Posts Tagged Style

Beach volleyball

On a website dedicated to style that attracts men, I know that beach volleyball belongs under the sartorial category of So Right, but on the social side, I can’t help but to think So Wrong.

Am I a buzz kill? Probably. But first let me say this: I love a bikini; at last count I had 12. I also love athletic bodies and powerful woman. Put the two together and you’d think I’d be in Heaven.

But the feminist in me can’t help but to get irked by the production, the photography and the pervy focus on secret hand signals that cause commentators eyes to linger on women’s asses. Or the water cooler chat about it all.

These Olympic games gave us some of the most inspiring women in recent times, especially in Britain. We had the unfathomable graciousness, talent and six-pack of Jessica Ennis, the history making punch of Nicola Adams, the endurance of Judo player Gemma Gibbons who fought back the pain of a broken thumb to take Silver. Then there’s the combination of speed, power and extreme modesty present in multiple cyclists at the Velodrome and multiple rowers at Eton Dorney. We even saw Sarah Attar, the first female from Saudi Arabia to compete in Olympic athletics, complete her race even though she was 43 seconds behind the competition. She hoped it would ‘spark something amazing.’ That is what the Olympics should be about.

Yet, for the first few days, men were entranced about the camera angles and interactive features of beach volleyball. And women played right into it, cooing about what we’d do to have a body like that (here’s a tip: start with the gym). We didn’t flag that in the realm of all Olympic events, beach volleyball is definitely on the more leisurely end of the spectrum. And those outfits? To pretend for one minute they have anything to do with performance — IN A LANDLOCKED LONDON, MOSTLY AT NIGHT — is laughable. People wear bikinis to play beach volleyball because we are at the beach. You soak up some sun, you go for a swim, you eat a sandwich, you work it off in a playful set. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

I know I’m risking losing some subscribers, but I can’t help to call sexism on this one. (By the way, please don’t leave me, instead just leave mean comments. I love a debate!)

These Olympics have been amazing and I don’t want them to end. London has been a phenomenal host. These athletes have impressed me like none before. I don’t mean to take anything away from the beach volleyball players who have worked so hard to get here, but I do want people to take into account some of the less noble traits that colour society, even within the greater vision of the games.

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Bras

So you know how men always make fun of women for their obsession with shoes and handbags? I can’t say I don’t relate, but when it comes to the ultimate indulgence, the one thing that makes me part with my cash most quickly is bras. As the good women at Fenwick will attest (especially during the summer sales), I can’t get enough of them.

I think it started early for me. Like a high heel, when you’re a little girl, you see certain things as a sign of latent womanhood. Not to sound creepy, but watching your mother dress for a night out in (at the risk of aging myself) a slip and a bra … and boom – you future gaze to (what you think and hope will be) your glamorous adult life.

So what is about bras? A lot. There’s the obvious fact that they boost the ultimate symbol of your femininity: your breasts. And they make them look really pretty. In fact, of all the things we get to wear, bras are one of the most flattering, whether your flat or full chested, skinny or ample.

And let’s face it, I can get girly, and bras are lacey and colourful.

Or, let’s face it, I can be a perve, and bras can be dark and kinky, like some of my favourites at Marlies Dekkers or Agent Provocateur (the Bubble collection is a good ‘un).

Or I can be playful, and I can shop nipple tassels and pasties from my very talented and gorgeous friend Gaby Kennedy.

The point is, there is a lot to say for bras because there is a lot to say for women — and like bras, we are certainly about more than our breasts. But the best part is that only the wearer knows what’s going on underneath until she decides to show it off.

I know I’ve been waxing poetic about bras, but there is a caution. When we parade around in our skivvies, we should feel beautiful and sexy. That’s great — it’s one of the best things about intimacy. But when we’re in our smalls, are we more aware of what we’re doing to him, or what he’s doing for us?

It’s a well-known fact that men punch above their weight and women accept a bigger differential on a 10 point scale. Anyone who has ever been to the gym observes this phenomenon. A fit woman walks by two beer-bellied men at the water cooler (note: they are not working out) and they comment, pejoratively, on her ass, or her thighs or some such thing they feel requires improvement. Meanwhile, those same men might be in relationships with women who internally recognise their partners are pregnant with carbs but instead beam with pride about their kindness, sensitivity and sense of humour.

Do I want women to be more shallow? No … but yes. Well, a little.

I want us to retain our substance and the complexity and the acceptance that comes with being female. But I also want us to feel we deserve the whole package. The way men do.

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Hats

Happy anniversary Will and Kate. It’s been one year since my friends and I watched the wedding, and one of the (usually) sharpest among us, upon hearing that the maid of honour Philippa was about the enter, asked where Kate’s sister Pippa was.

Oh, I’ll take any chance to relive that.

Anyway…

Male readers may want to relive the sight of Pippa’s bottom as it sashayed into the Cathedral, but to mark this one year celebration, I am going to address another hot topic of the royal nuptials: Beatrice and Eugenie. Or the hats. Oh, those hats.

I’ve often wondered how men feel about hats, probably because I often wonder how I feel about them. In theory, they’re great. They have a practical benefit and a stylistic flair; this is especially key in the cold and damp weather that comes with London living.

Speaking of cold weather, I think men love knit beanies. I gather this when girls put them on before leaving the pub on a winter’s night and men just smile stupidly (the more stupid the smile, the more he fancies her). I also think certain fedoras, trilbies, whatever they’re called, are a sexy solution to bad weather – and as a recent trip to Vegas proved, a decent dance prop.

But extreme hats? I think we can all appreciate the artistry, but honestly… Beatrice and Eugenie were a subject of conversation, but who wants to be spoken about like that?! Also, can we for a minute discuss the fascinator? This may be the best named accessory on earth for the sheer fact that it is so fascinating, and by that I mean it sort of makes women look like those primordial deep water fish that have light bulbs and other fishing rod type ‘bait’ hanging off their heads. Do men understand what we’re trying to achieve with these things? Do we?

The thing is, the more extreme our choices, the more aware we are of them, and of ourselves, and about other people’s potential perceptions. Sometimes this feeling is welcomed; other times, it’s downright uncomfortable.

I give you two anecdotes.

Once I tried on a drapey, buxomy Vivienne Westwood situation at Liberty. When I left the dressing room, the wise salesperson said that while the outfit was ‘different,’ I emerged with my head held high so he recommended it without hesitation. My confidence, and its preservation, were the deciding factors.

Secondly, I studied art history at uni with a much beloved feminist professor. We were discussing the Cabanel painting of the Birth of Venus in contrast to another of its time, Manet’s Olympia. My professor taught us that what made Olympia so modern and (at the time) shocking was the eye contact and mental engagement of the subject, whereas Cabanel painted his model with her mental organ pinned down by her hand. In a weird way, I’m tying this back to hats. Your brain, probably the most sexy body part you’ve got, is inside that head of yours, so cap it off with something worthy of what’s going on in there. Don’t pin it down with ridculous cheap looking details. Go for quality. Go for something that makes you feel confident and then sashay into a room like Pippa down the aisle.

Or Philippa as the case may be.

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Hosiery

How this header amuses me in a blog devoted to styles that attract men. Women hardly know what to call what department stores have labelled hosiery (Is it the primary school ‘tights’; the wartime ‘nylon’, the retro ‘stocking’ or that old standby ‘pantyhose’?).  It’s like haberdashery. Great word, but who uses it?

And if women struggle with what to call hosiery, could men possibly care?

Possibly.

Men love a great set of pins, so how we highlight them matters (See high heels, first and foremost). And here, women have a range of possibilities from the predatory to the pragmatic to the playful.

Starting with the good, a woman looking to attract a man cannot go wrong with fetish favourites like fishnets (careful – this can look slutty if you don’t stick to a narrow weave and black or nude); you’ll also succeed with hose that have a seam up the back. And for the ultimate home run, wear garters.

Garters?

Wait – it’s time for more vocabulary. Oh it’s difficult for Americans and Brits. What Yanks call garters are what Brits call suspenders, and what Americans call suspenders, the British call braces. (Then we have the American braces that you wear on your teeth, which are to the British a singular brace. This just gets exhausting!)

Tomato, to-mah-to – doesn’t matter – a garter/suspender makes men go mad. But since those are often not for public display, I’m assuming you’ve already got your coat, love, and pulled. If instead you’re on the prowl, you could try those stockings that have suspenders printed on them (a Rihanna favourite). I think men get the cheek of it, but not sure they’re sold on the execution. At any rate, you’re implying you’ve got the real thing in a drawer at home, and they’re at least black, so give it a try.

Next on the list, the practical. Listen, I live on a cold island; it’s not even rare to see tights in summer. I advise keeping it streamlined with the black opaque classic, darker colours and minimal patterns. Pair any of these with boots and you’re firmly in men’s good books (Boots are among the easiest of wins, mind, but that post is coming in Autumn… she writes, hopefully, in a cold, rainy London April.)

If Spring ever should come, fashion pages promote brightly coloured and kaleidoscopically patterned tights, which only seem to work on Kourtney Kardashian mostly because even in pregnancy, she is miniscule. To this look, I say no. Resolutely.

Here’s why. First, you know how I feel about patterns. Second, while I admit I see the occasional woman with great legs and a flair for fashion work these hose with the right clothing, the high street is crowded with failures. Women, who look like girls, appear thick-legged, infantile, silly – or just plain over-eager to jump on a trend.  None of these are good looks.

Style should not be, as Joe Pesci feared, ‘funny like a clown.’ We are women. We deserve to be taken seriously, whether in a relationship, in a career or in the bars, streets or shops of the places we live.

Enough of Scorsese, let’s get Biblical (thank you, Corinthians):  When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I wore the tights of a child. But when I became a woman, I put away childish things.

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Cherries

It’s pretty seventh grade to hear the word cherry and snicker, but you cannot deny that these fruits fascinate men. They’ve got it all; they are at once sweet and tart, innocent and sexy, refreshingly clean and darkly ripe and they come in pairs.  Men like pairs of round things.  Oh yeah, and – this is science people – they like red.

Not just for men, cherries. This fruit is really having its moment.  Retro imagery gives us more than five a day of these beauties, and it looks like women who get sex appeal flash cherries like a red light in a window, whether worn as jewelry, tattoos or part of a pattern.  (Of course, cherries are also very healthy, help us sleep and we might just enjoy the taste, but stick with me here.)

Even Shelby in Steel Magnolias, God rest her, loved cherries.  I mean, she was buried in the suit with cherries on the lapel.  Hold on – got to soldier on.  Thankfully, I could ‘run to Texas and back,’ even though Shelby can’t.

Point is, the word ‘cherries’ is often paired with the word ‘ripe.’  They imply readiness… and reward.  If that’s not a style that attracts men, I don’t know what is.

Plus, men like to imagine how we eat cherries.  Tilting our heads back and dipping them into our mouths and all.  You get the point.  How many of us practised the knot trick after Sherilyn Fenn famously mastered it as Audrey Horne in Twin Peaks?

Wow.  I sound pretty objectifying for a feminist – but I’m okay with that. Being honest about what we mean and what we want is part of being a modern women.  But, let’s take a cue from cherries and maintain some of their dualities and intrigue. I.e., don’t overdo the tart. We don’t need to be so try hard (sorry, Sherilyn); cherries, after all are naturally appealing.  And they’ve got some taste to back up their promise.

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Eating

The way you eat may not be a style choice per se, but it says as much about you as the clothes you choose to wear – and like clothes, how you do it sends signals to the opposite sex.

Most people, whether consciously or not, associate food with enjoyment of life.  It’s sensuous, it marks occasion, and like sex, it literally keeps us going.  The more you seem to like it, the more you seem to like life.

Most men love food, and this is one of the things I love most about men.  They eat because they are hungry; they eat because they want to and they usually don’t count calories and beat themselves up about it unless they need to, like some genders I know.

Cough.

Before I serve up my opinions on food, allow me a caveat.  This blog is all about healthy women, healthy body image, healthy confidence and healthy sexuality.  Eating is part of this.  Do I judge habitual overeating? Yes, but not nearly as much as a pervasive culture of under-eating, food guilt, fictional allergies and intolerances, calorie counting and diet-of-the-moment mentionitis.

It’s. Just. Boring.

When it comes to food, get involved.  Order what you like and enjoy it.  And don’t be afraid to use your hands where appropriate.  Sure there are probably some rigid public school boys, anal retentives and Teutonic types who are so removed from their food and the pleasures of life that to see you digging in with relish will only freak them out.  There are also flaming chauvinistic fattists out there who think that any level of enjoyment of food means that you will explode in one year’s time.  We don’t like them anyway.

But do you know what men don’t like?  When we order daintily only to stare at and eventually start eating off their plates. If you want chips, order your own freaking chips. Don’t pretend you’re going in for one only to eat half.

I joke that men should dump women with food hang-ups.  Because if I were a man, I would.  And that’s because I know that if a women isn’t comfortable eating in front of a man, that’s just the start of a long list of things she’s not comfortable doing in front of him.

In these ‘post feminist’ times, we women spend a lot of time wondering why it is that we don’t yet share the complete set of privileges that our male counterparts do, whether it’s examining how we treat each other, how much money we spend on cosmetics and clothes or how our very genetic make-up, from brain and hormonal balances to our built-in ability to bear children, affects how we relate with the world.

While these inequalities are certainly unacceptable and likely down to a blend of all sorts of things, what I can say is this: devoting an inordinate amount of mental energy questioning a BASIC need for nourishment is not helping.  We’ve got enough on our plates.

Food is fun, comforting and sexy – just like a partner should be.  Let’s just dig in.

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Shoulders

This blog is officially one month old, so that makes it an official month that I’ve been talking a lot of sh*t about shoulders.  You’ll note that my Oscars post about the magic of shoulders and the results of my extremely scientific and statistically significant poll (with a sample size of, ahem, 21) prove it – shoulders attract men!

Say what you want about boobs, bums and legs (and men like all of those things, obviously, but that wouldn’t make this blog terribly insightful, would it?); shoulders don’t take up the editorial real estate of their aforementioned cousins, but their power is by no means underappreciated.  Men get a glimpse of a shoulder, especially just the one, and your work may well be done.

Style-wise, you can highlight your shoulder in several ways.  A Jennifer Beals casual, ‘oh look my sweatshirt just fell off’ situation, an asymmetrical dress that bears one shoulder (this makes men go rogue) or anything strapless. You can’t really go wrong, so long as you’re remotely toned. Tanned all the better.

And the best part? I really believe that this is attention is positive.  While men may initially see exposed shoulders as a gateway to a state of undress, shoulders have always signified strength.  Symbolically, think Atlas; shoulders are the platform on which we carry the weight, be that physical or metaphorical. While I have previously speculated that men like a calm and easy partner, men like women who can handle stuff.  They don’t want to walk through life with a weakling.

So it’s shoulders that in some way give them a glimpse of what’s to come… whether that’s for a night or the longer term.

That long view is a funny old thing. We women are notorious for our ability to fast forward the tapes.  For example, we meet a guy, we have some banter about travel in Morocco, we like him.  What he may not know is that we’ve already got him sunbathing naked on the enclosed roof of a riad in Marrakech, after our imaginary courtship of six blissful months. He may propose on this trip, for the record.

Well I like to think shoulders make men act, by whatever increment, the same.  Maybe when they see them, they too, are fast forwarding.  They might imagine kissing a shoulder and where that leads; they may consider what they could do to the breasts so nearby and what they look like naked.

On a rooftop… of a riad… in Morocco.

Maybe.

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