Who Do Women Dress For?
Q: I've heard that it said that "women dress to please other women." Today I read an article describing an uncomfortable wife whose husband wants her to dress provocatively when they go out. The fact that he would use her as a sexual object is a subtle sort of harassment. If she would dress provocatively of her own volition (married or single), is she dressing to be admired by other women? If so, might she be seeking a same-sex experience? Is it safe to assume if she dresses in the latest fashions she does so to impress other women? Thank you, Doctor, for bringing a senior citizen into the 21st century. -- George, 75
Dr. Susan: You're asking me to jump to some pretty large cultural conclusions here, George, but I'll see what I can do. When a woman dresses with other women's eyes (and judgment) in mind, it doesn't mean she's seeking a same-sex experience. We women become accustomed from an early age to seeing ourselves from the outside, to be constantly aware of how others see us. Women are always comparing themselves to one another, judging, criticizing. Men may obsess over women's bodies, but a lot of women obsess over clothing. I long ago asked my husband if he'd want me to wear high heels like the woman in some sexy photo we'd seen, and he responded, "She was wearing shoes?!"
When women dress provocatively, not doing it to please their husbands (of their own free will), or to attract a mate, it tells me they have learned to value themselves as sex objects. I believe they want, perhaps without awareness, to earn the gaze of men. Women also dress to please other women (or avoid their assumed contempt, as we are insecure about ourselves). But they don't want to attract them erotically. (I have never understood the whole "latest fashions" thing.)
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.