on uniforms and shirty-shirts

My wardrobe desperately needs an update. My newest pieces of clothes have all been gifts. The last items of clothing I bought were jeans, and that was sometime last year. I don't have any non-t-shirt summer shirts, and my two summer dresses fit awkwardly because they plunge too deeply and I have to do gymnastics in order to get them pinned up in a way that doesn't look terrible. My go-to-summer staple of tank top and cardigan is getting really, really old, especially in the current heat, where the last thing I want to be wearing is a cardigan. Need established: summer dresses or tops.

So now I look at my restrictions: they need to cover the shoulder for religious reasons, they need to not look terrible for aesthetic reasons, they need to be comfortable (including not deathly hot) and easy to wear for practical reasons, they need to be inexpensive for economic reasons, and they need to not require hours of in-person shopping for I-have-no-free-time-when-shops-are-open reasons. I'm doomed.

Being grumpy about all this, I've been making observations about men's clothing, at least in western culture--I'll be ignoring the anomalous instances of clothing brought in from other cultures. So let's just narrow the scope down to men's shirts. Men have three options: the button-down, the polo, and the t-shirt. You could argue that they also have the henley and the tank-top, but the henley is just a hybrid between the polo and the t-shirt, and the tank top is just a t-shirt without sleeves. Regardless of whether you call them three options or five, there are still a finite number of categories.

Admittedly, the button-down is versatile; it ranges from formal with frills to casual plaid camping shirts, but it's all the same construction. It uses a woven fabric, and just varies sleeve length and cut for the gradations of formality. It can come with or without pockets, have slightly different placements of buttons, have a graphic painted on the back, or could require cuff links. Again, there are lots of variations, but in the end, it's still a button-down shirt. The same applies to the others, but with fewer options. The western man pretty much has a uniform.

Now let's look at women's tops. Just searching on Amazon a few days ago, "Clothing & Accessories › Women › Tops & Tees › Timeless," I got the following oddities on the first page (of 48 tops, note that they update frequently so you'll probably get different ones). As the number one, I got a motley piece with a buttonless collar down to mid-chest, baggy fit, and sleeves that get pined up halfway up the forearm with snap-strips. (Colors: white left sleeve and collar, bronze left wrist and right hip, off-center bright pink in the middle, and bright orange on the right sleeve and as trim on the left side.) Not timeless, and certainly not easily classified.

Then we have a more respectable twisted top. I've seen several variants of these, but the twist is always different: shoulder, between the breasts, under breasts, natural waist, back, etc.. We also have a "rouched tie shoulder blouse" and a ruffled neckline fitted top. These are all very strange to me. Not only would I never wear them, I can't even begin to classify them. You wear them on the top of your body, that's all I can conclude. Women's tops don't have an easy classification system like men's tops do. Women can wear button-downs, t-shirts, and polos, like men, but women's clothing sellers also make liberal use of the very vague words "blouse," "shirt," and "top."

Back in college, a certain individual commented to my roommate, who was wearing a lovely blouse, saying the following: "Your's not very shirt-y." That is the quintessential problem with women's clothes: they don't know what they're supposed to be doing. I want to look feminine, but I hate all the hoops. Why can't clothes just be easy? I want to look nice without needing to spend time and energy on this problem. Aren't we civilized enough to have solved it already?


kristenriley said...

it is pretty frustrating with girls clothing, boys have it so simple, they don't have to worry about any curves.

they have tons of modest items for okay prices, but their clothes are substantial

i think you would look great in their tees and shirts and dresses...and you can shop online :-) i love their clothes, i can't wait to go shopping once my body gets back together after having my baby.

ajbc said...

Thanks for the link! :)