Dangerous Clothes

A columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald despairs, like so many before her stretching back into the mists of time, about the dress sense of the younger generation of women:

They were dressed (and I use that term loosely) identically in outfits that went something like this:

(From the top) Overly curled, overly sprayed, overly long hair with extensions that fell below the bra line, push-up bras, false eyelashes, black smudgy eyeliner, fake nails painted white, bandage dresses so tight that they walked like their feet had been bound since birth and so short that you could see the brand of their underwear; orange fake tan, glitter body spray, clumpy, chunky high heels (the kind you see wrapped around poles) and lots of jangly, shiny things on their ears, fingers, wrists and ankles.

Me, I don’t much care for the look, and I’d certainly never try to pull it off (too old, too full of curves and rolls and peaks and valleys).  But I’m not about to dictate to others what they should and shouldn’t wear.  This woman, though, is an Authority.  Yep, she can say without a doubt that these women have taken it too far because… um, because… because she remembers that age, and she experimented at that age, which made her feel empowered but not necessarily sexy.  And therefore she can tell that these women don’t feel empowered, through magic.

So far, so typical.  “In my day we didn’t wear anything like that!  Sure we experimented with fashion, but this is just… just trashy.” I remember way back in the ’90s when my friends and I were “pushing the boundaries of our wardrobe”, my best friend was berated by her mother for going out in a ripped T-shirt because it was “a bit come-hither”.  No doubt the ripped T-shirt was just as shocking to my friend’s mother as these “bandage dresses” are to this columnist, and her great-great grandmother’s ankle-bearing dress was to her great-great-great grandmother.

Things quickly take a turn for the (even more) judgemental:

From a distance they looked like a low-budget video shoot and up close it looked like they were open for business – business of the wrong kind.

I can’t help but hear this line as a private eye’s innner-monologue in some cheesy film noir knock-off movie: “Business of the wrong kind”.  Presumably the right kind of business happens in office buildings where everyone wears nice modest grey suits.   The “wrong” kind of business, obviously, is sex – sex work, the business of sex, which is wrong because It Just Is.  There’s no suggestion that the women in question were in fact sex workers – just that they look like sex workers, and looking like a prostitute is bad, mmkay?

But then there’s this…

When did it stop being a pair of high heels and red lipstick and become Soft Porn Barbie? It’s not just boring – it’s dangerous.

Dangerous?  Well, yeah, some of those heels are a broken ankle waiting to happen, but I’ve a suspicion that that’s not what the author is getting at.  Just like the ripped T-shirt, she thinks that the women’s outfits are “come-hither”.  And she suspects some men may just do that.  Because of the clothes.  The clothes made the men do it, mind.  What’s dangerous, in my mind, is a columnist in a major international newspaper suggesting that clothes cause rape.  Are we not beyond this yet?  Are we ever going to be beyond it?