No one knows what the body can do. -Spinoza

Friday, May 8, 2009

Boobs! and the Over-determinedness of Womanhood

Philip Lim 3.1 Fall 2007

Let me be honest about something. I have breasts. But, when I say that, I don't mean it in some casual, "don't we all" sort of way. Though, yes, of course, some portion of all of us do. What I mean is, the last few years have been hard on me. Fashion's been focused on those sweet a-line dresses that start small at the top and work their way out from there. And bubble hems minis that depend on a kind of straightened-with-a-flat-iron shape to the body underneath. Truth be fully told, I have hips too. The quick summation of my shape is "hour glass on a tall girl." And I don't mean that in one of those "allusions to larger things" sort of ways that we mean to politely imply when we say "voluptuous." I'm not really sure I'd count as that kind of pretty. What I mean, simply, is yeah, I'm thin, but my hip bones are round, and my breasts are too. So, it turns out dressing these last few years has taken a little more time. Magazines and stylists have confronted me with looks like these...

kate by Tommy Ton, of

which I love. And blogs have been going crazy for a dress like this...

Anzevino + Florence "Ice Cream" Dress

which admittedly is not likely my "look" anyway. But, that's not the point! That didn't stop me from ordering it and trying it on in the hopes I could reimagine myself all over again, this time, apparently as a flounced girl hopping through flowers in a dress we've named "ice cream." The point is something more like this: I have breasts. I suffer.

U.S. Vogue tries to help, one month a year, by hosting their "Style at Every Size" issue that includes a couple well-breasted girls and tells us how to dress them. But the trouble is, having breasts in our culture turns out to mean something like "I am a *woman.*" and the problem for me is, that kind of woman I don't always want to be. There are times, like Thanksgiving, when a friend has ridden the train all the way across the western coast of our continent to get to my house and spend the holiday with me, when I want to put on my vintage New Look of the 40's dress for dinner (only to discover so much turkey isn't a good idea with that cinched-in waist). But much of the time I prefer to imagine myself more like Kate up there. A kind of feminist-femininity morphing how we think of androgyny. That is, trying to escape the sometimes over-determined fashion possibilities of womanhood by sliding closer, in style, to sometimes David Bowie, and sometimes Patti Smith. It's clear to me in thinking this way "dressing like a cosmopolitan" is not the appropriate inspiration, even if I wanna pull that off sometime. Instead, I'll have to turn on a song like "Because the Night" in repeat with "Angel of the Morning" and maybe an occasional rendition of Pat Benetar's "Invincible", and then remind myself of images like these...

David Bowie, circa 1969

David Bowie, circa mid-70s

David Bowie, circa early-70s

If David Bowie can re-shape and re-imagine himself so thoroughly. Surely, I can come up with something.


  1. did you really order the dress and try it on? i would love to have seen that on you.

    it might be that i'm just jaded, but it seems to me that the 'feminine' looks which i can only describe as 'flouncy and sweet as sugar-coated kittens running in a field of daisies under a rainbow' are less versatile and creative than those you invoke with references of patti smith, bowie, and the 'kate' line. yeah, pretty dresses are pretty and all, but sometimes pretty is uninteresting.

  2. I don't even remember what you were wearing for Thanksgiving. I was reminiscing about the smokefish earlier today though.