Monday, August 3, 2009

A feminist meditation on skirts

Right now, I'm wearing my only pair of pants. Ann Taylor yoga pants, stretchy and flowy. I have other pants, but I almost never wear them - my jeans are either full of holes or don't fit, and the other comfortable pants I have are for office wear only (should I ever return).
When I was in high school, I wore the 3 pairs of the same jeans - Gap, size 12, stretch boot cut. They lasted me into college, where they were my daily uniform in conjunction with an ill-fitting t-shirt, Birkenstocks, and a Red Sox hat. The two skirts I owned were strictly for laundry day; friends who saw me in them literally pointed and laughed.

Shortly after I began dating, something changed. I still wore jeans fairly regularly, but I began to buy a skirt here, or a dress there, and wear them once in a while. The size large t-shirts were replaced by size medium tank tops.

Today, I’m making a quilt of my t-shirts and wear skirts or dresses 6.5 days out of the week. But I’m not capitulating to the patriarchy’s need for me to dress up my body and put it on display. I’m not making my legs and ass something to be visually consumed. If people want to look, that's their business, and it's not going to stop me - but they'd better not make it my problem

The shift may have been sparked by a desire to be seen sexually, and that’s probably problematic. But I needed to make a break from my sexless self. In high school, I was mistrustful of men after social abuse in junior high, and I didn’t want them to see me sexually. I had crushes, but I didn’t want dates. Pants put me apart and away from the discourse of dating, and skirts signaled to me and others where I was in life. My gender expression moved away from masculine and towards feminine.

Pants just plain don’t feel comfortable. If jeans fit right when I put them on at 7 am, they’ll be baggy by noon, and I have to wait longer for tight jeans to loosen up. I’m very very tall, and it’s hard to find pants that don’t look Jacksonesque after one wash. If I do find jeans that fit right, they won’t when I gain or lose five pounds – as I do every couple of weeks.

Skirts allow for those fluctuations. An a-line skirt – I don’t do pencil - doesn’t constrict any part of my body. If I gain 10 pounds, I can move the skirt up to my waist with little change, or down to my hips. It allows for movement and freedom. Cis privilege allows and applauds this choice where it disallows it for other women, and it's a feminist choice for me.

There are style concessions I’ve made towards expressing my femininity that don’t really have to do with feminism – makeup, which I wear occasionally, contacts, shaved legs. And some that are enabled but not so motivated by feminism – I almost never wear bras today (thanks B cups) because they just don’t fit and I don’t care. But skirts have been the most liberating style change I’ve made in the transformation of my looks.


  1. 1. F.D. did a great job with the layout of the blog. It's beautiful!

    2. Wearing skirts is awesome. I'm wearing a jumper right now, and I only recently started loving dresses and skirts. But now they're just great. They're practical and wonderful. There's an old issue of Nylon, I think, somewhere where a woman writes in favor of skirts, saying she's even hiked in them. And I'm like YEAH WHY NOT?

    3. And dressing in a flattering way doesn't always eroticize the body. Treating yourself as a work of art that has certain curves and flat spaces, certain mounds and forms, means that how you cover it or shape it will draw the eye to certain parts. To be well-dressed means to look balanced, to look natural in whatever shape the clothes take. If you're wearing a mini skirt but pairing it with a shirt that draws attention to the face/neck/arms/chest, you've balanced out what might normally be easily and quickly eroticized.

    SO, given the way women are told to wear their bodies, I think there's a way to given into highly feminized and sexualized clothing and instead reshape that so that a BALANCED wardrobe (and I mean every single day, not like half-pants and half-skirts) keeps one from being overly objectified just for putting on a V-neck shirt. Does that make sense?

  2. Re: 2. People get so scared about skirts like OH NOEZ WHAT IF PEOPLE LOOK UP THEM when women are active in them. Not that that's not a legitimate concern for some women, but my attitude is: if someone voyeuristically peeks up my skirt or watches for exposed underwear while I'm out living my life, the onus is on them. My underwear is not inherently offensive or eroticized, and it's not my responsibility to make sure other people aren't creeps.

  3. I love skirts and dresses! They are so much more comfortable than pants!

    And there's nothing wrong with feeling confident about yourself and part of that is being comfortable in what you are wearing and how you are presenting yourself to the world. Shouldn't all feminists aim to be or already are confident people? So what you wear should fit into that.

  4. love the new layout and this post. I am the same exact way and I was the same way in high school!

    How tall are you?

  5. A) Please tell me that skirt in the picture belongs to you! It's adorable!
    B) Your point that jeans will inevitably be baggy by noon is spot on. Even with a belt I find myself pulling them up all damn day. Honestly, I feel considerably less constrained when I wear dresses and skirt.
    C) In a world that practically encourages self-hate among women, feeling good about yourself has to be feminist, and appearance is intrinsically linked to that. If wearing skirts and eye shadow and shaving your legs is what makes you happy and able to face the day, it's ultimately feminist.

  6. I wish - it is EXTREMELY cute.

    #3 is an excellent point!

  7. I think skirts can be happily feminist. Especially when they are fair trade. There are some great ones on I wear skirts all the time... I recently stopped shaving all together though. Once I found out about its origins I couldn't lift the razor to my leg.

  8. I've always found pants equally comfortable to skirts.

    I do wear pants almost exclusively but I don't think that's ever been a rejection of femininity for me personally. I think my style just happens to be odd and quirky and the kind of pants I wear (baggy guy's cargos, one size up girl's cargos and basically anything with ridiculous numbers of pockets, but not jeans) just goes very well with my look and feel.

    I've yet to find a skirt that fit that weird style of mine. XD

    @jess: Are you Rroma and attempting to reclaim the g~ word? Or of another culture and just using it?


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