Play and provoke, when clothing precedes mentality

Women’s fashion is said to be one of the most faithful reflections of society. Thus, the tendency of today’s women to seek eccentricity, embrace the rebellious look, wear glamorous and sexy outfits of all ages and include sportswear from major brands in their wardrobes shows the importance our society places on youth. , seduction, stardom , pleasure and achievement, UQAM researcher Mariette Julien notes in Ethics of Women’s Fashion, a collection of texts recently published in the Presses Universitaires de France (PUF), which she co-authored with University ethicist Michel Dion or Sherbrooke directed.

“Since the 1960s, fashion has been much inspired by the aesthetics and clothing proposals of young marginalized people,” emphasizes Ms Julien, professor at the École supérieure de mode de Montréal at UQAM. Let’s think of the rockers of the 1950s who decided to wear the jeans, the workers’ trousers and the T-shirt, the undershirt of the sailors of the American fleet, and who wanted to “show their carelessness and indicate that we were entitled to enjoy life and that not only work was important”. But tight jeans and t-shirts are the two best-selling items in the world today and represent the two icons of the sexy look.

Contemporary fashion is full of elements of the aesthetics of 1970s punk culture, the author notes, citing the frayed skirt in particular — “inspired by the trashy style of punk girls who made skirts with scraps of fabric taken from trash cans.” taken off” – studded belts, shaved heads, scruffy beards, shaggy haircuts with colored stripes, as well as piercings and tattoos.

“Even women who don’t think they’re influenced by the punk aesthetic are,” says Mariette Julien, pointing to all the women who get their highlights done at the hairdresser and those older ladies who dye their fuses.

The punkettes of the 1970s also helped promote the hyper-sexualized style that prevails today. “The punkettes dressed up as prostitutes to lure men into the street and then insult and beat them by the boys in their group,” said Ms Julien. In particular, they are the origin of visible underwear, or the fashion for “underwear”.

The Quest for Eternal Youth

In a performance-oriented society like ours, ‘being young’ is more important than being rich, the researcher emphasizes. “The widespread appeal of rebellious, sporty, playful and fetish fashion is no accident. The trends of recent decades emphasize the behavioral stereotypes of adolescence: rebellion (the rebellious look), provocation (the eccentricity of clothes), play (the sporty look) and the sexual impulse (the hypersexualized outfits),” she writes.

The success of fetish fashion (thigh-high boots, fishnet stockings, bustiers, stilettos, corsets, basques, pencil skirts, high-rise camisoles, leather, latex or vinyl tights and trousers) is probably due to “the provocative nature that helps to strengthen the “idea of ​​youth, since shock by its appearance corresponds to adolescent behavior,” argues the specialist, before adding that, “by betting on sexual lust”, this fashion also projects the image of a woman who is still her reproductive capacity.

Another way to look young is by donning sportswear, because “gaming is associated with youthful life,” the researcher recalls. For women, the sporty outfit, which today takes up a large part of their wardrobe, makes it possible to emphasize “their performance-oriented, competitive side, on an equal footing with men”.

Sportswear is also synonymous with social success, on the one hand because of the image of achievement, the fit body it radiates and symbolizes youth, and on the other hand because it is associated with the world of luxury symbolized by prestigious brands.

In search of freedom and authenticity

“The hyper-sexualized fashion of belly vests, thongs protruding from low-waisted trousers, thigh-high boots, stilettos, wedge shoes, plunging necklines, spaghetti straps, miniskirts, leather tights herald the sexual availability of women,” notes Ms. Julien, explaining that many women who opt for this sexy look do it mainly to show their independence, because it “exudes the image of a free woman who chooses what she wants to show with her body” – while men have traditionally always decided what women can do show off or not.

On the other hand, sexy outfits can also be associated with female slavery. “To prove to men that they are desirable, women look into their eyes for approval,” says the researcher.

Moreover, Mariette Julien clearly sees a connection between this hyper-sexualized fashion that exposes the body and the search for authenticity that prevails in Western society. “Today, revealing your intimacy to others has become a way of being yourself,” she says.

Shame is seen as a way of saying that one “has nothing to hide and is accepted by others”. “By showing their bodies as much as possible and by symbolically claiming to have nothing to hide, women, but also more and more men, get the impression that they are getting closer to their naturalness”, sums up the author.

This eye-catching fashion is also a way for many women to “reclaim their femininity, a way to show their seduction power”, she adds, before citing the French sociologist Jean Baudrillard, who in this phenomenon emphasizes the difficulty saw that “women always have to distance their ability to seduce from their femininity.”

Women seek eccentricity to feel unique, continues Mariette Julien. “This quest for exclusivity reflects the importance of the self in our individualistic societies. However, originality, which seems marginal, is becoming the norm. Fashion makes it possible to distinguish yourself from others and at the same time ensures that you can integrate better into the group and are more accepted there.

“Contrary to what you might think, clothing always precedes mentality. On the other hand, for a piece of clothing to be adopted by the masses, the latter must have accepted and integrated its philosophy,” the researcher underlines, citing the example of the punk aesthetic currently worn by the majority, including women of in their sixties wearing colored locks of hair.

“But to get there, people had to embrace the punk philosophy of the 1970s, which was characterized by non-conformism, individualism and urbanity” and which is also associated with provocation and delinquency and with that for young people, who are sought after today.

Currently, designers draw their inspiration mainly from the streets, and more particularly from Japan, of the Harajuku Girls, who show a great eccentricity, inspired by comics and manga. Once again, the playful universe – associated with youth – is appreciated, Mariette Julien notes.

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