“… never send to know for whom you dress; you dress for thee.” With apologies to John Donne.
I made my wife mad this morning. I’m an early riser. Between 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. is my normal getting-up time. It’s been like that since the epiphany at age fifteen at boarding school when I had an English essay to complete and had failed to do so the evening before. I woke up early, went down to the school library and the words just poured out. I realised I was an early-morning person and this has been my habit ever since. I get up early, respond to e-mails, write blogs and books, research topics, and at 7:30 a.m. go downstairs and make a cup of tea for my wife to welcome her back from the land of nod. Now, my wife is not an early-morning person but by 7:30 a.m. I’m all fired up, racing to go, neurons firing on all four cylinders, and while she drinks her tea I lie across the end of the bed and discuss deep and meaningful topics with her. This morning’s topic was women’s fashion and my question was why men do not buy clothes for their female partners or potential partners. (I’m assuming heterosexual men and women in this blog.)
Now, of course, the statement in my question isn’t true. During courtship and in the early years of cohabitation, men do buy clothing for women, usually what is termed intimate apparel such as underwear, nightwear, evening wear—clothing that men would like to see their chosen partner wearing and which they will have even greater pleasure removing. But, in general, I contend men do not buy clothing for women. In all my circle of male acquaintances, past and present, I know of only one man who buys his wife her everyday clothes; her tops and skirts, her jumpers and jeans, her outer wear, not sure about the inner wear. Now, me? I wouldn’t dare do such a thing and this morning I queried why so. This question brought us back to an old favourite of mine: do women buy clothes primarily to attract a male or please an already-there male, or for some other primary reason such as the pleasure of spending money (retail therapy), keeping warm and dry, cover up (or partially expose) their naughty bits, impress their female friends, or what?
My wife, along with several of her female friends, has long argued she buys her clothes “to please herself”, not the man in her life (me!), or man she might want in her life (at her age?). I’ve always disagreed with this. My position based on scientific observation, a knowledge of genetics and biology, and logical reasoning is that a woman’s basic instinct is to attract a mate and once caught to keep the mate by her side even if he is a septuagenerian. Thus, she makes herself outwardly attractive and, incidentally, applies make-up to accentuate her eyes, lips, cheek bones, and has periodic and expensive hair-dos, but the reasons for make-up and hair-dos are a subject for another blog, not this one.
Back to the purchase of clothing. My question was if women wear clothes to attract a male why doesn’t she allow the male to buy her clothes? After all, he knows what he likes and would take pleasure in dressing the female with clothes he finds attractive. But how many males do you know who buy normal every-day apparel for their chosen female partner? Exactly!
My wife responded with the standard answer “women don’t dress to attract the male: they dress to please themselves.” I objected to this stock reply and that’s when she got mad at which point I left the room shaking my head, muttering under my breath, and in need of a second cup of fully-caffeinated unsweetened black coffee.
I went to my laptop and googled “Why don’t men buy clothes for women?” looking for clues. There wasn’t much to help me. I found an article written by some potty fashion editor of The Guardian  which opened with the headline “Contrary to what you might have been told, women don’t dress to please men. Fashion is, at heart, all about ourselves and having some gosh-darned fun.” My wife loved that; a “told you so” moment but I’ve long held the view that the fashion industry is an invented industry perpetuated by those who cannot find useful employment elsewhere and supported by wacky self-indulgent people who have too much money and no common sense. If I accidentally catch a news item about a fashion show, I look at the curious stick insects with their strange waddly walk wearing clothes that I know I will never see in Marks and Spencer or John Lewis. So, who wears this stuff?
Back to the topic. I believe women are particularly susceptible to marketing slogans, the “because you’re worth it” type of messages and that most women have been brainwashed into believing that they really do buy clothes only to please themselves. “Convince ‘em that they want it even if they don’t need it and they will spend the money!” Comfort doesn’t even enter the equation. If it did, what intelligent women in her right mind would buy and wear high heel shoes or shiver on a chilly evening clad in little more than a thin silk sheaf?
There’s no doubt in my mind that in addition to all the normal functional reasons, women buy clothes primarily to attract the opposite sex and not to please themselves. The nice thing about being a man is we don’t have to. We are the opposite sex!
Now I’m off out for a few days, maybe a week, to allow time for my wife to cool down after she’s read this. Feminists, advocates of women’s rights, and viragoes, rise up and append your comments.