The Politics of The Skirt


 It’s the twenty-first century, and women in the UK can wear anything they want to.  Gone are the days when wearing trousers was reserved for men, and showing a mere ankle was scandalous.  But I wonder how women really feel in this post-women’s rights world when it comes down to what they wear.

Skirts are still the epitome of femininity and yet so seldom do we wear skirts or dresses (in the daytime at least), that if you are wearing one people will undoubtedly comment on how nice it looks.  A male friend of mine often says that girls never look prettier than when wearing a nice dress.  If this is the case, why don’t we wear them all the time? 

Are we afraid of the femininity they evoke?  We’re living after the Suffragette Movement and Women’s Rights movements in the 60s, and there is an expectation placed upon women.  Unfortunately, nobody is quite sure exactly how women should act.  The extremes of female behaviour are not particularly desirable.  One is the man-hating career woman bra burner that many people consider feminists to be.  Thus, I know many young women who are afraid to fight for what they want because they don’t want to be seen as unwomanly.  Equally, no one wants to be so meek and subservient as to fake dim-wittedness and willingly be chained to the sink.  The line between these two extremes is a tricky one to navigate and I think that young women are often afraid to wear a skirt because, despite the fact we know it looks pretty and we’ll likely get a compliment, maybe, just maybe, we won’t get taken seriously in it.  Of course, this is almost certainly untrue, but the thought is still there.



Skirts can also make you ‘slutty’.  On my first day at a new job, I had to learn a series of health and safety measures that included how to correctly pick up a fire extinguisher.  It involved squatting down.  I was wearing what I considered to be a classy, work-appropriate black dress.   The gentleman conducting the test informed me that he would have to face away as I picked up the extinguisher because the dress was “far too short”.  I was mortified and never wore the dress to work again.  I still don’t believe it was actually too short, but his words really made me self-conscious.  Short skirts have the power to make people accuse you of being sexually provocative, even if you just fancied showing off your legs in the summer sunshine.  But the long skirt fares no better.  The fashion forward ankle length maxi skirt is, while technically modest, so skin-tight it might as well be a wetsuit. 

Maybe it’s just easier to wear jeans.

The verdict?  We still feel vaguely awkward wearing skirts because of the ambiguous gender politics that they represent.  Hopefully as we grow older and more confident in our roles in society, we will no longer even care whether our legs are encased in trousers or not.  And hopefully we’ll figure out an ideal role of femininity for the next generation of girls to aspire to.

 by Heather Tarplee, Razz Fashion Correspondent

(image source 1, 2)

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