© 2017 Carole Claude Saint-Clair
What are the odds Man or Woman will find their true selves in their wardrobes?
The manipulation of ‘fashion’ by the thousands of celebrity men and women bolstered by a cohort of hopefuls harnessed to drive the desires of mall shoppers worldwide could be compared to a strategised authoritarian endeavour.
After all, isn’t it the ‘vision’ of money-making brains ensconced in the control room of the clothing industry the juggernaut that gets fed downwards to the ever-widening base of the pyramid?
Here, at the start of this new mind-meander, is as good a place as any to ponder why to this day, despite his inherent height and muscle advantage, Man has relied on his wardrobe to give him the enhanced masculine edge he feels he needs to boost his natural endowments.
While in search of inspiration, intrigue and visual titillation, Man has denuded Woman and he, himself, has had to endure life swathed in archetypal garments intended to give him a more commanding, robust allure.
What’s in a split?
In Europe of the 1100s, a glimpse of Woman’s throat was the eye-popper or the heart-stopper, depending on the mindset of the onlookers. Then, her shoulders became the new point of titillation.
Then, the neckline plunged lower. Eventually, perhaps in a move inspired by the custom in ancient Rome which dictated that ‘mamillares’ should be used to constrain the appearance and size of Woman’s bust [odd word, isn’t it?], Early English Puritans imposed a tight bodice to flatten her breasts entirely and, later, her breasts became corseted.
Eventually, dresses were designed and engineered to add allure to Woman’s breasts or, more to the point, to the split between her breasts which men found erotic, and still do, for reasons best known to them.
And for reasons best known to them, women are still voluntarily buying body shapers, waist trainers and butt lifters to wear underneath their clothes.
History repeats itself
If battles have often raged over Woman’s ‘decolletage’, the lowering of the ‘collar’ or neckline of her garments, it has only been between factions of men yielding to their impulsions and repulsions which dictated their overt social attitude.
At that level, very little has changed.
Once the display of cleavage had become commonplace enough, it was the turn of Woman’s back, then of her lower back to be denuded for public viewing.
Finally, her legs, in addition to – and jointly with – side cleavage and ‘sideboob’, became a wardrobe must.
Visibly, Man’s impulsion won over repulsion but, throughout it, all Woman has remained silent and passively accommodating.
The higher her status in the community, or her aspirations thereof, the more visually ephemeral and impractical her clothing has always been, even to this day.
A look at the famed Red Carpet Roll out or at any black-tie gatherings will confirm this status quo.
And to this day, she has yet to forge the mindset that would allow her to create another hashtag. No to uncomfortable, unsafe or unnecessarily revealing.
Man under wraps
Insecurity seems to have plagued Man-of-Means the moment he stepped out of early man’s presumably unisex mammoth-fur tunic and leggings and into leather pants and boots.
From one century to the next, the design of his garment, from headgear to footwear, has been mostly driven by a continuously revisited imitation of various traditions, authenticity and detail, the core elements of traditional sportswear, military uniforms and tailored clothes.
Each style, revisited and amended from era to era, suggests strength, rigour and vigour, the specific qualities Man is intended to display via his karmic energy as the Protector of all, as already discussed in a several preceding articles.
However, aeons later, Man has yet to begin searching for that energy in the right place – in his core.
With his head protected by a cap, a bonnet or a brimmed hat of varying width and shape, his body held together by a breastplate, a belt, a waistcoat and a jacket, his neck stiffened by a collar, a cravat or a tie, Man has always readied himself to front up to his manly world.
Once he steps out of his casual clothes, his more formal attire has always been designed to protect his body from the cold, rain, wind, cool breezes, from the sun, if not from the heat of its rays, and from insects’ bites.
As a result, once away from bedroom or beach, his body has also always been shielded from the invasive and judgemental scrutiny of others.
By contrast, head adorned mostly by veils, tiny hats and little hair pieces, shoulders and chest proffered to all a sundry in loose or fitted gowns, the partial nakedness of Woman has always been deemed an essential cultural must from season to season and from era to era.
Ah, that is not entirely true. Man did give Woman shawls and cloaks to throw over her shoulders.
Was there ever a time when Man was not the designer of the Woman’s wardrobe? Or better said, has there ever been a time when Woman’s wardrobe was not designed with the parameters of Man’s appreciation in mind?
Them were the days!
The year 2017 is already waning over the horizon. Inspired by their celebrities of choices, men and women of all ages, are still happy to go along with the restrictive and restricted clothing options sent down to them from the eye of the pyramid.
Hangers, piles and shelves groan under the weight of ever new but ever similar disposal garments beckoning the masses from behind endless rows of shop windows and, of course, online.
Only for a brief decade, back in the ‘60s, were men and women happy to do ‘life, flares & fun’ clad in an androgynous style. The Hippie/Bohemian culture brought about unisex platform shoes, headbands and accessories, long hair, flowery tops and Indian-inspired paraphernalia for all. Manly chests were exposed. Trousers legs were flared. Male and female body parts were equally squeezed in place.
There was great equality when it came to the displays of buttocks and related bits in pelvic-hugging pants. Men who felt the shape of their manhood would make a more masculine statement through the tight cloth of their pants resorted to ‘trompe l’oeil’ techniques that worked along the same principle as that of padded bras.
Good for everyone
Hotpants and short shorts were in for the guys and the girls. How refreshing for women to finally if only for a brief period, be able to appreciate male legs au naturel – and perhaps join in the rating game!
Though strictly female attire, throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s miniskirts, were on par with long flowery skirts. Vintage clothing was brought out mothballs. Everyone’s body parts could be as covered as one wished with creative, personalised versatility.
Back then, for two decades, roughly speaking, what was good for the geese was good for the ganders.
Equality in the wardrobe was short-lived. It had its last breath in the late ‘70s when Man and Woman wore shoulder-padded jackets, and their pants became baggy.
But then, dreadful ‘boob’ tube and the strapless top were trotted out, regendering the wardrobe once again.
From trend to ensuing trend, there has been no looking back. Wardrobes became once again segregated.
© 2017 Carole Claude Saint-Clair