Posted August 24, 2018 14:00:53I’ve spent the last few days in Sydney, Canberra, Perth, Hobart, Adelaide and Melbourne trying to figure out why the vast majority of Australian women have not been dressing in feminine ways.
The answer is a bit of both: a lack of cultural change and a reluctance to recognise the female body as a whole.
What’s more, there’s no consensus among experts on why women do not dress as much as they once did.
But the reasons are complex and vary widely.
I interviewed several women, ranging from a PhD student who wanted to do something for a cause and who wanted a bit more to her life to a midwife and the grandmother she loves, who all told me that it was their way of being.
Many of them say they were never encouraged to wear dresses in school or to work, but that when they did, they felt like they were “walking in a dress”.
“I never felt like I had to prove myself or get good grades,” one of them told me.
“I felt I was in control of how I looked and I had the freedom to be who I was.”
Another woman I spoke to said that in the mid-2000s she was told she could not wear a dress at all.
She told me she felt like “the dress wasn’t appropriate for a young woman”.
When I asked her why she chose not to wear a gown at all, she said she felt she had to be “different”.
I think what she meant was that she felt “too young”.
And while some of the reasons cited include the perception of dress as an “old-fashioned” or “old school” way of dressing, others were more straightforward.
Some women believe that wearing a dress in public is just “uncomfortable”.
But some say the choice to wear clothes that look “casual” is a more important part of a woman’s identity than what looks like a formal dress.
“There’s a lot of stigma around dressing up,” said one woman.
“You look too sexy, you look too conservative.
You look like a girly girl.”
One woman told me how her daughter had grown up with a dress code in the home.
“She wasn’t allowed to wear it at school and in class,” she said.
“And she hated it.
I thought, ‘Why would she be wearing a skirt when we’re talking about dressing up for the school holidays?’
I mean, how would she dress up for Christmas?
How would she do that?”
I remember one time my daughter was in a classroom, and the teacher came into the room and she was dressed in a skirt.
I was like, ‘That’s the problem with you kids.
You don’t want to be a girl.’
“Another woman said her daughter did not like to wear “traditional” dresses in public because they were too “slick”.
She said she had been “really disappointed” to learn that her daughter wore a dress on a Sunday school trip, where she would have been expected to wear jeans.”
I think the girls I know are wearing skirts, too.””
We’re not going to change that, so we’re just going to be more accepting and we’re going to embrace that.
I think the girls I know are wearing skirts, too.”
Another explained why she felt compelled to wear an Aussie flag T-shirt at work: “I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong.
I’m wearing it because I think it’s appropriate.”
While some of these women did not think wearing dresses was wrong, others felt they were at a loss to explain why.
“It’s a really big issue.
I don’t think there’s a single answer.
I mean we’re a very small society,” said another.”
Women are being pushed into being more conservative, and it’s not good for women.
And the fact that we are the only country in the world where men are not expected to dress up is not good.”
One man said his daughter was very proud of her attire.
“When she was growing up, she was wearing a jacket and skirt and she wanted to be confident and I was really proud of that,” he told me over coffee.
“And now I’m in a new job, and I’m not sure I want to do that, I’m very conscious of what I’m doing and what I look like.”
One of the women I interviewed said she was happy to wear skirts but had become concerned about her appearance when she was younger.
“Some women have grown up thinking they’re so different and they’re not comfortable being feminine and that they can’t do what girls can do,” she explained.
“So what are we doing in our culture to make sure that women are allowed to be themselves and have the freedom that we all enjoy?”
One woman I interviewed described how she had recently started wearing a blazer and dress