What Difference Could Feminine Dress Make To Your Life?

Those who know me are well aware that I am not by nature a girly-girl or even anywhere near one. I like gutting animals, lifting weights and seeing my muscles grow, digging up the garden and watching fairly crude animes whilst drinking Gordon’s or Bailey’s.

I am also fortunate enough to be with a man who appreciates those aspects of me and even enjoys my tomboyish qualities. However, he also appreciates the feminine side to me, what with him being heterosexual and all. And one aspect of femininity that I don’t exactly mind and that he had appreciated in small doses was feminine dress.

So, to surprise him a little and see how it went, I applied some small changes to being more feminine. Nothing heavy. At least I didn’t feel like it was. Based on the differences I’ve observed, apparently it’s quite a lot!

Whilst it isn’t exactly the best approach, I tried starting with an idea of what I would and wouldn’t do. Not could and couldn’t. After all, I could do all my gardening in a sundress. It just happens I’m too messy and clumsy to not expose myself indecently whilst doing so and I love my dresses too much to get them muddy. So I could, but for those reasons I wouldn’t. I worked out I was willing to make small changes here and there, but not flip directly into 1950s housewife mode. In part to collect my data carefully, in part because I wasn’t sure I could keep up with full makeup, perma-heels, all dresses and jewellery. The concept of going from jeans or casual dresses to that was, well, scary.

However, with an outline established: try a little bit at a time and don’t go further if I’m not comfortable, but don’t avoid anything on principle either, I tackled my wardrobe first.

It wasn’t a massive overhaul. Most of the clothes I had suited me. I simply took some of my tattier t-shirts and relegated them to garden and gym clothes, donated anything that didn’t suit me in terms of colour and then replenished my wardrobe on the cheap. So now my wardrobe is almost entirely purples, greys, creams, blues, greens and denim, with two very orange pieces. It is also almost entirely in good shape, feminine and form-fitting, rather than baggy, masculine and tattered.

The next step was makeup. This was a little daunting because, other than when I’m teaching students from countries with different definitions of professionalism or when I’m going out, I didn’t really think makeup was worth the time. My hands are often a bit shaky and my experience was low, which probably added to the time factor. So, instead, I got a nice palette of shadows in water colours that suit me and some eyeliner, and red lipgloss and lipsticks. Just a dab of concealer, a dusting of eyeshadow, a line over and/or under the eye and a bit of colour into the lips. When I was feeling brave and/or steady I would curl and tint my eyelashes, because they’re quite straight and thin naturally. The key here wasn’t just to use a subtle touch of makeup, but to prioritize the sort of makeup that covered my most obvious flaws and drew attention to my nicest features.

Next, I chose to tackle jewellery and perfume. Two almost alien concepts to me. When Jon told me he was looking for an engagement ring I told him he may as well get a wedding one to cover both events, because diamonds are flashy and overpriced and two rings would be too much jewellery for me. I only ever went beyond deodorant when I was going out for the night. Any other time and there was no way I would wear jewellery or perfume. So I organized my jewellery drawer and dug out my old perfumes, as well as got a plain eau de toilette that suited my natural scent. I made a point of wearing at least one item of jewellery and a few sprays of perfume in my hair every day. And I try and mix up the jewellery rather than just get in the habit of wearing the same one over and over.

My thoughts.

At the start, my thoughts were that it wouldn’t make much difference. Jon would appreciate it, what with him being used to me in girly-tomboy mode. It would take me a little longer to get up and dressed and ready. But that would be it.

However I was quite wrong. Firstly, it really doesn’t take much longer. Get up, deodorize, brush hair and teeth, throw anything on VS get up, deodorize, brush hair and teeth, pick out a top and a bottom that look nice, spray perfume and add a single piece of jewellery. Picking the jewellery to go with the outfit was probably the most time consuming aspect.

I was also wrong in that I thought Jon would notice and the world would keep turning as usual. Maybe I was being arrogant about how attractive I naturally am or maybe I was being dismissive of the alterations made, but things are definitely different when you make the effort to be feminine.

General response.

The first thing that surprised me was that with women nothing changed. Stereotype dictates that when you do your hair differently or wear a little makeup, women and gay men rave over it and straight men blink, peer and ask if you are wearing a different coloured top. But nothing could be further from the truth. Straight men notice. Men who know you in person will at least pass comment on it. Depending on the guy it could be:

“Is that top new?”

“That colour suits you.”

“Hair’s different.”

“Did you forget to fall through a hedge this morning?”

But they do notice. And, in terms of men in general, you do get more second looks. It’s almost as though your comfier clothes and makeuplessness is a signal that you aren’t part of their social group, but that little bit of style and makeup changes everything. You go from visible but uninteresting to interesting.

The most noticeable change was actually in younger men that I have more professional dealings with. Students, cashiers I stop and chat to, volunteers at charity shops, etc. It seems that that touch of social proof hidden in the makeup, perfume and a necklace elevates your status a lot more in their eyes than in anyone else’s, possibly due to their inexperience dealing with women relative to anyone else. They seem distracted, speak more awkwardly and lose track of conversation more when talking to a woman who is a little bit more feminized.

But other women? No difference at all. I’m not sure if I should be surprised or unsurprised in hindsight. On one hand, it is common knowledge that women can spot a changed hairstyle, new scent or piece of jewellery from miles away. On the other hand, straight women are probably more focused on their own appearance and lives than what their friends and relatives are wearing. And the average woman on the streets has no idea I don’t always dress this way and no interest in finding out. Of course women are less likely to pay attention to a girl just because she has a bit of makeup on. They have more important things to think about.

Jon’s reaction.

Pretty much positive. Being around me most of the day, every day, he was very aware when I started wearing a little perfume, sorted out my wardrobe or put on a piece of jewellery.

But that he wasn’t “tricked” doesn’t mean he didn’t like it! Wearing lighter, danglier, shinier clothes catches the eye and he liked seeing a bit of movement or sparkle when I walked past or cuddled up to him. His hands would move to the jewellery or the hem of my shirt more often when I was dressed more feminine than when I wasn’t. That allure of slight extra femininity made him respond in a way that suggests he is more attracted to and protective of me when I am softened a little.

Warmth and approachability isn’t just for single girls!

Jon’s thoughts.

“I definitely noticed.”

He felt there wasn’t much more to add.

Conclusion.

So feminine dress does make a huge difference… to the men in your life.

It doesn’t really interfere with your getting up time that much. And if you can lay out your jewellery somewhere so you aren’t fiddling with boxes then it may be a lot faster.

It doesn’t really change your perception of yourself. I look in the mirror and think “well that’s girly”, but it doesn’t bother or excite me to know I’m girlier. It’s just a fact.

It doesn’t really have an effect on other women. Either they know you and might comment, or don’t know you and don’t know you’re dressed up.

But the guys? They notice. Some of it on a primal level, some of it on a conscious level. And they seem to enjoy it, or at least the guy you’re with enjoys it.

So it’s up to you to decide whether that bit of extra attention, slightly broader dating pool or additional flirting with your partner is worth the bit of effort.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

7 Handbag Essentials for the Recent Acquirer of a Handbag.

I am only just getting used to using handbags. You see, when I was younger in Spain, they were just fashion accessories. A girl had her satchel or backpack for school that also housed all her essentials and could be emptied out into a messy pile on the bed to reuse for girlscouts, going to a friend’s house or a picnic. Handbags were often put in backpacks or carried alongside your main bag. Sometimes they would complete an outfit on their own, but they were still tiny and had little to nothing in them. Being one of the “unfashionable” girls I, of course, had to be contrary and ignore them entirely, favouring the punk look of a tatty, drawn on, stickered backpack that I dragged with me everywhere. After all, if handbags were impractical accessories, I’d darn well not ever own one.

Another breed entirely was the “mummy handbag”. Always medium to large in size and still with T.A.R.D.I.S. properties that made us fairly certain there was everything down to a spare kitchen sink in there. They were often messy inside and, because they were big and not particularly decorative, few girls aspired to owning one. But whether we were tiny handbag connoisseurs or the rebel wild kids, we would hold a certain awe and respect for mummy handbags.

Coming to England, I discovered that mummy handbags are less for mums and more for everyone. They came in many attractive shapes and sizes. Ten year old girls even went to school with handbags instead of backpacks if they were lucky and the dress code allowed. A completely different culture.

Nevertheless, I was reluctant to adopt this alien behaviour. From age sixteen to age eighteen I clung onto my backpacks for school, work, shopping, everything. From age eighteen I adopted satchels and laptop carriers for uni and a huge rucksack for shopping and traveling. When Jon and I moved in together I stuck to an amorphous, heavy bag affectionately known as the “potato sack” for errands and my well worn, well loved leather satchel for work. I was handbag-phobic.

However I did somehow manage to accumulate some. Five, to be precise. A tiny leather one my grandmother owned. A fake leather purse of a similar size. A black and white handbag for going to fancy places. A tattier grey fabric one with fake leather features. And a suede patchwork one with a gazillion pockets. And somehow, their presence corrupted me. I found myself looking at my outfit for the day and wondering whether it was ruined by the giant rucksack I was carrying. And it often was. Because giant rucksacks, contrary to prior belief, do not go with everything.

But I’ve got very used to my giant rucksacks and all their practicalities. So, in the spirit of becoming more feminine, not ruining my look with a giant rucksack, actually putting my handbags to some use and keeping them as a practical item rather than an accessory, I worked out how to get started growing my very own organic mummy handbag. Now, be warned, these are merely the seedlings for your mummy handbag. They may seem like only a few things, but they will gradually grow and expand and fill the entire bag, causing the T.A.R.D.I.S. effect. This will happen naturally, without encouragement and often without your noticing until you start finding forks and small galaxies in there. Regular cutting back of your mummy handbag is required to keep it in good health.

1. The beauty kit.

If we’re talking about handbags as not just a bag to drop things in, but a feminine alternative to rucksacks and plastic bags, then we can’t neglect our beauty. After all, a nice outfit with a nice bag and messy hair and makeup looks as out of place as the same outfit with good hair and makeup and a giant rucksack.

So something to keep around is a beauty kit for light topups. What you’ll keep in it will of course vary based on what you wear. But as the trick of a mummy handbag is to have everything you might need ready to grab, the best idea is to keep a spare of every item you wear regularly and the sorts of things you might wear. Seeing as my makeup bag is very small and my handbag preference is medium, I can often just drop my makeup bag into my handbag, but you will need to keep smaller amounts of spares for smaller bags of if you use many different products.

Suggestions:

-Top ups for lips, eyes and concealer.

-Baby wipes.

-Small nail kit with scissors, file and clippers.

-Hairbrush or comb and dry shampoo can.

2. The first aid kit.

An essential to making the mummy handbag seem like magic. A well-stocked tiny first aid kit, prepared for all sorts of minor accidents and some major ones. A lot of the beauty kit can be reused here: wipes, cotton balls, clean nail scissors, etc. But the first aid kit needs to be kept separate and prepared for all sorts of common problems.

Imagine you’re not just trying to be ready for yourself, but for your friends or any passing stranger who may ask for a plaster or a throat soother.

Suggestions:

-Plasters of various shapes and sizes.

-Antiseptic.

-Cough pills/sweets/mints.

-Pads for blistered or corned feet.

-Sanitary products.

-Mild painkillers.

-Bandaging and sterile needle set.

3. The pens and paper.

In theory you should only ever need your phone for taking notes and writing down contact details. In reality, your phone relies on an often very limited battery, your notes can be lost at the touch of a button and not everywhere has pens and paper, even when they probably should.

To be prepared for everything you need a small assortment of pens and paper, preferably in a tiny folder or binder that fits neatly away into a single compartment of your handbag.

Suggestions:

-Four pens: two in black and two coloured.

-A reporter’s notepad.

-Post-it notes.

-An address book.

4. The charger supply.

Everyone needs chargers. We have phones, kindles, notebook computers and all sorts that we carry around with us. And we are mysteriously bad at remembering to charge all of them, all of the time. Even someone who’s normally quite good at remembering can have a bad day. So you need a supply of chargers.

Your options are two.

1:

-A multicharger.

-A smaller laptop charger.

-A power pack.

2:

-A USB plug. This is basically like any plug you us, except where the wire is meant to come out, there’s a USB port.

-Assorted USB chargers. These come in 2″ versions, so they don’t have to be full wires.

5. The wallet.

Everyone needs a good wallet. Even if it’s in the card compartment of your bag and not an actual, separate wallet. A good wallet contains various sources of real money, not many credit cards (to discourage overuse), any sources of discounts, any necessary ID, etc.

This is basically going to be everything you need if you are shopping, just stop somewhere and want something, need to show ID for any reason or want to donate your change.

Suggestions:

-A coin purse.

-Around £20 in notes and large coins.

-Debit cards.

-A credit card.

-Gift cards.

-Reward scheme cards.

-In-date coupons and vouchers organized by date.

-ID cards.

6. The “just in” case.

Yes, that was a terrible pun. This is a small case, bag, purse or section of your handbag that you use for emergency items. Pretty much anything you often find yourself looking for or lacking when you need it. What they are depends on who you are, who you’re often with and what you’re doing.

My bag:

-A tightly folded large carrier bag for shopping.

-Candy for students I may encounter.

-Matches.

-A Nakd bar for hunger.

7. The entertainment centre.

For when you or whoever you’re with are unexpectedly bored. These are things to fill the spare minutes at work, to keep you busy waiting for the bus or to keep your kids quiet in the back of the car.

Your entertainment centre needs to have a variety of forms of entertainment for everyone you may need to distract. I largely need just to distract myself, but you may need to consider your partner, children or friends. Good ideas are travel games you can fold away and move or arts and crafts.

My bag:

-Current sewing project.

-Small artists pad and charcoal.

-Travel chequers.

-Headphones for my phone.

And those are my suggestions for starting your own all-eventualities-covered mummy handbag.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

What is in your handbag? Why do you carry certain things? What situations do you like to be covered for?