A Cover Story

The entire issue of presentation, can be mentally strenuous for girls during formative and puberty years. It isn’t their own fault that they are female, and possess certain physical features that exhibit their sexual maturity. As they grow up, depending on the environment and their own personal preferences, they will work out such nuances practically for themselves, as did we. The various cultural subtleties that govern civility and grace, whether or not explicitly expressed, are present everywhere and it does complicate the process of including a woman into any environment. The fine lines within professional etiquette alone can be difficult to manoeuver, especially for early career fresh graduates. For this, we turn to every written code we can find, and one major one is the law. In this piece, I address the issue of attire and related appropriations.

Public nudity laws and dress codes dictate what is deemed appropriate for public settings. Where the premise is private, the owner has a large say in it. The prior is related to civility, where the wearer can be charged for conduct that others’ find a nuisance. With dress codes, one may be prohibited from entering more exclusive areas. At a quick glance, telling people even what shoes to wear does seem like a stretch unless they’re going into a construction zone, or perhaps a laboratory. But, any closed space with ventilation probably doesn’t want to deal with feet odour and tripping, especially when food and drink are offered. These areas are usually colder too, so we do adhere to what is commonly known as formal or business dress codes, and to the best of my knowledge, there is still a difference between what is deemed appropriate to expose of men and women. It does seem to be the case however, that it is more acceptable for a woman to show more skin in the afore-mentioned settings. This lightly contrasts against public environments, where a man’s bare-chest is usually allowed. What the exact reason for that is, other than tradition, more western than any, is not obvious to me. Having said that, a woman’s dress is often perceived as purported to attract men’s attention, and it is warranted of an aspiring woman in the workplace to take care to dress and tone adequately, in order to be seen as proactive instead of forward or tantalizing. Factoring this in, should we dress more masculine perhaps, when we are not required to be in skirted uniform? Not having been particularly corporate in my professional affiliations, outside of meetings and interviews, my clothing issues are usually related to laboratory hazards. Otherwise, smart casual or semi-formal outfits featuring slacks have served me fine.
For me, it boils down to hygiene more that erogenous zones. As much as I do like sleeveless attires, deodorant is necessary and it’s not just to avoid sweat stains. Truth is, everyone perspires and it doesn’t smell like the roses when they do. But that odour itself is due to bacterial infestation, as is true with any unpleasant scent. I do have that issue with bodily hair too, as vain as it sounds. Needless to say, the southern regions of the body exhibit more problems than armpits. As women, we are used to all year round precautions as panty liners and anti-bacterial wipes. There is also the issue of climate, such as the covering often associated with Muslim women, which is more associated with desert weather. In the Middle East, and parts of Africa, men cover up too. But I’ll save the topic of popular organised religion and the philosophical treatment therein of women, for a different piece. Generally, I prefer that men abide by more rules of decency than they’re immediately subjected to, especially since the rules that arbitrate this gender specific decorum are volatile in themselves. For instance, an ample bosom expected of a woman ignites more ‘discomfort’ in public than the lower torso of a man.

International Clothing Laws

Now, what constitutes a sexy attire? It is intertwined with beauty standards, which I see as a prime instrument in garnering profit from design. It is the more lasting effect of fashion businesses. Furthermore, we do look to designers for an often needed bit of excitement, by way of fashion novelties. I am no exception. My take on it, is literally a piece by piece dissection of garments. Best place to start with that, as is common knowledge and consensus, is the shoe department.

I am sure we’re all caught up with the recent fashionable fact pertaining to the history of the high heel. Originally attributed to Persia, the high heel was actually a functional part of cavalry archers’ garments designed to secure their stance on their horses. This is still reflected in riding boots. It was associated in Europe, with the status of the wearer, and adopted therein as an object of vanity. It was during the Victorian era, that the high heel was immersed in female attire, and it has remained integral to our closets since.

History of High Heels

It was probably footwear adverts that made high heels sexy, which draws on beauty standards as primary aspects of marketing, i.e. sex sells. Personally though, a good pair of heels is simply a specific kind of good footwear. I like good arch support in my sneakers and flats, and firm padding between the sole and ground is always desirable. I simply look for heels with those elements too. Yes, the high heel may require some getting used to and I do mean the toning of calves, although I do recognise that others have experienced strains and injuries sustained from wearing them. And yes, they can be impractical depending on the activity for the day. However, I do find them integral to many outfits, much like hairdo. What more, they accentuate good posture and the different curvatures of the feminine physique. A healthy posture, to me, is a sign of confidence, of comfort in one’s own make and skin, and may be construed as attractive. Pushing past that, into ultimately a fetish, is somewhat over-reaching and very private a pleasure if taken as such.

Generally, sexiness in clothing and makeup seems to be a manner of accentuation of natural physical traits, to attract attention to certain aspects of the body. It can be as simple as highlighting physical signs of sexual maturity and rigour such as breasts and hips, e.g. cleavage, pinching at the waist, perking of the derriere with structured undergarments etc.. Otherwise, there is the contrast of mystique, embodied by deep dark coloured opaque fabrics, shapely but unrevealing silhouettes sometimes featuring a flirtatious sliver of skin usually in a thin slit across or along either face of the torso or a leg, bold neat accessories and a classic hair style. It may be apparent that I see a lot of artistry in such fashions, which does limit my ability to appreciate the theoretically tantalizing aspects of their design. I find them beautiful on their own, and I feel as such adorned in these things. The idea of fashion, as I think of it anyway, is to complement the body without (too) much compromise on comfort or restriction on movement. Admittedly, it is a step away from protecting extremities from nature which is the basic function of a garment, and therefore quite frivolous a concern. Economically speaking though, value does carry a personal element, and I don’t mind occasionally sparing a few extra dimes of my own earnings, to feed my vanity.

As for grooming, it can be as generically sexy as a bash-less red lip with bold eyes, a flushing blush and robust full hair. On the other hand, it can simply accentuate one’s own features as is the case with contouring, for instance. I am aware that the point of a contour is to create the illusion of facial structure where there might not be as much, but it essentially plays off of ‘lighting’ to showcase one’s face. On top of that, how bold or subdued your features are depends on your preferences, e.g. a mysterious and sultry smokey eye, or a more serious black liner, a softer eye palette that brings out one’s natural irises, perhaps a more natural look with matte nudes and a healthy highlight. Similarly, the hair can be done up or down to accentuate one’s facial structure or as a feature on its own.

Ones’ outlook can be variegated by clothing as well. We can play with colours, patterns, shape, the fabric itself, laces and of course accessories. Now, it gets a little harder, at least for me, to discern what’s flattering from what’s sexy and provocative. The term ‘provocative’ in fashion, seems to allude to a misplaced feature in clothing, a brazen rebellion against modesty. Trends such as slits, higher hemlines, off-shoulder necklines, strappy backs, crop tops etc. were provocative when first introduced even on pop-artists. Once emulated, and better placed (almost) practically on clothing, they appear a little daring more than genuinely sexy. A beach dress, for instance, makes no sense if solid and conservative in make and style. A flowy number comprising sheers and delicate laces in spring is a universally natural look. A belted figure hugging knit in autumn, as deliberate a look as we may be impressed upon, is as essential to the women’s closet as the little black dress.

A Temporal View of Sexiness

Speaking as a woman, the feminine allure, especially carnal, is not as simple as how much skin is bared. A sheer fabric or even a lacy one, as much as it is associated with lingerie, can be used otherwise in more innocent carefree looks. A figure flattering summer dress has no reason to be too modest, or skin tight. Healthy skin, as much as it is a beautiful thing to feature, does come from a healthy dose of vitamin D which requires sunlight to manufacture, and is necessary for healthy bones without which a healthy posture becomes impossible. None of these, is a mating call from a woman in itself. So, does the ‘allure’ of an outfit speak of the wearers’ own intent to attract ultimately carnal attention, or is it inherent in the garment and therefore calls for undesired attention? The former leaves no real issue to discuss, but if the latter is true, individual garments need to come with disclaimers that detail more than the terms of a sale.

Vitamin D

Generally, I do not believe that women dress for the sake of others’, certainly not to attract mates. Yes, there are women who seek recreational intercourse, and they do express such intent by manner of appearance too. I think it needs to be, and is in fact, expressed more by personality and employing certain body language. All said and done though, this does make things difficult for those of us who simply like going out for a drink with a friend every now and then.


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