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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Leeds chapter.

All views are writer’s own views and do not represent the views of HerCampus.

Betsey Johnson once joked that ‘if women dressed for men we’d all walk around naked’. Betsey’s cynical suggestion is clearly a load of rubbish since:

1.      Firstly, nobody has the stupidity/ self-confidence/ total rejection of any inhibitions whatsoever/ complete lack of wanting to maintain our dignity to ever walk around naked unless we’re enduring a serious breakdown of the mental psyche.

2.      Our naked bodies would not thank us for exposing them to the cold weather Britain kindly gifts us with and would punish us with hypothermia.

3.      It’s totally impractical, nobody wants to get their sensitive parts trapped in any inconvenient areas…

4.      Despite parading around and enduring this humiliation to attract males, I personally still have boundaries and do not wish to attract middle-aged sex pests and perverts, thank you.

However, despite Betsey’s view being a very extreme one, in a culture that is increasingly promoting the sexualisation of women, I for one fear that women and particularly young girls are in fact beginning to attribute their self-worth down to the eyes of the male beholder. I myself am guilty of once dressing for men. I will hold my hands up and admit that when I was fifteen, my friends and I would dance around in barely-there, clingy pieces of fabric in the hope of attracting someone ‘fit’ in the queue of a dingy under-18’s nightclub. This was mainly because we were rebelling against our parents and partly because we had just discovered that boys weren’t all as smelly as we once thought when we were seven. Then, when I was with my boyfriend, due to his many underhand comments about my appearance, I slowly began to confine myself to a bland wardrobe of blue jeans and plain t-shirts. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with having a personal style that does fit into that category, but my mother always taught me that style is an expression of the self and I should wear what I want no matter how much it deviates from tradition (but having said that I did not thank her for dressing me in beige, ribbed, stirrup leggings; although they do now feature as ‘riding pants’ in American Apparel so perhaps she was onto something). I have and always will be obsessed with anything that comes under the belt of fashion; blogs, tumblr, pinterest, photographers, couture, designers, models, you name it, my interest is centered on it (no matter how cliché that might sound).

I’ll always have Rumi Neely’s ‘fashiontoast’ blog somewhere in the background of my laptop screen when I’m supposed to be doing work. I’ll always have sketches and sketches of outfits I’ve drawn tucked away in my scrapbook (I was a highly sought after designer when I was eleven and used to draw many girls wedding dresses, I’m obviously expecting an influx of pleading phone calls from them when they start getting married so I’ve made sure I kept them all). I’ll never let my mum throw away my vast collection of Elle’s and Vogue’s because although they are collecting dust under my bed, I know they will come in useful some day when Alexandra Shulman names me as her successor. Blue jeans and plain t-shirts just weren’t ‘me’. Unfortunately, I was too afraid to express the real‘me’ incase my then-boyfriend turned around and decided he didn’t want to be with that ‘me’ anymore (in the end I decided I didn’t want to be with him, but that’s another story). It took me a while to go back to my original style, even after we broke-up. Due to the increasing emphasis and pressure on women and young girls to showcase their sexuality, I can unfortunately see where this idea of women dressing for men comes from. To me, this is a sorry problem.

Miley Cyrus is a prime example of a young woman sexualising herself, dressing (or under-dressing) for men so that the attention is on her sex appeal rather than any auto-tuned, talentless song she chooses to release. And I’m pretty sure everyone is bored of hearing about her latest behaviour and how yet again she demonstrates how she is “very confident being naked”. Thanks for kindly reassuring us. She also admits “I feel that stripping off is a way of expressing purity of emotion”, an idea that is quite frankly laughable to the public’s intelligence. Rihanna is another celebrity just as guilty of sexualising herself to the point of soft pornography – but I guess that variety of arse-out, tits-out sexual commodification is becoming a standard feature of the female celebrity isn’t it? They dress to seduce, to shock and to sell.

Overt sexualisation of women in music videos isn’t the only endorsement of female degradation either. Instagram, one of the most popular photo-sharing apps worldwide, has also become a recent source of women stripping off their clothes (and their dignity) to produce a vain-inducing ‘selfie’ that will hopefully attract hundreds of ‘likes’ and new followers that are probably sex-pests and perverts, but a follower is a follower right? Be sure to take a look at ‘valeriasokolovaofficial’ whose wise words had women across the country utterly inspired. Posing in low cut (tits out), short (arse out) dresses in a variety of poses oh-so natural you would be fooled into thinking she was definitely caught off guard in the surprise of the moment. The caption reads ‘A dress makes no sense unless it inspires men to take it of you’. Fabulous, here I was thinking that fashion was supposed to be an art of self-expression rather than to promote myself as a piece of meat, devoid of personality and a brain, for male beholders to feast their eyes upon.  It’s not only Sokolova who endorses this kind of male-obsessed behaviour though, tumblr pages dedicated to the ‘hottest girls on Instagram’, bikini clad of course, are just as bad.

Grazia Magazine recently published an article that surveyed men’s views on which current Autumn/Winter 2013 trends were most man-repelling. Despite its humorous slant, it revealed the hidden attitudes underpinning the article: that women dressing for men is becoming an increasingly relevant topic. ‘The Tab Leeds’ also published an article revealing what 40 ‘lads’ (vomit) on campus thought were the most unflattering garments on women. Big hoops were up there. High-waist jeans were up there. And as an ode to those ‘lads’ I’m wearing both of them as I write this. You would probably ask the question, why do we care what men think? But surely if there wasn’t a relevancy for it then why are these topics being explored in the first place?

In contrast, a recent study of 1,000 men commissioned by the new TLC channel series ‘Shopaholic Showdown’ revealed that the overwhelming majority of men found Kate Middelton’s dress sense most stylish and ‘wifely’. I can understand why some may look to Kate for style inspiration; her sensibly cut hemlines, shoulder-covering dresses and simplistic colour palette bode well for the average middle-aged woman, and importantly she does certainly not feel the need to sexualize herself in the same way other celebrities do. But, in my opinion, Kate’s style doesn’t really push fashion boundaries, let alone even nervously teeter upon them. The Duchess of Cambridge’s fashion choices aren’t merely a shallow reflection of aesthetics, it represents her role in the public eye; she primarily functions to assist her husband and represent her country. Although I’m not trying to bash her in any way for that role she embodies, what I will say is a young woman shouldn’t be concerned with husband-hunting nor trying to seek the approval of her boyfriend, or any other male suitor.  Women shouldn’t be an accessory to men; they should stand alone themselves, in their own spotlight.

Fashion: whether you think you’re disinterested in the latest trends or not, it is what represents us to the outside world to those who haven’t yet had time to delve into the depths of our souls. It inescapably creates powerful first impressions. In the genius words of Miranda Priestly (Aka Meryl Streep’s character in the brilliant Devil Wears Prada) “you think that you’ve made a (fashion) choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room (signals the big names in the biz) from a pile of stuff”.

If we spend more time thinking about what the other gender thinks and whether it deviates from a display of sexuality, the inevitability of it is that while you try so hard to satisfy others, you’ll never satisfy yourself. I’m not heralding myself as a fashion expert, fashion is a constant learning process, learning what works for your body and what your personal style is, and I’m no way near there yet, but I will only dress for one person and one person only: me.

Bethany Ruane

Image sources (clockwise, left to right): http://www.lifeunsweetened.com/2013/06/27/do-women-dress-for-men-or-other-women/, http://instagram.com/p/gx71uBoAIK/, http://www.contactmusic.com/article/miley-cyrus-iheartradio-festival-outfit_3877588, http://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/rihanna-gropes-crotch-stage-amidst-1820140, http://topinstagirls.tumblr.com/post/66818078341/missmorganbritt-on-topinstagirls-tumblr-com, http://blog.zap2it.com/pop2it/2013/11/bound-2-video-kanye-west-and-kim-kardashians-5-most-ridiculous-moments.html