Sunday, 17 August 2008

A new dress

I had a new dress on Saturday. It's not especially revealing or provocative, but it's a little bit more of both than I usually wear. It's also very brightly-coloured, and it suits me.

It was enough of a departure that I spent most of the evening feeling selfconscious and partly convinced that it would fall to pieces or detach itself from my person as a judgement upon me for wearing an eye-catching dress that only cost £10. Still, if you added the price of the shoes, you'd get at least as respectable a figure for the outfit, as an outfit for the figure. And I think my problem was that the fabric is one of those strange polyester stuffs that feels a lot like wearing nothing at all.

Anyway, here's the thing: as always happens when I wear something more striking than usual, I got more extra attention from the women than the men. Women know very well that putting on clothes is a public artistic endeavour, whether the artist likes it or not. They know how insecure you feel, and why; they know the value of kindly applause, and they give it with great generosity. When women think one of their number has made a happy choice or a good aesthetic judgement, has managed her resources well, or achieved a pleasing and appropriate effect, it's not at all uncommon for them to sit down next to her and say exactly what they think about her outfit. Such praise - and it is praise, more than a compliment - is worth having, and should be treasured, and taken as gracefully as possible with a thank you for the kindness. And I hope I manage that, when I'm so fortunate.

Men who can give praise naturally, who do not convince themselves women hear them thinking, or edit themselves to frigidity rather than risk being misunderstood, deserve to be encouraged too. And I hope I do it.


Anonymous said...

This post _so_ needs pictures...

Elizabeth Brinton said...

Oh, I don't know...sometimes the mind makes us a lovely picture.
It seems sometimes that I dress more for myself first, then for other women, then for men, and only maybe for them.