Male Privilege Checklist: Clothing-Related Issues

Criticizing the Male Privilege Checklist in his livejournal, Chuck writes:

25. There are value-neutral clothing choices available to me; it is possible for me to choose clothing that doesn’t send any particular message to the world.

Really? All clothing denotes class, IMO. I don’t own a single item of designer clothing. What does that say about me as a man?

Chuck’s point about class is well taken.

I would argue, however, that there are more “does this send the wrong message?” wardrobe concerns for women than men. “Will this look too sexy?,” “will this make me look unfeminine,” etc.. As Rougewench wrote in Chuck’s comments, “the vast majority of clothing choices for men, with the exception of what you might find in a clubwear catalog (read as International Male) do not denote messages as to the morality of the wearer.”

In light of all this, I feel I should rewrite item 25, but I’m not certain what the new wording should say. If anyone has any suggestions, please post them in comments.

Of course, there is a male disadvantage that’s a counterpart to the female disadvantage – women are far freer to wear so-called “male” clothing styles without harassment than men are to wear women’s (i.e., a woman in slacks is nothing unusual in the US, a man in a dress is often harassed and sometimes worse). I think sexism harms women more than men, on the whole, but it’s clear to me that men are hurt by this system, too.

26. My wardrobe and grooming are relatively cheap and consume little time.

Metrosexuals, even? I know men who spend an hour every day getting ready.

Yes, there are exceptions to the rule. Exceptions do not represent the whole, however, and do not invalidate the general point.

Besides, being a metrosexual (that is, a man who likes very fashionable clothing and grooms himself with great care) is a choice. But for many women, not only social pressure (which is bad enough) but their jobs require them to spend more on clothing than their male counterparts, regardless of what they’d prefer. The ordinary work wardrobe of an office or retail worker, most of whom don’t have the option of quitting their jobs, is cheaper for men than women – and the disparity is larger still when the costs of hair and makeup are included.

(This is one of a number of posts responding to Chuck’s critique. You can use the category archive to see all posts related to the Male Privilege Checklist.)

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74 Responses to Male Privilege Checklist: Clothing-Related Issues

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  9. 9
    Sarah Brodwall says:

    How about something like “As a man, my clothing choices are less likely to be interpreted as making a statement about my sexual proclivities”? “Sexual proclivities” is maybe not the exact word you’re looking for or the only concept you want to address with the statement, but you get the idea.

  10. 10
    felix says:

    As a man, my clothing choices are less likely to be interpreted as making a statement about my sexual proclivities”?

    So, you think that on seeing a woman in, say, jeans and a t-shirt, most people would be more likely to make assumptions about sexual proclivities than they would on seeing a man wearing a dress and a pearl necklace?

    Um, no.

    If you want to actually make a realistic case about male privilege (I am admittedly a skeptic), this one should be dropped. Women can wear a far greater range of clothing without sending unwanted messages than men can.

  11. 11
    tekanji says:

    Hmm… maybe something about not having to wonder if one’s choice in clothing will cause people to label them as “sluts”, or be used as an excuse for rape. There’s also the issue that most women’s business clothing has become “sexy” (buttons that don’t go all the way up, low rise pants, etc) which if a woman wears to work she can get reprimaned by her boss for. I’m fairly sure the same problem doesn’t exist for men.

  12. 12
    sacundim says:

    25. There are value-neutral clothing choices available to me; it is possible for me to choose clothing that doesn’t send any particular message to the world.

    Really? All clothing denotes class, IMO.

    I think these two statement are not incompatible. Reconciling them requires a bit of subtlety, though. The thing is that the “neutral” in “value-neutral” is only so from the perspective of the ideology of the hegemonical class.

    The logic behind this is the same as that behind terms like “heteronormativity”…the tacit assumption that a certain kind of person is “normal” and/or “netural,” and the evaluation of departures from this norm as “deviant.” Middle class is hegemonic relative to working class, for example; for example, the “national interests” as portrayed in political discourse tend to be upper middle class interests. Same thing, of course, with male vs. female, white vs. non-white, and so on.

  13. 13
    Sarah says:

    Why not simply have everyone in the workplace adhere to an identical dress code, perhaps dress trousers, white shirt (buttons to collar, tucked in), black shoes suit jacket and tie for an office type environment.

    Where I work men generally tend to wear shirt tie and jacket or they wear a casual shirt (still smart), we on the other hand can wear basically anything (see through tops included today!). I think that men may have less “meaning” in their clothing but they also have less choice as to meaning.

  14. 14
    Sheelzebub says:

    Quite a lot of women’s clothing also connotes a certain class; it’s disingenuous to act as if women’s lives aren’t affected by this.

    WRT skirts–it’s not as if women were just magically granted the right to wear pants. The dress reform movement, when couched under health concerns (long dresses picked up vermin and dirt and brought them indoors, corsetting was unhealthy, and the very weight of the increasingly fussy Victorian dress for women was cumbersome) was more accepted than when women used modified clothing to move about more freely.

    Women’s clothing was more fashionable the less mobile it kept the woman who wore it. When the bicycle was introduced to the population in the 1800’s, many women took to it with aclarity, and it horrified a lot of of the stay-in-the-kitchen types, who believed any activity that could not be done in a dress shouldn’t be done by women at all. That, in fact, women shouldn’t be out and about, unchaperoned, moving about freely. It was dangerous for women (shades of today’s rape culture) and besides, women simply didn’t have the strength, coordination, or wit to handle a bicycle (shades of today’s biological determinism).

    Bloomers (since pants didn’t really make it into women’s clothing choices until the ’20’s or ’30’s, and didn’t become at all common until what? the fifties or sixties?) were regarded as indecent, mainly because it allowed women to ride bicycles and move about more freely.

    The freedom of movement was what horrified traditional types.

    If men want to wear skirts (and heels, for that matter), go for it. But kindly remember that women didn’t just decide en masse that they wanted to wear pants, and that the decision was accepted with equanamity.

  15. 15
    ck says:

    …but their jobs require them to spend more on clothing than their male counterparts, regardless of what they’d prefer. The ordinary work wardrobe of an office or retail worker, most of whom don’t have the option of quitting their jobs, is cheaper for men than women – and the disparity is larger still when the costs of hair and makeup are included.

    I’m a lesbian who doesn’t wear skirts/dresses (I don’t own any in fact), and who is a business analyst at a large corporation. I don’t wear makeup, and I get my hair cut once a month, and buy my single hair product about every three months. Still, I find that if I want to get a pair of pants, a suit, a shirt, etc. not only do I have a problem not finding ones that are (in my opinion) “frilly” or connote something about my sexuality that I don’t want, they are more expensive than the same item in the men’s department. I could, of course, decide to dress entirely in men’s clothing–and my 6′ frame might let me get away with that–but since I am thin, I would have to get much of it tailored. That’s an expense and a hassle that isn’t worth it (yet).

    I’ve thought, usually when shopping in Ann Taylor or Banana Republic, about starting a clothing line for women such as myself, who don’t want to dress in men’s clothes, but find women’s clothing not to their liking. However, I’m not the one to do it.

    Anyway, I’m not sure that this contributes a great deal to the discussion, but I thought I’d toss in my perspective.

  16. 16
    Tammy says:

    An hour a day for men is considered being a fussy metrosexual, but for most women, an hour is the minimum requirement to be considered a passable, if tomboyish woman. I spend an hour getting ready and most people think I’m a bit of a slob.

  17. 17
    Nicole says:

    I like the wording suggested in the first post as a way to better express what you are trying to say.

    On another note, I agree that it is difficult as a woman to dress for work, and the clothing options in stores certainly do not help. My boyfriend recently started working for a company that requires button down shirts and nice slacks (his former job was casual, jeans and t-shirts). It was amazing to me how easy (and relatively cheap!) it was for him to put together a new work wardrobe. And he often comments about how many of the men at his office have exactly 5 button down shirts that they just rotate every week with 2 or 3 pairs of pants. I think he probably ended up spending $400 or $500.

    As a woman, I know that if I move jobs from the casual office (jeans) that I work in now to a more formal environment, that I will probably end up spending $1,500 on clothing to get me started, not even getting into the difficulty of choosing clothes that aren’t too sexy or revealing. And it’s a big reason why I don’t want to move to a different job. Even though I’d probably end up making more money, the amount I’d have to spend on clothes initially is just not realistic for me at this point.

  18. 18
    plunky says:

    As I’ve posted elsewhere, I think the list is mostly bunk. But I think the objections that Chuckdarwin raises are even more bunk. This one is a no-brainer. Do we actually need to argue about whether women are judged more about what they choose to wear than men do?

  19. 19
    mythago says:

    “Sexually value-neutral” might be more appropriate. Men’s clothing generally isn’t designed to send any kind of sexual message at all. Women’s is.

  20. 20
    Kate L. says:

    You left out an important point of this whole clothing discussion… The HARM certain types of clothing can do. Shoes are a primary example. I have a neuro muscular disorder and so high heels or narrow toed shoes are not even a possibility for me, as a result, I am never completely “appropriately” dressed for work. But again, for most women, appropriate attire includes heels and shoes that cause back problems, foot deformities and more. I realize that many of men’s dress shoes aren’t exactly comfortable, but it is much easier to find dressy shoes for men in wider widths and that do less harm to women, and for much less money. I spent over $300 on 3 pairs of shoes that are ugly and not really work appropriate, but it’s the best I could do.

  21. 21
    mythago says:

    Oh, and:

    Women can wear a far greater range of clothing without sending unwanted messages than men can.

    is flat-out fantasy. You’re mixing up cross-dressing and sexuality–and pretending that a woman who wore male clothes would never be thought to be a lesbian, for example.

  22. 22
    Aaron V. says:

    Male clothing is also much easier to launder – no fussing with the delicate cycle or putting it on low heat in the dryer – just throw it in warm and dry on high. (ms_xeno can tell about how she learned to cross-dress to get better quality clothes…)

  23. 23
    NancyP says:


    I have a very hard time finding women’s pants that have adequately deep side pockets suited to carrying a wallet. As far as I am concerned, back pockets are for hankerchiefs, not wallets, because no-one wants to steal a hankerchief.

  24. 24
    Stef says:

    25. There are value-neutral clothing choices available to me; it is possible for me to choose clothing that doesn’t send any particular message to the world.

    Suggested rewrite:
    25. If I work in an office, I have the option of wearing a relatively value-neutral uniform that does not invite speculation about my sexuality or my gender conformity.

  25. 25
    Gareth says:

    Would people agree that the advantages for each sex are actually linked to the disadvantages?

    Men’s lack of choice is the reason people read less into what they wear. If conservative suit-wearing is the done thing, the men have a uniform (pants, jacket, tie, short hair, sensible shoes, generally muted colours). People notice deviations (eg long hair), but otherwise don’t really react. It’s just the standard look.

    Women have more choices, but because of this the choices are noticed and judged. Nothing’s just ordinary, the way men’s clothes often are.

    In situations where males have more choice (e.g. nightclubs, where men dress to look good and not just acceptable; or in teenage social groupings) there’s also more judgement of the choices they make, and more is read into their appearances.
    Are there situations where women have a “uniform”? What happens there? Offhand I can only think of institutions that literally have uniforms, like schools, convents, hospitals, the police etc.

  26. 26
    mythago says:

    Are there situations where women have a “uniform”? What happens there?

    Of course. Think of traditionally male professions. And then you have the same problem–my male colleagues don’t have to worry about whether their suits show too much leg or are too low-cut.

  27. 27
    Gareth says:

    “Of course. Think of traditionally male professions. ..”

    This is actually the sort of thing I meant. There isn’t an exact female equivalent of the male suit. There are suits for women, in the same general style as men’s, but there’s more than one kind (eg pants/short skirt/long skirt) and so people notice the differences. There isn’t one single cookie-cutter look for women the way there is for men.

    BTW: my original comment wasn’t a “men have it equally hard” one – I should have made that clearer. Obviously the big difference is that men have a “standard”, easy option to fall back on, and women haven’t. I wasn’t disagreeing with the original point.

  28. 28
    Mendy says:

    Offhand I can only think of institutions that literally have uniforms, like schools, convents, hospitals, the police etc.

    I can see that police uniforms and those in schools could be seen as having a “traditional” male “uniform”. And I’d even grant that in the past for hospitals, however in the modern hospital setting the uniform is uni-sex scrubs and in my local hospitals are literally uni-sex and color coded for the department the individual works in. And convents have traditionally been all women establishments, and though I think the habit looks a bit like the burka — the only comparison would be to a monk in a monastery and there the uniform is virutally the same, robes, the only variation being the head covering.

    I agree that the wide array of choice in women’s clothing creates a situation where there is no “default” to fall back on. I’ve always worn what I wanted, when I wanted – and I realize that I don’t live in a vaccum, but I’ve never been one to worry about what others thought and to live my own life. This includes the times that my choices make life more difficult.

  29. 29
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    I kept getting reminded of the past few times I’ve heard about judges insisting women wear skirts in their courtrooms. Here’s an excerpt from an article about a Seattle judge doing that (and a woman no less – SHAME!):

    I burst into “Let’s Do the Time Warp Again,” this week when King County Superior Court Judge Jeanette Burrage warned two female attorneys to wear skirts in her courtroom from now on. Or else.

    What’s even more scary is that the next year she ran for superior court again and the Seattle weekly endorsed her. Yeah they got huge flack from feminists, but that society wouldn’t simply reel from such actions stuns me to begin with.

    Beyond that, it seems to me that many schools still have dresscodes for kids where girls are forced to wear skirts. So all this talk of it being about fashion, instead of creating a distinct ‘other’ of females is a lot harder for me to swallow hook line and sinker.

  30. 30
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    Oh I found this little gem when finding a link to one of the judges nonsense.

    Apparently a national Oracle database consulting group called Burleson Consulting feels that the only way a woman consultatnt can look professional is if she lacks ‘facial hair’, ‘armpit hair’ and the dress code includes a skirts only clause.

    Here’s a link to this absurdity, including what this idiot clearly thinks is a humorous little pictorial about women’s grooming:

  31. 31
    mythago says:

    According to more recent articles (the ‘skirt’ flap was in 1999), she was voted out of office the following year despite the Weekly’s endorsement. She was also connected with James Watt’s think tank, apparently.

  32. 32
    B says:

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful with comfortable unisex uniforms for all professions?

    Just imagine all the fuss and money we would save! Not to mention the psychological impact of removing such a huge part of the appearance-factor.

  33. 33
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    There was a kind of interesting Apprentice this past season where they had to come up with the new outfits for the staff of Embassy Suites. Despite what the front desk staff were saying (mostly women), one of the teams chose to put them in skirts, and a whole dialogue was had on this subject. From the website:

    Roxanne felt that Allie’s insistence that the front desk women wear skirts was a bad idea because they had been told they wanted pants.

    The other team went with kind of a chic standardized uniform for both men and women through all of the staff positions – and won.

    Glad to hear that the bozo judge in Seattle wasn’t re-elected. I was flabbergasted that the weekly had endorsed her.

  34. 34
    RonF says:

    Speaking of women’s clothing; I have handled my wife’s clothing a lot in doing the wash. Is it just me (or her), or is the quality of construction of women’s clothing in a working-class price range a lot lower than men’s? It seems like both the cloth and the construction are a lot less robust than my clothes, and I think we spend about the same amount on an article of clothing.

  35. 35
    RonF says:

    Where I’m coming from might be expressed as:

    My wardrobe is a lot better made and will sustain usage in a given price range.

  36. 36
    Lee says:

    Hear, hear on #16 and #27 – both good points! Amp, your checklist just got longer!

  37. 37
    B says:

    No, you are right RonF. Womens clothing are usually made in poor quality synthetic materials. I think the idea is that you won’t need the clothes that long since there will be a new fashion next season. Forcing you to buy more clothes.

  38. 38
    Denise says:

    Sugested wording, in light of the conversation above:

    “My clothing is typically less expensive and better-constructed than women’s clothing for the same social status. While I have fewer options, my clothes will probably fit better than a woman’s without tailoring. Further, I do not have to worry about the message my work clothing sends about my sexual availability or political leanings.”

    Generally speaking, men’s chest size that scales with shoulder breadth, the major variation in pants size in the waist rather than the hips, and young and old men can wear the same shirt and pants ensemble reasonably; these are not the case for women. Not only must we navigate the fashions for clothing that sends the message we want to send (professional or laidback, matronly or rebellious) and that fits our age range (I do not want to dress like my grandmother, nor she like I), I must then either search for the one pair of pants that fits my hips (or the shirt that fits both my shoulders and breasts) or have the garment tailored (spending even more money). I have proposed that women’s pants should be sold on a similar measurement system as mens’ with an additional hip measurement. Sadly, I doubt such a system would be adopted, leaving us with the arcane size range of 0-3x or 28W, depending on the store.

  39. 39
    Ampersand says:

    Denise, I like that wording a lot and have swiped most of it. Are you sure that “political leanings” should be included, though? Probably I’m missing something, and I’m open to having my mind changed, but I’m not sure where that’s coming from.

    Swiping suggestions from a few people (but mainly Denise), here’s what “the clothing section” of the list currently says:

    25. I do not have to worry about the message my wardrobe sends about my sexual availability or my gender conformity.

    26. My clothing is typically less expensive and better-constructed than women’s clothing for the same social status. While I have fewer options, my clothes will probably fit better than a woman’s without tailoring.

    27. The grooming regimen expected of me is relatively cheap and consumes little time.

    I’m not sure about limiting #25 to just work clothing.

    It seems to me that even the typical unofficial uniforms of college students – or, for that matter, the typical outfits I see many people wearing in groceries, bus stops, etc – leaves women having to worry about being “dressed like a slut” or, alternatively, “looking like a prude,” while men are entirely free of these concerns. There are message-free outfits for college women, but it’s still something women have to think about and consciously choose, whereas the default outfit for men is relatively message-free.

  40. 40
    Laurel says:

    I’m actually in the process of starting a job as a teacher, at which I actually have to look professional. At my last job, appropriate clothes meant anything that could get ruined but that, until it did, would keep me warm and dry. I have no professional wardrobe at all, except for a suit, so I’m buying stuff. It’s insane: if I were a guy, I could buy 10ish button-down collared shirts in interesting colors, 5ish pairs of pants in various weights, a couple of sweaters, two belts, and two pairs of shoes, and be set for the year. I suppose I could theoretically do that now, but everyone would notice, I’d probably get comments, and meanwhile I’d have to actually find those clothes in neutral cuts. Also, I’m too short and too chesty to get away with wearing men’s clothes, even with quite a bit of tailoring.

    CK, if you ever start that store, I will be there on opening day.

  41. 41
    wookie says:

    I would be tempted to leave “gender conformity” out of 25.

    And regarding 26… I’m not exactly disagreeing, but I think mens clothing tends towards more expensive (not cheaper), but when you pay that, it is better constructed. I can get a blouse for 20$ where I’d pay 55$ for a mens shirt, but the blouse might not last me more than a season (I just lost my top button and am holding the top closed with a paperclip) where as the mens shirt (provided I don’t work in an industrial environment, like, say, a steel mill) is more likely to last me 5 or 6 years, minimum. By collalary, spending more on my girly-dress clothes does not seem to equate the longer lasting (or if it does, the price gap is much larger from 20$ blouse to 200$ blouse, not a 50$ man-shirt).

    It’s odd… womens clothing yes, has more variety, but we are expected to change our plumage on a regular basis. As long as a guy doesn’t actually wear the exact same sportcoat, every day (EVERY DAY) for the next 12 years, coffee stains and all (we have several profs here with this “style”), no one will notice. If I wear the same 5 blouses and the same five pants all year long, any female coworkers will notice. The men here have no clue. Hell, I’ve had a female boss comment that I only owned one pair of black flats (gasp!) and wore them, every day, for three years.

  42. 42
    RonF says:

    Hell, I’ve had a female boss comment that I only owned one pair of black flats (gasp!) and wore them, every day, for three years.

    A while back, I was working setting up networks for a new hospital data center and associated hospitals. The main focus of the project was writing and installing a new set of business applications for the hospitals, and the software team was about 75% female. We had just set up the data center and the mail slot cabinet was put up. It was a 4′ by 4′ cabinet with about 100 slots in it. One of the women commented that if she took every other shelf out it would be perfect for storing her shoes. This met with general assent. I piped up and said, “That’s 50 pairs of shoes! What the hell do you need 50 pairs of shoes for?”

    They all jumped on me. “You’re a guy, what do you know? All you need is a pair of black shoes and a pair of brown shoes and you’re all set!” I asked, “What are you talking about?” The one woman said, “What, you need more shoes than that?” I said, “No, not that – I’m wondering why I’d need a pair of brown shoes.”

    I’ve got a pair of army surplus black boots that I use for hiking and that, when polished and shined up, pass for dress shoes if you don’t look close and realize what they actually are. I’ve got a pair of sneakers for when my feet are sore and I don’t feel like wearing my boots to work (I’m not supposed to wear sneakers at work – too bad for them). I’ve got an old pair of sneakers for the gym. And that’s it. I should probably buy an actual pair of black dress shoes. The concept that my shoes should be colored to match any other article of clothing that I wear just seems so odd….

  43. 43
    wookie says:

    RonF, I completely agree. I don’t know what you need a pair of brown shoes for either.

    I have my steel toe boots (sadly now so worn they are coming apart) that I wear when I can’t wear my birkenstock sandals, black flats, and thats it. I do regret not owning a (as in one) dressier pair of sandals, so that I could wear shorter pants or dresses or something in the summer without my black socks and shoes.

    My lack of shoes still offends my (now ex) boss.

  44. 44
    kitten says:

    26. My clothing is typically less expensive and better-constructed than women”TMs clothing for the same social status. While I have fewer options, my clothes will probably fit better than a woman”TMs without tailoring.

    You have GOT to be kidding me. Clothing manufacturers actually pay attention to the female form, and she can get things that fit those contours if she wants, or things that are more modest if she wants, but right off the rack, it will generally fit, provided she’s not hugely overweight (a problem that plagues both men and women).

    Me? I’m a relatively tall, thin male. Do you have ANY idea how hard it is to find shirts that dont’ leave me swimming in a sea of fabric by manufacturers that think the male body is either a rectangle from shoulder to waist, or worse, expects a beer gut? I usually have to alter them myself or special order things.

    Seriously, take a look at the T-shirt templates on, say, Note the women’s shirts, which more or less follow the curves of a woman’s body. Now, look at the one for men, which is not just nearly square, but actually gets wider at the bottom. You call that “well fit”? I’m using these shirts as an example because nearly ALL shirts available to men are like this — and this goes for button-downs as well, by the way.

    Pants are just as bad. Everywhere I look, pants for 40 inch waists and 30 inch legs. Must be an awful lot of short, fat men walking around, or at least that’s what the manufacturers seem to think. As someone who is neither, finding pants that actually fit is a nightmare. Women have more choices than they could possibly wear in a lifetime, in any style of fit they want.

    The only possible rationale I can think of for your statement is that manufacturers have to anticipate a wider range for women — a 5’5″ tall, 120 pound woman may have small or large breasts, small or large hips, and all these possibly combinations greatly increases the various sizes of the clothes that must be made for a proper fit. I freely grant this — but at least these haberdashers dont’ assume you’re all short, or fat, or both.

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  49. 45
    StarSplit says:

    kitten: But the difference is that guys can wear stuff that is not formfitting and still have it accepted as somewhat dressy. Women seem to be always expected to wear something at least somewhat formfitting, which I personally find a lot less comfortable.

  50. 46
    Lynn says:

    You have GOT to be kidding me!
    Let’s break this down-
    Pants. It’s only in the last few years that it’s been easy to get women’s pants that have an inseam measurement. That means that almost EVERY pair of women’s pants with one waist measurement was the same length. The only thing you can do is try petites or plus sizes, or the same specialty tall women stores that men have. Inseam measurements help, but it’s not perfect.

    Tops. As a busty, average height woman, your comment just made me laugh. I can’t wear a lot of clothing simply because my bust makes it look slutty. And I have to fit the clothing to my bust, not the rest of me. The vast majority of women’s shirts are made for b cup breasts. Being 5 sizes above that, buying shirts is almost impossible! I can’t find shirts that fit me perfectly, period.
    Those form fitting tshirts? They don’t conform to my body, they conform to the ‘norm’ for women. You’re right- they fit ‘a’ woman, just not necessarily a real woman who isn’t quite to that shape. And since I don’t fit that norm, they don’t fit me.

    And not to mention that while tall, skinny women and men both exist, that the tall man is more likely and thus the poor tall woman has a terrible time finding clothing (noting here that the same goes for short men, however they can at least turn to high quality clothing in a junior’s department).

    And let me state here… bras. I wish so much that I fit properly into what’s considered a ‘standard’ size. Most of the women I know don’t. I can count on one hand the number of stores I can buy a bra at in this city, the biggest in Canada. Back where I grew up, I literally could not buy a properly fitted bra. And the expense for one that does fit is enormous- I’ve managed to get cheap ones for 50$, when they’re on an amazing sale. But generally, 80-120$. And you need to own at least 5.

    You got it right that manufacturers have more factors to compensate for in women’s clothing- but they don’t. There aren’t shirts built for a wide-hipped, small busted woman. There aren’t pants for a slim hipped, wide legged woman. It doesn’t happen. Yes, men’s clothing is difficult, but women’s clothing is just as hard, if not harder. Men’s clothing is also cheaper to tailor, so the lack of variety hurts the pocket less.

    I am not hugely overweight, and I am lucky in that I can usually find pants that fit if I shop in the right stores. Manufacturers for womens clothing, like mens, pay attention to the standard, ‘normal’ size. It sucks very much for both genders when you don’t fit into that norm. And the one thing that really sells it for me- it is much cheaper to get men’s clothing tailored.

  51. 47
    Spuds says:

    Lynn – men’s clothing is cheaper to tailor? Please send me the name of the tailor you’re thinking of. :)

    Seriously – if your day to day wear is suits (including Fridays, where you get to skip the tie, unless you have meetings), then things get expensive if you need tailoring. The entertaining thing is, the closer you are to the notional ideal of the male physique, the worse the situation is – rather the opposite of women, I guess. I have a 12 inch difference between my chest and waist, but men’s clothing is cut for an 8 inch difference. In case you didn’t know, tailors can’t adjust any item of clothing by four inches – I’ve asked. So tailored suits? Anything decent (ie: non-disposable) will run you at least £600-£700, and you need five of them…

    (That said, I just re-read some of these comments, and I guess mine apply for the UK, where “formal” means black tie, and standard business wear is suits.. :)

  52. 48
    feera says:

    In my experience, women’s clothing is more expensive than men’s clothing; it doesn’t fit nearly as well; sizes vary from store to store; and it wears out much more quickly. It is much more expensive to be female when it comes to buying clothing.

    Additionally, there are so many options of clothing to wear for different occasions that it can be quite difficult to wear something appropriate. I’ve frequently struggled with whether or not I should wear a skirt or slacks, and if a skirt, then WHICH skirt, and if I should wear a more informal shirt, or one that’s more formal but too low-cut. Shoes are an entirely different story. It sucks.

  53. 49
    Just Passing Thru says:

    While I agree with most of your more nuanced comments, do you actually, honestly think its harder for you to get away with wearings trousers than it would be for me to wear any sort of skirted garmet?

  54. 50
    Elias Hiebert says:

    A lot of men worry quite a bit about choosing clothing that does not make them appear GAY. Because appearing gay can get you KILLED.

  55. 51
    Mandolin says:

    But appearing to be a lesbian gets people to toss you puppies and roses?

  56. 52
    Ali says:

    Seriously. I’m a straight woman who evidently dresses “dykish” enough to get hasseled on a normal basis.

    And Mandolin, come on you should know better… it’s cats, not puppies!

  57. It seems to me the exceptions are why it’s a checklist. My privilege is not demonstrated by the whole thing applying to me as a lump but by, as I go down the list, I observe that it frequently describes me.

    Conversely, a gentile privilege checklist may well have one or two items than apply to me, but on the whole it will not.

  58. 54
    Aruelle says:

    Feera: I agree completely. How annoying is it when you’re told to dress ‘semi-formal’. How formal is semi-formal? A nice pair of pants and a dressy blouse? Blouse and skirt?

    Just take a look at all the different kinds of dresses available. Some of them are only slightly more snazzy than others, but this is the difference between underdressed and overdressed. Guys, on the other hand, only have to choose from a range between jeans and a tux, making it easier and harder at the same time.

    Maybe clothing just sucks, period.

  59. 55
    FurryCatHerder says:

    I used to buy a lot of the arguments about “women’s clothing is of a lower cut and quality” until I bought several yards of men’s shirting (carefully selected to not LOOK like men’s shirting …) and stitched up three blouses with it.

    These were very carefully tailored blouses, with much effort spent on a dress dummy getting the cut right for a muslin sloper I made — figuring I’d be at it for a few years as I needed new blouses. In the end, the drape was worse than anything else I owned made in lighter-weight fabrics.

    I just wish the quality was low enough that I felt more comfortable throwing them away. As it is, they are as virtually indestructible as men’s dress shirts I owned in a past life.

  60. 56
    Elias Hiebert says:

    Mandolin and Ali, you are right. This is a concern for *both* men and women. My point is, it is incorrect to say that a man never has to worry about the message his clothing sends about his sexuality.

  61. 57
    Roy says:

    In addition to what Elias has said, it is more controversial for a man to dress ‘gay’ than for a woman to dress ‘lesbian’. A gay man is likely to be harassed more violently than a lesbian.

  62. 58
    John says:

    I don’t believe that metrosexuality is a “choice”. It’s an identity. For instance, a non-metrosexual man will not say that he is metrosexual, whereas a man who is metrosexual may identify as such.
    I think you meant to say that a metrosexual man has more leverage in choice when it comes to grooming himself for himself, whereas a woman often does not have much leverage as to whether to go to outside (work, shopping, etc.) without much care to her appearance for herself or when she feels like it.

  63. 59
    kashiichan says:

    I recently started working in an office. A few days into the job, a manager took me aside and commented on the fact that I was not wearing makeup or heels. Although she never stated it outright, it was heavily implied that I needed to start wearing those things in order to ‘fit the company image’. The kicker is that I was dressed almost exactly like the men at my work – same slacks, same collared shirts – but because I am a woman, I was expected to doll myself up every day.

  64. 60
    Schala says:

    The kicker is that I was dressed almost exactly like the men at my work – same slacks, same collared shirts – but because I am a woman, I was expected to doll myself up every day.

    If you’re working in an office, your job isn’t modeling or waitress, they can expect a certain image, regarding not being too distracting (ie cleavage and such), but they can’t force you to fit a certain image when it’s not tied to the job itself.

    Ergo, you can fight them on discrimination grounds if they pressure you again. If you are wrongfully terminated for it, they’ll eat their socks, too.

    I would personally just keep going wearing slacks and sensible non-heeled shoes. I’d wear skirts when I wanted, probably without hose if it’s warm enough. Not at the behest of the staff. I’d only wear make-up if it was something I wanted to do, also (read: probably not, for work).

  65. 61
    Lee says:

    Ergo, you can fight them on discrimination grounds if they pressure you again. If you are wrongfully terminated for it, they’ll eat their socks, too.

    Wouldn’t she need some documentation of this, beyond having her manager take her aside and informally tell her? In other words, if she does what you suggest and doesn’t have anything on paper, couldn’t they just fire her and make up a non-sexist reason?

  66. 62
    Lee says:

    That may have been a stupid question; I just don’t know how this works and have an interest in understanding it a bit better.

  67. 63
    Schala says:

    Wouldn’t she need some documentation of this, beyond having her manager take her aside and informally tell her?

    I didn’t mean you could send them to court over being asked to be more feminine. But if she keeps going the way she was, and they get on her case, well, it’s personally documented harassment. A good idea to ask additional witnesses if you have people willing to, but your own testimony should be enough.

    They can fire her, and “make up a reason”, or no reason. Depends what kind of contract she has with the employer. Unions are a good defense.

    Regardless, if they have the policy globally, with all women (but none of the men), it can be easy to demonstrate that:

    1) it exists, and is demanded of employees (not merely suggested)
    2) it has no bearing on the job itself (it’s not modeling or with-the-public job, it’s office work)

    You can demand reasonable stuff. Or heck, unreasonable stuff if gender roles matter to the public (ie salesperson, barman/maid), as those different-but-equal standards of dress codes has passed in the US supreme court as valid. I think it only works when it makes sense to request it though (ie more business). Not because you want to lord it over your employees.

  68. 64
    Schala says:

    Oh yes, note that I’m no lawyer, and not someone living in the US (I live in Canada).

    I’m stating how it should logically work. But the world isn’t always logical (see the supreme court decision I mentioned in my other post <- not logical, it's an emotional response to wanting to keep the status quo with regards to gender roles, and giving license to employers to be 1950 conformists and make their employees do so, regardless of actual intent (probably the mighty $)).

  69. 65
    Michael says:

    My clothing is typically less expensive and better-constructed than women’s clothing for the same social status. While I have fewer options, my clothes will probably fit better than a woman’s without tailoring

    While I can’t argue with the less expensive and better-constructed portion, I don’t think fit belongs on this point. For men’s clothing fit is everything and most men either have to get their clothes tailored, only buy from certain brands or makers, or wear clothes that don’t look good on them because they don’t fit.
    If something doesn’t fit a guy, you can immediately tell that it doesn’t, even if its a little loose or tight, there are obvious signs. If something doesn’t fit a girl, it’s much more difficult to tell than it is on a guy because fit isn’t nearly as important.

  70. 66
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    The proportion of men who complain about having a hard time finding clothing that fits seems to be lower, but I don’t know if I’ve got a good enough sample. Also, I gather that men’s sizing isn’t as straightforward as it used to be.

    Thanks for the bit about “Why would I need brown shoes?” It’s the best laugh I’ve had in the past few days. is going to make men’s shirt styles tailored for women.

  71. 67
    Elusis says:

    If something doesn’t fit a girl, it’s much more difficult to tell than it is on a guy because fit isn’t nearly as important.

    Spoken like a guy who’s spent exactly zero time talking to women about their clothes or reading women’s fashion blogs. Particularly fatshion blogs.

  72. 68
    Grace Annam says:

    Kim (basement variety!) cited in horror:

    From which my favorite line is a rebuttal apparently completely devoid of intentional irony:

    Here in the free world, employers have an absolute right to make their employees dress as they see fit.

    Mmmm. Irony. Delicious.


  73. 69
    George Hrovik says:

    There is an element of female privilege in the matter of the much-mentioned metrosexual:

    If I, as a male, conscientously style my hair, wear fashionable clothing, and am attentive to grooming, I will have to worry that I will be labeled derisively as a ‘metrosexual’ and that my manliness will be called into question. When a female displays the same attentiveness and fashionability, she is considered ‘put together.’

    I admit that, for good for for ill, this prejudice appears to be swinging in the opposite direction for men, perhaps to an excessive degree. Witness the rise of menswear blogs and the explosion of styleforum in the past five years. Nonetheless, in an average gathering not dominated by 20-something men from SoHo, the guy who looks like he stepped out of a J Crew catalogue is going to be looked at askance, whereas a woman with a similarly-groomed and fashionable appearance will be praised.

    On the other hand, I think that this issue is distinct from the question of whether or not one’s wardrobe sends a message concerning one’s sexual availability or sexual intentions. Women’s wardrobe — because so much of it trades on the amount of leg and breast that it reveals — is taken as an indication. One could reply, however, that a woman is free to choose modest yet fashionable clothing. This has not always been the case, but is the case now. Were a man to show up with two or three buttons undone on his dress shirt, he might be interpreted in the way that a woman in a low-cut blouse or unbuttoned shirt might be. The different is that the man would probably receive no appreciative attention (indeed many might look askance), whereas the woman might receive implicit or explicit appreciation of an unwanted kind. There *is* a sort of privilege here, in that the man receives disapproval and therefore does not become sexually vulnerable, whereas the woman becomes sexually vulnerable. Still, I’m not certain that the problem here is the way the clothing is interpreted. The problem, I believe is that because our culture expects women to dress in a more varied way, a woman has fewer modest options available to her and might be labeled as “uptight” if she doesn’t occasionally show a little skin. But I’m not certain that this is the case. The “preppy” fashion movement is women’s wear is, happily, changing this. In any case, it’s a very complicated issue.

  74. 70
    Daniel says:

    I think you are wrong about the cheaper clothes for men, In my country (Sweden)
    it’s rather the opposite, my girlfriend can get nice jeans for around $15 – $35 while I mostly have to pay $50 – $100, so look that one up! :)