Saturday, May 02, 2009

There ain't no genie in the bottle, or in that magazine

Wearing docs or similar flat lace-up shoes was pretty normal for us in our late teens (I was 15 in 1990). You often wore sneakers with your jeans but a plain pair of black lace-ups was a smarter look. Many girls the same age these days wear fancier shoes, even heels, to school - though I have noticed the classic lace-up school shoe seems to be making a comeback.

I often feel sad for teenage girls these days. Such tight, revealing, uncompromising fashions give them nowhere to hide. And even when they can get away with wearing a big baggy hoodie, the jeans or tracksuit pants have to be tight and low slung.

When I was passing through those ages, at first it was the late 80s and your jeans and t-shirts were both baggy and oversized. Not super attractive but very practical at an age where you are not necessarily very confident in your body. Granted, there was that white scoop neck bodysuit-with-jeans fad. (Erk. I had no interest in wearing a top with crotch fastenings.) But even those bodysuits didn't show off your bra straps like the now ubiquitous spaghetti strap tanks do.

Then in the 90s came grunge and the op shop look - anything goes, some quite ugly combinations, but certainly no need to be revealing. These fashions didn't require a big emphasis on femininity. And looking back I think that was a blessing. I was sensitive about my very small bust and I was in my early 20's before both changes in fashion, and in my own confidence, had me starting to wear more fitted clothing.

Does anyone in my age group remember it differently? I guess being a teenager always has its challenges, but it does seem the pressures on girls to be sexy (ie exposed) have increased a lot.

In this vein, The Butterfly Effect is doing wonderful work in the area of body image and self esteem for teenage girls. Taking it a bit further, if you have an appetite for some serious radical feminism - check out I Blame The Patriarchy. Twisty is brilliant, cutting and often hilarious but at first I had to take this in small doses - the truth of it all and how mired we are in it, can seriously get me down.


Rose Red said...

I was in the same boat as you - it's a good point you make about the fashions for teens now - no place to hide. In some ways that might be good (develop confidence??) but in other ways not so much.

Louise said...

So much to say, but just no time or energy...Except it's not just the pubescent being exposed - have you seen what is on the shelves for the tween or even the pre-tween? Shudder of horror that the "women are sex-objects and must dress and behave accordingly" assumption in Australia continues to spread,

Bells said...

a friend of mine noticed some time ago that girls with tummies let it all hang out more these days. Instead of covering up, their tummies just sit where they are, instead of all being sucked in. I'm torn between going 'ewww' and thinking, well good for them.

so I'm sort of in two minds. I guess letting it all hang out over a pair of jeans isn't quite the 'less is more' you're getting at.

I don't remember things being as skimpy in the 80s and early 90s but I wasn't a slave to fashion then anymore than I am now so I'm not a good judge.

amy said...

Hmm, I started going my own way, stylewise, halfway through high school. I was achingly uncomfortable with my body, though--very thin, late to develop, small breasted. And we had swim in my high school gym classes, too. Talk about absolutely effing horrifying for a teenager, and no place to hide! Anyway, it took me until my early 20s to become comfortable with my body. I stopped trying to hide in baggy clothes and wore more fitted clothing--not bare-all, just not three sizes too big. And I discovered that confidence in myself was pretty attractive to others.

I'm not comfortable with anyone walking around exposing themselves, to be honest. I don't like it when men are wandering around shirtless just because it's hot outside. I don't like seeing people's stomachs, flat or not. I don't like seeing huge amounts of cleavage. There is a lot to be said for the allure of the hidden, and quite frankly, far too few people, I think, would even understand what I mean by that. I have a tattoo that nobody can see but me and my husband. I like that.

Does that make any sense?

happyspider said...

I was in high school from 97-2000 and at that time it was all very tight hipster jeans. The stupid tracksuits with the press-studs up the sides came in, and many girls un-snapped them quite a long way up! Big clunky heels were in, and many a girl had sore feet and pinched toes.
tops weren't so bad, the trendier girls were wearing vintage blouses. skankier girls wore strappy singlets.
Now most of the girls are wearing skin-tight short-shorts with strappy tops and big hoodies or jackets over the top (sometimes it doesnt look like they have pants on). MOst of the 'popular' girls wear tops so low you can see the top of their bra cups. I've noticed girls' hoodies becoming tighter and tighter though: it's not something they can hide a bulgy middle behind anymore. And the shorts are sometimes damn near obscene. We've tried to ban them at school but there are a couple of teachers who keep stopping it from going through (mostly because they wear them themselves).
I do agree that it's getting harder for girls to hide. personally, i put it down to sexualising them as children. Half the eight-year-old girls are being stuffed into padded bras and mini-skirts, and magazines like Barbie make them up like grown women. The Olsen twins market g-strings to 6yos+. By the time they hit their teens they're completely used to seeing themselves as sexual beings, and totally used to wearing whatever the shop window dictates. I also think this is responsible for a lot of eating disorders and similar unhealthy body image issues: these girls are used to their bodies as 'women's bodies' and then when they start to develop they think they are getting fat, rather than just developing normal body fat like bums and boobs and hips.
Interesting post, thankyou :)

Donna Lee said...

When I was a teenager, it was mini skirts that made it difficult to sit down and hip hugger jeans that were so low, it made it difficult to sit down. It was hard to hide the flaws I was sure were there. I'm much more realistic and kind to myself at this point in my life. Docs never appealed to me, too clunky. I live in my danskos which now that I think of it, are just as clunky.

Louise said...

Warning the following is a boot reminiscence:
I used to live in Rossi's Cobar boots. I don't know how many pairs I walked through until they no longer made Cobar style any more (sob). They were a good all round shoe, both in the depths of a Canberra winter or in the tropics (mind you they did grow mould around the join between sole and upper if not worn frequently enough during the wet - but it brushed off easily enough). I used them for walking to and from uni, walking up and down Flores mountains, clubbing in Yogya and Canberra, travelling in Europe, going out to dinner, going to the movies - basically where I went my Rossi's went.
I just can't become attached to a pair of thongs or sandals the way I loved my Rossi's.