If you’re not yet familiar with The Man Repeller, better change that. The concept behind the popular blog of the same name is now a trend for the masses, not just the fashion elite, if my September issue of People Stylewatch is anything to go by. The idea is simple: the “man repeller” look is based around “outfitting oneself in a sartorially offensive way that will result in repelling members of the opposite sex … [with items such as] harem pants, boyfriend jeans, overalls, shoulder pads, full length jumpsuits, jewelry that resembles violent weaponry and clogs” (to borrow from the definition provided on the blog). More generally, now, the concept embraces the idea of dressing for oneself (and other style-savvy women) rather than to interest and attract men – whether or not doing so involves the dreaded jumpsuit, or something less aggressively “ugly”, like a circa-1991 plaid shirt.
The fundamental premise seems to be that women will tend to dress one way when their goal is to appeal to the opposite sex, versus when they are trying to impress one of their own (or their own inner fashionista). I suppose this goes hand in hand with the notion that your average male will not appreciate high fashion – designed, so the old chestnut says, by gay men, and therefore not focused on highlighting those physical attributes of women of which, according to conventional wisdom, the heterosexual male cannot get enough. Whether this is objectively true or not (and I’d point out that, for one thing, plenty of today’s leading designers are women), doesn’t matter; people tend to assume that it’s true. Sarah Jessica Parker – or, more accurately, her character on SATC, Carrie Bradshaw – is often toted as exhibit #1; women lusted after her (fictional) designer closet and her style mojo, and men scratched their heads trying to understand what the big deal was about.
But back to the present. “Man repeller fashion” is a ‘thing’ now, and apparently it’s “in”. It’s current “face” may well be Alexa Chung, whose quirky, off-beat style has had fashionistas raving for the last few seasons.
I’m a big fan of dressing to please oneself, although I’m not entirely convinced that doing so is by definition mutually exclusive from dressing in a way that others – male, female, style gurus or style peons – might appreciate. But I was curious to put the underlying premise to a (not very scientific) test. If I were to put together an outfit that made ME feel stylish and confident, how might it be different from an outfit that my HUSBAND might pick out as a favourite of his? He was game, and so I let him loose in my closet, with instructions to put together a “look” representative of what he most appreciates seeing me wear. After clarifying that nudity was not acceptable for the blog, he asked for a few days to mull the challenge. I did the same – it’s surprisingly hard to decide what makes me feel MOST confident and stylish, when I’m still working on defining my personal style.
On to the results. It may be a product of my new practicality-above-all-else outlook (and my current stay-at-home mom status), but I quickly came to the realization that my go-to outfit of choice these days is some variation on the basic jeans-top-cardi-heels combo. Nothing too revolutionary, but these days I’m leaving the good fight (for style) in other, more capable – and free – hands. However, I did not entirely abandon my old arsenal. For this particular outfit, I decided to take the advice I’ve dished out numerous times; I overcame my worries, and tucked in my top and belted that sucker. Rather than draw attention to problem areas, a belt (worn the right way) can be very flattering. Dark wash jeans are a casual wardrobe standard, and this pant-style cut is dressy while still comfortable.
I feel pretty darn good in this outfit – or as good as the mom of a feisty 3 month old can feel on an average day.
My husband, naturally, had other considerations in mind when picking out “his” outfit. After complaining that I had way too many clothes (duh!), making his task nigh-impossible, he eventually went back to an outfit I had worn a few years ago, which he apparently still remembers fondly to this day. His one specification was with regards to the footwear; he insisted that I wear the shoes he likes most, even though I tried to convince him that they didn’t really go with the outfit he had in mind. But … an experiment is an experiment, so here we are.
To be fair, I didn’t ask him to pick an everyday look for me, so he went for what he liked best, practical considerations aside. His choice isn’t all that surprising since, these days, he rarely gets to see me dressed up. To be fair, he also liked my outfit pick, as he generally does most of the things I wear. Which proves … that my husband is either very attuned to fashion (or my style at least), or that he is … a very supportive, not to say diplomatic, spouse.