Women always look upon a man’s criticism of their attire as most presumptuous — that is, when his criticism is unfavorable, says a writer in the New York Sun. Let a man tell a woman he disapproves of something she is wearing, and nine times out of ten she will strike him speechless with, “What are men supposed to know about such things anyway?”
And there’s the question. What are men supposed to know about such things? Apparently nothing! And yet they do, although very often their knowledge is so vague that they are incapable of expressing it intelligently.
That man is a rarity who is acquainted with the mysteries of a bodice or the possibilities of a pleat. The average men in criticising a woman’s attire reasons entirely by instinct; he does or does not like a thing — why, he cannot say. Women recognize this fact, and are not slow in resenting a man’s criticism of their dressing.
Is he pleased or not?
But women dress mostly to please men, and they are certainly lending substance and color to their reputation for inconsistency when they reject man’s criticism of their apparel on the ground of his ignorance of “technicalities.” What does such ignorance matter if he is pleased or displeased?
Most women resent the statement that they dress with any such purpose in mind, but the writer has yet to meet the woman who, after a mature consideration of the question, did not acknowledge — even though reluctantly — that women either consciously or instinctively dress with the idea of pleasing the opposite sex.
Back of this reason lies the deeper and more significant one of economic dependence. Among many of the lower animals and among the birds, it is the male who is bright-colored or otherwise excels in physical attractions. It is he who plumes himself and exerts all of his fascinations to attract the plain female, who, being well able to care for herself, must be made to feel the need of his companionship.
When we reach the highest stage of life — with men and women — this condition is reversed, and it is the male who is adorned in the unattractive or plainer form of dress; while the female, who is so largely dependent upon him for a livelihood, must needs appear as attractive as possible in his eyes if it remains to be seen whether the constantly widening sphere of activity for women will have the effect of reversing this condition.
What do men like best in women’s fashion?
The logical conclusion of such argument would be that what men like best in women’s dress is brightness of color, and that the woman who adorns her person with the brightest attire — an abundance of ornaments, trinkets and jewels — is the woman who will be most attractive to the masculine eye. That is a surface conclusion.
A closer study of the question reveals the fact that the qualities or attractions enumerated are the very ones which the average man dislike. In the earlier forms of civilization, a woman’s desirability was gauged largely by her elaborate barbaric adornment. The rapidly disappearing habit of tight-lacing is a comparatively modern reflection of barbarism in woman’s dress. With the higher civilization of today, man instinctively revolts at the assumption that such means are necessary to attract him.
If bizarre or startling effects were what men most admire, then such hideous styles as the hobble and the harem skirts would come to stay. That such styles do attract his attention cannot be denied, but that woman is often greatly deceived who fancies that such attention is altogether related to admiration.
On the contrary — frequently it is really nothing but ridicule. It is in criticizing styles of such freakish nature that man is able to express his condemnation in more comprehensive terms — when he says a garment is both ungraceful and unwomanly, he is advancing an argument that can not be controverted by the retort that he “knows nothing about such things anyway,” for on these two qualities the average man has firmly established opinions.
Civilized women… and not
I once knew a man who said that for him two kinds of women existed: “those who were civilized and those who wore earrings.”
I am willing to concede that such a man represents an extreme view, and it is apparent that a wide range of choice lies between such a view and that of the man who is more or less acquainted with the intricacies of feminine attire. But in swinging between these two extremes, the pendulum of masculine opinion passes a point which may be cited as representing the ideas of the average man.
At this point, one may be sure of finding a general dislike for extremes. There are probably few men who do not experience a justifiable sense of pride when in the company of a woman whose attire is of that attractive quality which bears evidence of good taste and discriminating judgment. Such a woman’s dress reflects her personality, and while her clothes may be admired, the admiration they call forth is usually secondary and expressed in some such term as “how well she sets off her gowns” — it is the woman first and the gown afterward.
But if the average man takes pride in being seen in the society of the well-dressed woman, he is equally sensitive to any criticism invited by the over dressing of the woman in whose company he may chance to be.