THE FINE LINE BETWEEN CONFIDENCE AND COMPULSION
BY MADDIE MENDELOFF
BY MADDIE MENDELOFF
Picking out the perfect outfit and feeling like you own the world is an unmatched feeling. Fashion provides an endorphin release similar to that attained after exercising or indulging in a rich piece of chocolate. I can name few activities more enjoyable, and stressful, than putting together an outfit for a night out. As a college student at a Midwestern university, on “going out nights” I am constantly seeing girls in the freezing cold going to fraternity parties and bars wearing skimpy and revealing outfits. Regardless of where you’re located, minimal clothing is the current trend. Personally, I don’t always feel my most confident, or comfortable, in revealing outfits. Getting dressed and ready to go out multiple nights a week in college is stressful; I feel required to wear less clothing in order to appeal to guys and look “sexy.”
Social media culture has impressed upon me that if I dress on the more conservative and less-revealing side guys will perceive me as uninterested, closed off, or even unattractive. This stigma contributes to feelings of intense pressure to wear skimpy clothing on nights out. Reflecting on past trends, I don’t anticipate these tendencies changing any time soon.
When I think of “party attire” the first items that come to mind are low-cut, cropped tops, dresses that could constitute as long shirts, and lots of skin showing. This depiction of going-out fashion is hard-wired into my brain, and I know this is the case for the majority of girls in my generation. While it’s important for women of all ages to feel confident and comfortable in what they wear to parties and clubs, we must ask ourselves where this comfort and confidence is coming from: is it truly ourselves, or the media and rising social pressures?
Themed parties play a huge role in this. While a good theme can add an element of flair to a party, they also lay the foundation for objectification of women, as themes are often based upon gender biases and stigmas. Themes such as “Golf Pros and Tennis Hoes” or “CEOs and Office Hoes” diminish the roles of women in society to “sluts” and “hoes” while men maintain their powerful roles of “CEOs” and “pros.” Themes in themselves are ways to communicate to women what they “should” be wearing to these parties, which usually means enforcing more revealing forms of dress. Brands have made millions off of selling going-out clothes for cheap, and one of the most highly successful in this realm is Shein. Shein, which is based in China, is able to sell its products for cheap thanks to its factories' rapid production of garments on a daily basis. So, despite Shein’s pricing remaining so low, sometimes as little as $3, the sell-off results in a higher profit than production rate, resulting in a soaring rate of income to an estimated $10 billion annually. These rapidly decreasing prices make purchasing going-out clothing even more accessible, and contributes to girls' ability to follow current trends, which happens to be very revealing clothing.
As expressed in the Washington Post, “Fashion is a form of communication that is both intimate and aloof. Without uttering a word, you stand behind your message because you are, in fact, wearing it. Clothing is an eloquent form of communication for the inarticulate.” While I view fashion as a form of expression and authenticity – a way of articulating our own personal style and flair – the unspoken pressure inflicted on young women to reveal their bodies makes them more vulnerable to predators. Fashion can serve as a beautiful assertion of individuality, but it can also be manipulated into a means of controversial statements and harmful toxicity. To add fuel to the fire, the current “hot” trends make women even more vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse. There remains a fine line between sex positivity and expression and objectification, and unfortunately “acceptable” going-out attire today requires us to be more aware of our surroundings.
As is true of all things, there are both beauties and downfalls of the fashion world we currently exist in. While fashion should serve as a sense of autonomy for young women (and anyone with a passion for fashion), it has been clouded by themes of minimizing female capabilities and rewarding men with power and undeserved, irrational hierarchies. This is why we must consider the fine line between clothing confidence and compulsion, and push ourselves to identify the unsafe and demeaning labels slapped onto women based upon what they are encouraged to wear by society.