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How should a feminist dress?

As he turned, I immediately recognised the look in my partner's eyes. It was a simple question. The answer was all too clear. Hidden amongst the confusion. The answer was no. He didn't like my dress.

The thing is, I didn't blame him. In fact, I hadn't expected anything else. As a wise friend told me, this particular dress was not created for the male gaze. A concept that I had not taken time to consider fully before. How does this 'male gaze' impact how I dress?

The answer is complex. The feminist inside me would say it has nothing to do with my outfit planning. But of course, I would be lying.

My new and much adored apron dress from 'Olive'

This 'male gaze' is so much more than wanting to look attractive for my partner. Or previously as a single woman, seeking attention from potential mates. It is what the wider society expects. What it responds too. What fills high street shops. What is deemed acceptable for a women to wear.

These expectations change throughout a woman's life. In our younger years, we are expected to show our body. With plenty of bikini shots and figure-hugging jeans. However, as we age, this becomes less and less acceptable. We are expected to cover up. After all, we must avoid looking like 'mutton dressed as lamb'.

My own style has changed over the years. I certainly embraced the more revealing outfits during my early 20's. Working in wildlife conservation, which has traditionally been a man's world, I tended to hide my femininity. I was worried that if I looked too 'girlie', I wouldn't be taken seriously. I would hide my body in loose walking trousers and fleeces. In my early days, I would never consider wearing dress in the workplace. I feel that this is a concept that many people can relate too.

My 'uniform'

At the age of 29, I am approaching a new stage of womanhood. Perhaps I can still get away with showing a bit of skin. But the thing is, I don't want too. Is this down to me subconsciously conforming to what society expects? Or is this, finally, me embracing my true style?

Thankfully, I feel that this is the latter. I have left behind the concept of what may make me look 'attractive' and worked hard to ignore my concerns of looking too girlie in the workplace. Instead, I've worked very hard on concentrating how clothing makes me feel.

For me, clothing now has to fit in with some strict criteria.

First, it has to align with my values. This means I now avoid fast fashion and try and shop from sustainable companies or second hand.

Second, it has to fit into my lifestyle. My real lifestyle, not one I sometimes envision. This means that my clothing has to be fairly hard-wearing. I live amongst nature in the Scottish Highlands, so my clothing has to survive the elements and keep me cosy in our off-grid tiny home. Comfort is key.

A warm waterproof is a must for my lifestyle

Third, and this is a new one, clothing has to make me feel alive. For me, I get a huge amount of enjoyment curating my wardrobe. Getting dressed is a creative experience. I want my clothes to make me feel whimsical as I stroll though forests. Clothes that can only be enhanced with paint splatters. That let me embrace a rain shower. That demand I slow down and escape into book. Clothes that are beautifully and unquestionably, part of who I am.

This may mean that my clothing makes me seem 'shapeless' as I chose to hide my body completely. Perhaps it even looks a bit bizarre, as I escape into clothing that reflect the books I loved as a child. Or, some days, I may decide to wear figure hugging jeans. But the key is, it is my decision.

Although my partner was confused at this somewhat abrupt change of style, with an oversized apron dress not quite being what he expected, he respects my decision as always. I love him for the hurried cover up stating that 'he liked the colour'. He is kind, but this is my journey.

So, how does this feminist dress. The answer? Exactly how I choose. Just as it should be.


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