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Summer time: What that revealing dress means for womankind: Grace Ashley

Br Grace Ashley

As summer gains momentum winter clothes take their place at the back of the wardrobe and make way for brighter and more colorful attire. The past few years have seen a marked trend of summer clothes that can only be described as scandalous by the more conservative matrons of our time.

It is an undeniable fact that young women of this generation have taken to wearing clothes that show more than they hide.
From times past up until the early 1800’s European women were attired in dresses that fluttered the female figure but also covered a great deal of skin. These dresses usually extended to their ankles, had high necklines and  ¾ sleeves if not full ones.

Nowadays such attire can be seen on nuns in the Roman Catholic church, as worn by the followers of Allah and other traditional cultures. The point of this article is not to go on and on about what is being exposed or the rightness of it but rather to explore the why.
It’s been decades since women fought for gender equality and yet we still see them coming as second best even in the developed world.

It is true girls have better opportunities than those from 50 years ago. Women are allowed to vote, get an education, own property independent of a male relative and doors that had been closed before are now open for women of our time.

Many things have been gained by the women’s movement. In spite of this groundbreaking progress, a large number of women are still raised to think less of themselves.  According to research, the average girl will still earn less than their male counterpart in the job industry.

Keep this information in mind because we’re going to get back to it.
For now, we are going to go back in history. For most women as early as a hundred years ago marriage was the only measure of success.

Any woman unlucky enough to reach a certain age without attracting a suitor was automatically relegated to the ranks of spinsterhood. Marriage was a very important part of a woman’s life. In order to increase these marriage prospects, women had to be the picture of virtue and propriety. To stray from this ideal was disastrous to say the least.

Hence women wore the attire mentioned above.

Being an African woman, our traditional clothes would be considered scandalous by modern standards

But things have changed now and women can more or less wear whatever they want. Fashion has changed everything. Exposed knees no longer mean marital suicide.

Thank God! And what an interesting result has come from this fashion ‘freedom’. I’ll be the first to admit that I love to look good but am blessed or cursed (depends on how you look at it) with a semi-conservative spirit especially after gaining my 30’s and a few extra pounds.

That wasn’t always the case when I was in my teens boasting a slim figure trying to emulate RnB superstars I admired but somewhere along the way I lost this boldness.
A walk in any Joburg street on a sunny summer day is quite a revelation. Women dressed in eye-popping and sometimes jaw-dropping attire strut across the busy city streets.

They are a cheaper version of the American megastars who strut across the red carpet wearing million dollar transparent fabric and dresses that leave nothing to the imagination.
As you may have guessed this popular fashion is not exclusive to teenagers and young women in their early twenties but is being worn by older women as well. An awed audience is sometimes lambasted by orange peel skin and not so attractive stretch marks.

The world had just taken a huge sigh after surviving low waist jeans and g-strings little did they know more was coming. See-through dresses and short summer dresses now dress manikins in the shop windows and they are all the rage.
But what makes women such shameless exhibitionists when their male counterparts don’t seem put upon when they put on a few layers of fabric on a hot day?
As enlightened as our society is we can’t help but judge a book by its cover. We expect failed relationships and unhappy endings for our Hollywood starlets more rather than not because they are those people.

Double Standards

We love watching them on TV and in real life with avid fascination but we wouldn’t bring them home to meet the parents. Double standards hey.

These women are prey to many negative assumptions including but not limited to:
·  That revealing clothing is an invitation
·  That revealing clothing is meant for your appreciation or gaze
·  That revealing clothing is an issue that reflects or impacts one’s morality
·  That revealing clothing matters on women’s bodies but not men’s

The clothes a person wears or doesn’t wear is a personal choice. The reasons are varied from looking good to exercise, job description to name but a few. It is undeniable that such clothes can be used as a tool of seduction. The clothes do capture the attention of both men and women known and unknown. And when they’ve noticed what then?
Is this revealing attire the right way to express our individuality anymore than a tattoo on the body says more about us than we can say with mere words.

Are women using clothes to wield power and get a foothold in this ever challenging world where men dominate? But is this attire sending the right message of who we are as women? Do plus size women need to wear revealing clothes so that we can know they love their bodies regardless?
This topic amuses me to no end, being an African woman our traditional clothes would be considered scandalous by modern standards.

No doubt they would have considered European women of the 1800’s overdressed and strange. African men of that time did not lose their heads over a pair of thighs or an exposed bosom. The question is what has changed the human psyche so much that they place such importance on clothes and what they say about us?
If you wear revealing clothes why do you wear them?

Grace Ashley is a columnist for She is the author of Angel’s Game and Destiny, Bloob Prince, The Sigil, The Son of a King, and Chipo and the Mermaid. Grace is also a judge on Ink and Insights annual writing competition. The views expressed in this article are her own.

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