Image and Style: Feeling Sexy
What does it mean to feel sexy? And sexy for whom? And why does it matter?
I can’t unpack the complete reasons at this point, though I do think that they are tied to our patriarchal society – that a woman’s worth has been and continues to be tied to attractiveness. And yet, beauty is subjective, contained in the eye of the beholder, as they say. While our ideas of attractiveness continually change, there is the overarching societal concept of who is beautiful, and who is not. And within our pluralistic country, there are many cultural ways to see beauty. It’s continually shifting, and often determined by dominant group (read: white), fickle as it may be as well.
With all these pressures and these subliminal messages, a woman has to determine for herself what is sexy. Is it tied to how it is being perceived by men (or women, depending on who you intend to attract)? Is it okay to feel sexy and not know exactly why a particular style of dress is sexy? Can it be embraced and be given a different meaning – a woman who owns her sexuality as a whole human being?
The answer to all of these questions is yes.
The decision, and the willingness to question where a particular feeling or style comes from, lies with the individual. Women’s clothing is continually policed, frombikinis and burkinis to high heels and flats. In that kind of climate, it can be difficult to figure out what sexy is and if it’s even important at all.
I started thinking about all of this after a co-worker was discussing trying to find (unsuccessfully) a dress to wear to a friend’s wedding. I said she should wear a blue fit and flare dress she had worn to work – it was a classic design and a lovely colour. She said it wasn’t sexy. She looked lovely in it – but I knew what she meant. Sexy: something a little more close-fitting, showing off her curves, maybe a little leg or arm. I tried to talk about how the fit and flare was attractive, though it may not be her definition of sexy, per se. It was really a conversation I’ve often had with myself. I too have ‘sexier’ dresses, and also ones that make me think of classic styles such as those worn by Audrey Hepburn. And it really comes down to wearing whatever I want, but also to understanding what my style is and is not – and in different contexts. I know that I have always gravitated to classic, composed – some would even say conservative – pieces. But I have the close fitting ones too floating around my closet.
I want to be able to say that we have to move away from dressing sexy the way society tells us to do or not do – but that’s not the truth, and arguably not helpful. I think that with the mess of messages, the best thing is to work on wearing clothes that make me feel most like myself in whichever context, most comfortable, an expression of my individual and unique personality – and in that the sexy, the attractiveness, shines through.
Author: Lia Robinson