I didn’t own a pair of jeans until fifth grade. But I had dresses aplenty. Dresses, lacy socks, even dolls with matching outfits. Maybe because when shopping with my Virginia-born grandmother, harsh denim fabric never seemed to catch her stylistic eye. That, and when placed next to my frilly wardrobe, jeans just seemed vulgar.
All of my friends wore jeans all the time. I was the only skirt-clad girl at my fifth birthday party at McDonald’s. As if sliding down the staticky plastic slide into a pile of sun-baked mulch weren’t tragic enough.
I would complain to my mom that I wanted to dress like the other girls—wear t-shirts, jeans, socks without lace, shoes without bows-on-the-toes. I hated being the only girl at a slumber party in a frilly nightgown while everyone else was in t-shirts and boxers.
But when I got my wish in those hellish teenage years, and pulled on the brand-regulated pair of stonewashed jeans, it was like a part of me was hiding. I finally looked like everyone else, but I still felt estranged.
This was the dawning of my love affair with fashion. Instead of copying what my friends wore, I decided to wear what I liked and thought looked nice. I began to see style as a unique language—a way to express my femininity, something my friends didn’t think was cool. I no longer had to hide my feminine taste; I could embrace it. Being a girly-girl was empowering.
I think that one of the many misconceptions of feminism is that appearance is essentially unimportant and that society’s excessive attention to it oppresses women. There certainly is a danger in placing too much importance on physical appearance; it often leaks into your source of self-worth. When the intrinsic value of a woman or a man is based upon appearance, there is the indication of a deeply rooted, unhealthy worldview.
But I like to go shopping. I enjoy wearing ‘outfits.’ I’m one who feels naked without earrings (and let’s face it, a necklace and bracelet also). So for me, being a girly-girl is part of who I am as a feminist: it’s simply an expression of myself, of what I like. It can even be my way of showing my friend that I’m thrilled to be meeting her for lunch—by putting some effort into my appearance, I’m showing her I respect her and the time we spend together.
And being a girly-girl doesn’t mean you have to sell out to materialism and support slave labor. But that’s another blog…