[lit-ideas] Re: More on girls and clothes

  • From: Andy Amago <aamago@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 9 Jun 2004 09:38:48 -0400 (GMT-04:00)

-----Original Message-----
From: Eternitytime1@xxxxxxx
Sent: Jun 9, 2004 1:11 AM
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [lit-ideas] More on girls and clothes

Just fyi.  Of course, it takes a while for anything changing to get to the=
rest of us in the nation.   But, I wondered at the comments in terms of the=
vulnerability the young ones felt...and wondered if it was that or the irri=
at the lack of comfortableness that really has led to the change...
Marlena in Missouri

A.A.  Demure cycles around, like everything else.  The flappers were follow=
ed by the Claudette Colberts of the 30's.  The mini skirts, micro minis and=
 hot pants of the 60-70's were followed by the longer clothes of the 80's. =
 I wouldn't hold out for a sea change.  Bare may have saturated even withou=
t Janet Jackson.  This too will saturate, and bare will be beautiful again.=

Demure also doesn't square with hooking up, where sex is supposed to be no =
big deal.  Do they leave their clothes on when they hook up?  And not feel =
cheesy about it?  Maybe during oral sex, which apparently isn't considered =
sex?  Maybe it's a reaction to hooking up?  Most likely it's just the fashi=
on of the moment.  It might even be driven by designers who have to live to=
o, until the next cycle.

Andy Amago

What Stylish Young Women Are Wearing: More
June 8, 2004, NYTimes

Her prom was fast approaching, and Alexandra Ruddy, a
senior at Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles, was
in a quandary about what to wear. She wavered briefly
between two dresses, one a sexy, low-cut number, the other
more demure, an ivory gown with a boat neckline and sweet
cap sleeves. "I chose that one," Ms. Ruddy said. "It was
more classy, I thought."

As she spoke on the phone, a hoot of laughter erupted in
the background. "That's my mom," Ms. Ruddy offered. "She is
saying that `classy' is a new word for a 17-year-old girl
to use."

Maybe, but in recent months that is just the term that has
been entering the vocabulary of American teenagers and
college-age women to describe a shift in how they dress:
exposing less skin; ditching the micro-minis, cropped tops
and thong-baring jeans of previous summers. In the streets
and in stores like the Limited and Quiksilver, these items
are being replaced by demure knee-length skirts,
high-waisted jeans, layered T-shirts and flat shoes, all
paraded as a badge of hip.

A possible shift from strident sexuality to a more decorous
look is also reflected in young women's choice of role
models. Some who a year ago looked up to sultry stars like
Jennifer Lopez and Christina Aguilera have transferred
their allegiance to sweet-faced new personalities,
including Mischa Barton, who wears pert headbands and flat
shoes on the television hit "The O.C."; Fantasia Barrino,
the "American Idol" winner, who favors conservative trouser
suits and sundresses; and the 17-year-old twins Mary-Kate
and Ashley Olsen, who are inclined to virginal calf-length
dresses and buttoned-up jackets.

The devotion of teenagers to these celebrities sends a
signal that "they want to be feminine and ladylike more
than they want to be trashy and sexy," said Jane Rinzler
Buckingham, the president of Youth Intelligence, a New York
consulting company, which sends reports to clients like
Levi's and L'Or=C8al based on surveys of teenagers in the
street and via random telephone interviews.

Her latest report, to be mailed in August, indicates that
"we are finding that there are signs of more covering up"
by teenage girls, Ms. Buckingham said. "Right now, for many
of them, sexy feels too vulnerable, too over-the-top, too

Tina Wells, a partner in Blue Fusion, another youth-trend
consulting company, notes the current teenage taste for
knee-length skirts and dainty camisoles worn under denim
jackets and seersucker blazers as evidence of a shift in
the wind. Of 200 young women 14 to 18 polled by Blue Fusion
last month, many said they had relegated risqu=C8 clothes to
the back of their closets in favor of more modest looks.

Some trendspotters think a backlash may have set in after
episodes like Janet Jackson baring a breast at the Super
Bowl and the Paris Hilton sex tape wars. "Girls find them
gross," Ms. Wells said of the incidents. "In a lot of ways,
they feel that these things are being pushed down their
throats, and there are some things that they would just
rather not know."

Retailers are beginning to respond. Express, the
mass-market chain, now caters to career-minded young women.
"We've changed a lot of our merchandising and buying so
it's not about little skimpy tops anymore," said Pam
Seidman, a spokeswoman for the company. At Express,
high-waisted jeans, blazers and T-shirts meant to be
layered, covering the midriff, are outperforming last
year's more abbreviated styles, Ms. Seidman said. "I think
there is a certain femininity our customers crave," she
added. "If they don't find it with us, they will move on."

Ed Burstell, the general manager of Henri Bendel, agreed
that revealing fashions are "just done."

"I think things have reached a saturation point," Mr.
Burstell said. Bendel's customers, many in their early
20's, are now purchasing jackets, a departure from last
year. A more refined mood extends to accessories, too.
"Last year, we were seeing belly chains," he said. "Who now
would be caught dead in that?"

Teenage girls are likely to take their style cues from
magazines like Seventeen and Teen Vogue, which are
promoting a more discreet look.

Robyn Duda, 22, an events coordinator in New York, said her
contemporaries are now more conservative. "But some of this
is just fashion," she said. "Whatever is in the magazines,
that's what we're going to wear. If the magazines are
showing skin, we're wearing skin. If it's a jeans jacket
with the collar up, that what we're wearing."

The concern with propriety suggests an effort by many of
her peers to distance themselves from younger girls, for
whom Malibu Barbie remains the last word in chic. "When
you're seeing a 10-year-old with a belly ring, it's just
not that cool anymore," Ms. Buckingham said.

In a post-Janet Jackson world, it seems, fewer women would
wittingly risk the kind of scorn heaped on Alexandra Kerry,
the daughter of John Kerry, when she wore a sheer dress to
a screening at Cannes last month. "It could be that girls
are trying to distance themselves from those bad media
images," said Lyn Mikel Brown, an associate professor of
women's gender and sexuality studies at Colby College in

Consider Melanie Lopez. On a class trip to Manhattan last
week with her senior class from Carthage High School in
upstate New York, Ms. Lopez, 18, wore a chiffon blouse that
veiled her camisole and waistline. "We're getting a
message, even in the media, that celebrities are being
looked down upon for the way they dress," she said, "so a
lot of us don't want to look like them. We're creating a
style that's more unique."

Some, like Edwina Faulk, who strolled in Times Square last
Friday afternoon dressed in a crisp fitted blouse that
grazed the top of her hips, are using fashion to register
their discomfort with the status quo. "Last year, a lot of
women were wearing a lot of skimpy things because they have
the body, they're going to wear it," said Ms. Faulk, who is
20. "But I don't like showing my body in something that's

Kristina Valencia, 19, a sales associate at the Quiksilver
store on West 42nd Street, has likewise shied away from an
overtly sexy look. "A year ago, my shirt might actually
have been up to here," Ms. Valencia said, cupping one hand
just below her bosom. But on Friday she wore an elongated,
midriff-concealing camouflage shirt, the uniform of the
store's sales staff. Over this she had pulled an even
longer white T-shirt that veiled her belly. "I'm just more
secure covered up," she said. Quiksilver, she added, has
stocked up on longer T-shirts that cover the midsection.
And en route to the Times Square store are jeans with a
higher waistline, Ms. Valencia said.

Ms. Ruddy, the Harvard-Westlake senior, would certainly
qualify as one of the chain's target customers. She said
she has abandoned her skin-baring tank tops, relics of the
days when she revered Britney Spears. "That look called for
a lot more pulling down at your shirt and tugging at your
pants," she said. "All that makes you really

Some experts expect the trend to gather momentum, based on
the age-old susceptibility of teenagers to peer pressure.
Last month, Ms. Wells, the trend consultant, attended a
prom at Winslow Township high school in Atco, N.J., as part
of her research. "All the girls were parading around in
their outfits," she recalled. "It was so interesting
watching the popular girls stick up their noses at the
girls who were showing too much skin."

One girl whose dress was slashed at the sides to expose a
tattoo on her hipbone stopped the in crowd in its tracks,
Ms. Wells said. "Two years ago, the other girls would have
told themselves, she's being cool, like Britney Spears."
Now, she added in a mock teenage drone, "It's like, Oh, my
God, who would wear that?"




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