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!

Embrace Your Inner Tomboy to Be More Feminine?

Often in the West we tend to think of tomboys and feminine as a dichotomy. Either you’re a tomboy or a girly-girl. Whether you’re a child or an adult, those are your choices. If you’re lucky you can be “tomboyish” or “girlish”, rather than in one camp or another, but generally you’re stuck with those choices. Especially so in modern Western countries, but even in old Spanish texts do we find girls being called “Marimacho” (male Mary) and in Japan they call a less delicate girl “otemba” (from the Dutch for “untameable”). Whatever they used to mean and whoever they used to be assigned to, as Americanization advances, slowly these terms come to mean any woman who isn’t girly enough. Either you are feminine and virtuous or butch and unruly.

However, as I explored in “Should Femininity be a Primary Duty?“, femininity isn’t quite that simple. On the one hand, there does seem to be a form of pure Western femininity.

So femininity, in terms of dress, is “somewhere between pretty and beautiful”. I’d say that summary applies to most other aspects of femininity also. Not girlish, but not boyish. Mature, but not sexy. Well-kept, but not overdone. Attractive, delicate, coquette, coy, friendly, open, reserved and polite. Somewhere between a girl and a woman, miles away from a whore or a man.

I’d say that makes good sense, wouldn’t you?

When we look at images of conventionally feminine women, we see skirts and dresses from just above the knee downwards, maybe slightly higher if it’s obviously warm or she’s on a beach. We see long, well-groomed hair and long-ish, well-groomed nails. We see a splash of make-up; not attention-seeking, but pleasing to the eye. We see women who stand with their backs straight and their shoulders back, their chins not too high in the air, their hips and busts not tilted alluringly, no slouch; just a graceful, unabashed, non aggressive woman. We see women who write, who sew, who clean, who care, who cook and talk. We see mothers, secretaries, teachers, nurses and cooks. Examples abound in the pictures I have inserted between these paragraphs. That is what feminine looks like. That is what feminine is. If you seek to be purely, wholly feminine, be everything described, everything portrayed and nothing else.

But this femininity, whilst superficially perfect, is still incomplete. If you strive to be feminine, then you need to also strive for more. A porcelain doll, a Disney princess or a Stepford wife is perfectly feminine. But that sort of femininity is also empty. Porcelain dolls are fragile and purposeless, Disney princesses are infantile, Stepford wives are inhuman and loveless. Which is where the tomboy comes in. You see, tomboys are not, as is often and increasingly assumed, gender-challenging, masculine girl-beasts. A tomboy can be anything from butch to just a girl who’s a little rough around the edges, and the latter is more common than the former. Tomboys are still part of the spectrum of femininity and whilst a butch or masculine girl could learn a lot from porcelain dolls and princesses, princesses could also learn a lot from tomboys.

So what are the benefits of being a tomboy?

Well, the first one is physical and mental resilience. Tomboys grew up falling out of trees, almost drowning, getting bitten by animals and other children, being shoved around by larger, stronger boys, practicing martial arts. Tomboys grew up being called ugly or butch, being insulted for neglecting fashion and celebrity drama, being teased and sworn at by the boys they spent the day with. Everyone eventually builds up some resilience to life as they grow up, but a tomboy specifically builds up that physical toughness, pain endurance, internal fortitude and emotional coolness that so many dramatic princesses could use once in a while.

Secondly, all this rough and tumble has an effect on your body. If you love looking good, having curves and leanness and good skin and lustrous hair, then you may be surprised to know that under the dungarees, dusty hair and makeup-less face, the tomboy has it in spades. Humans are meant to be physically active. Otherwise in the wild we would starve or be eaten, die of cold or drown. We need endurance, muscle and lightness. So it’s not really surprising that the sort of figure we find most attractive in a woman, be we male or female, straight or gay, is a lean one with a bit of muscle for shape and a bit of fat for health. To boot, keeping active and healthy encourages the rest of your body to follow suit, leading to clearer skin, better hair and nails and brighter eyes. In short, playing football, going hiking, gardening or lifting weights is making tomboys primally sexy.

And you best start lifting weights, playing sports, taking apart engines or climbing trees, because all this love of or indifference to mess is beneficial in and of itself. If you plan to be kept by a man, then you need to add something more to the table than what he can get from a doll. If you plan to keep yourself, then you need to be ready to keep your own home and pull your weight at work. Whatever you do, some strength in the face of mud, rain, bleach, drool, dust, paint, oven cleaner, polish, ink, etc will improve your ability to be a functional human being.

And whether you plan on being kept by a man, keeping men, dating men, being one of the guys or just surviving work, some ability to relate also helps. Whilst not everyone fits into their designated “camp Mars” or “camp Venus”, some stereotypes are there because people are clichés. Most men like some sort of sport, either watching, playing or discussing. Most women have a vague idea of some sort of sport and know more athletes’ names than they do rules to any given sport. Most men keep clean and tidy and minimalist. Most women dress up and load down with makeup, jewels, house decoration and accessories. Whilst a tomboy could still dress like a woman and learn the names of famous athletes by heart, the formative years she spent around boys have given her a healthy appreciation for the things that most men like and a deeper understanding of male conversation. The tomboy can discuss the latest scores, throw some insults around, receive some insults with good grace and stay friendly or intimate with a man in a way the princesses can’t even understand.

Finally, where a tomboy’s character can often be too brash, loud or generally rude to attract many romantic partners, when used carefully it can be a lifesaver in everyday situations. Being able to take a parking space without worrying about it, to turn down a guy’s advances loudly and clearly, to eat her meal even if she forgot her fork and its a mess, to carry her own luggage, to get an annoying coworker to shut up… Being able to do all of this makes life much easier for the tomboy and those around her. Provided she knows when to use it and when not to.

As you have probably guessed from all the qualifiers, these tomboy traits have their pros and cons compared to the feminine alternative. In fact, they are actually best combined with more feminine traits. It’s better to be a woman who can relate to men, but still mother and nurture them, than to be a woman who is unreleable to men or who is harsh and masculine. It’s better to be a woman who looks after herself but is happy to get messy when it is vitally necessary, than to be a delicate doll or a scruffy, unwashed kid. However, and I hate to break this to you, but a lot of tomboys seem to naturally find that balance at some point before they hit 25. They learn to do just enough to please their partners, to get taken seriously at work and to have conversation with other women. Some may benefit from being a little more feminine, but there are far fewer tomboys without any feminine traits than there are feminine women without any tomboy traits.

And how does this balance actually work? Well, as mentioned, tomboys aren’t masculine. They’re often more a Farmer’s Wife and less a greasemonkey. Likewise, not all butch behaviours are tomboyish: some are just plain masculine. So this balance is found outside the masculine, but not quite into porcelain-doll-feminine. Expressed as a table, it would look something like this:

Soft Feminine. (Urban Wife.)

Rough Feminine. (Farmer’s Wife.)

Soft Masculine. (White Collar.)

Rough Masculine. (Blue Collar.)

Soft Feminine. (Urban Wife.)

Very feminine.

Mostly feminine.

Mostly feminine.

Sort of feminine.

Rough Feminine. (Farmer’s Wife.)

Mostly feminine.

Mostly of feminine.

Sort of feminine.

Sort of feminine.

Soft Masculine. (White Collar.)

Mostly feminine.

Sort of feminine.

Sort of feminine.

Not feminine.

Rough Masculine. (Blue Collar.)

Sort of feminine.

Sort of feminine.

Not feminine.

Not feminine.

Soft Feminine is dominant makeup, dress up, nurturing, pleasantness, very light activity and cleanliness. Stereotypical princess, kept wife, precious daughter, welfare queen.

Rough Feminine is dominant cleaning, washing, playing, mothering, harshness and straight-forwardness. Stereotypical farmer’s wife, professional athlete, working class woman, SAHM.

Soft Masculine is dominant professionalism, elegance, politeness, business, cleanliness and strength. Stereotypical secretary, accountant, programmer, lab tech.

Harsh Masculine is dominant manual labour, frankness, bluntness, strength, pride and honesty. Stereotypical lorry driver, manager, warehouse worker, working with animals.

Of course, there is some overlap of traits, but those are the positives generally found in that personality. Therefore, the girly tomboys lie in the green “Mostly Feminine”. If you seek to be feminine, these are actually the sort of girls you want to emulate. The “Very Feminine” soft girls may be more superficially feminine, but are less humanly feminine, less practical as people. In some situations being very feminine may help, but generally, if you plan on being feminine, it will lead you to hurdle after hurdle. The “Sort of Feminine” girls are the sort that pass as women, but are unrelateable to many other women and unattractive to most men. These are often immature tomboys or cliché tomboys. The “Not Feminine” girls are the only group that is actually properly butch.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each group, so of course it’s up to you which you wish to be. But if you wish to be feminine, confusingly, you actually reap more of the rewards of femininity if you add a touch of tomboy and try and keep in the green zones.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

And you? What are your goals in terms of femininity? What do you expect to get out of them? Where would you put yourself on the scale?