RONZONE: Fashion doesn’t play fair



Raquel Ronzone

It’s what’s inside that counts. Don’t judge a book by its cover. All that glitters is not gold. We first heard these fundamental childhood lessons in our formative elementary school years, then confronted them in our appearance-driven high school years and now question them in the pseudo-real world environment of our college years, where we are beginning to realize that society hardly abides by these rules.

No, boys and girls, despite what you might have previously heard, society doesn’t always play fair. It judges, evaluates and scrutinizes, especially in regards to the issue of women’s fashion choices.

Society has begun a senseless conversation about how personal style – from bohemian casualness, to modernistic unpretentiousness and every instance of sultriness, edginess, innocence and quirkiness in between -automatically and consistently threatens the universal image of females.

Choosing an outfit, society insists, is a moment of compromise: women must reconcile burgeoning cultural movements towards body confidence, self-esteem and personal pride with modesty and conservatism in terms of dress. Women must reconcile the desire to look good – especially in outfits that project a traditional image of femininity – with the need to be taken and treated seriously professionally and domestically.

This is a delicate situation – one that is, according to some estimates, inexorably tangled within a boiling political climate and tense social dynamics. After all, it subjects innocuous personal preferences to the criticism of the masses, which, some might argue, is fundamentally unfair. Still, the discussion continues for no good reason.

Society maintains that women’s wardrobes are at odds with their morals. Therefore, the argument goes, women cannot appreciate and celebrate their bodies and overall appearances without completely abandoning social tact and discretion in terms of attire.

The counterpoint to that line of reasoning is simple enough and hardly radical for 21st century culture: women, who are more than capable of dressing for themselves and their needs, are not looking to please anyone else, are not seeking approval from anyone else and, most importantly, are not mere objects of public consumption when they style themselves.

Public polls, newsmagazine features, online commentary and other methods of dialogue aimed at evaluating the appropriateness of women’s clothing choices (that is, Michelle Obama’s shorts and sleeveless dresses) reveal the enduring patronizing attitudes of society rather than some unholy hybrid of stylistic and ethical impropriety on the part of women.

Society also maintains that women’s wardrobes are at odds with their professionalism, especially when ruffles, high heels or skirts are involved.

But women are not men, and accordingly, women should not have to don a kind of male uniform in order to gain respect. That is not to say that women cannot or should not take pleasure in wearing conventionally masculine articles of clothing, like ties or vests. Women, after all, have claimed pants for themselves.

Instead, women should be able to enjoy traditional expressions of femininity in appearance without facing the stigma that those pieces signal weakness, frivolity or submission to and passive acceptance of gender roles.

Women do not have to be known only as the fairer sex. Let’s give ourselves some equally well-deserved and long-overdue credit about our other qualities, faculties, talents and skills.

Besides, knowledge and strategic use of flattering cuts, prints, colors, styles or fabrics do not indicate incompetence, poor corporate potential or support of misogynistic practices. Rather, an overall knowledge of one’s own body and self proves to be a pinnacle of independence and strength, something that no amount of public criticism can damage.


Raquel Ronzone is a junior communication major from Philadelphia. She can be reached at [email protected].