybe there’s something to that. The only pants she’s ok with wearing are in feminine colors or with feminine details. Take for a second the matter of Princesses. Princess Jasmine is my daughter’s favorite Princess. And my favorite thing about her is she takes a chalice to a powerful villain’s head in full-blown harem type clothing. Sure, she wears pants but they’re pretty pants.

So it is I ask you to reconsider when you claim you “wear the pants in the relationship.” Please, don’t. Don’t “man up” to a challenge or attack a problem “balls to the wall”. We are not men and more importantly, we don’t have to behave like them– or even remotely look like them, to get what we want. If we continue bowing to that concept, we continue conceding to the idea men are the superior sex. The fact is the 1950’s housewife can easily run a boardroom as effectively as her husband ever could and in many cases, possibly even better. So wear the dresses, the lace, the pearls, the gloves, the dainty purses. Enjoy pink. Aren’t we constantly trying to teach our children and each other, it’s not what’s on the outside that counts? You think you won’t be taken seriously at work if you show up in a frilly dress? Why? At first, sure, it’ll be different. I remember the first time I wore a dress to this office I got several reactions and one stuck out more than the others– “Wow it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a woman wear a nice dress to the office.” Your wearing a dress or a full skirt doesn’t take away from your hard work and strong work ethic. It doesn’t affect your deadlines. Be persistent and deconstruct the preconceptions. Take your power from what you are at the core, not what you are expected to be.

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