Saturday, June 4, 2011

Grumble grumble clothes these days

Ok, I know I said I was going on a financial diet, and other than buying tp and stocking up on coffee one day and filling up the gas tank another day, I haven't spent any money, which is good. Unfortunately, to really improve my finances I'd need to not spend any money at all for anything discretionary for the entire summer. That's pretty outside of my level of willpower. Especially when you consider my casual summer clothes are looking pretty shoddy and worn. This is why I was at the Old Navy this morning. And I bought stuff, to my disgust --- and not even disgust at me breaking my budget; I'm pretty pissed off at them.

See, I live in cheap, brightly colored t-shirts. And I may be turning into my parents, who are still stuck in pre-70s-inflation price standards and think that no single item of clothing should cost more than 20 dollars, but I don't want to spend a lot of money for something that's not in any way special or embellished. So while I raise an eyebrow when my parents say, "you paid more than 19.95 for those jeans? Insane!" I kinda do have that expectation when it comes to a plain red or blue t-shirt. It's freaking mass-produced, people. And there aren't that many special seams, and no rivets or nothing. Don't tell me it costs anything like 10 bucks to make.

So I have been peeved at t-shirts on the internet, which for some reason are running around 50-60 dollars for anything cute. I will go stock up on a bunch of colors for cheap at Old Navy, I told myself. But when I got there, the fabric was so thin and slubby I could see through it! Old Navy people, I know you are maximizing profit, but fuck you! I do not want to buy multiple t-shirts and layer them; it's too damn hot here!

My other complaint was the cut of the neckline: on t-shirts that basically fit me everywhere else, the scoop neck was cut so low it almost followed the edge of my bra. Even the "crewneck" was much lower than I would define it, and the v-necks were just unacceptable. I have wondered, off and on, in my journey toward crotchety get-off-my-lawn-you-are-going-out-in-That-elderlyness, why so many of my students, regardless of the location of where I am teaching, seem to insist on totally inappropriate tops for school that show off their entire rack. Now I know: it's not so much that they are saying, screw you, rules of appropriateness! They are just too dumb young and inexperienced in the ways of the world to realize that if the cheap and popular shirt does not fit them well, don't buy it. I think it has way more to do with the power of the fashion industry, which is not offering other options right now, than any actual decisions or conscious thinking on my students' part. Which sucks because when everything is becoming pornified and women's bodies completely sexualized, including this PETA ad:

then it's hard to even get students to realize that they are being sexualized/objectified as much as they are. Maybe I'm wrong for insisting certain levels of cleavage are only appropriate for certain venues, but I think work (school=work) is a place where you should not have overtly sexualized bodies, and I would rather my students learn that than say, hey, let's just throw out all the rules of appropriateness and class. (do I go off on my rant about visible bra straps? Nah, one rant a day.)

But mostly I would like cheap and easily available options for those of us who have some extra weight to cover our bodies. News flash to the designers: America, statistically speaking, is overweight! Maybe just a few pounds, maybe by a lot. And most women are at or below 5.5 in height. So, really, Old Navy, most of the women --- and even the teens --- in America are not tall, thin, broad shouldered, A-cup shapes like your mannequins here. When I tried on a scoop neck in your store, I had three inches of exposed boobs and the bottom of the shirt almost touched my knees. Please embrace the square over the thin rectangle for your fitting.

And, funny, when I went looking for "pictures of girls in t-shirts" to accompany my post, weirdly enough, I couldn't find any of what I was describing, even though I see it at school all the time. All the pics were of these extremely thin women with no boobs, who look fine in a low scoop tank because they couldn't show any cleavage without some major structural garments underneath. (But then I typed in "cleavage" for an image search and got to see a lot of what makes me sad about humanity. Sigh.) But I did find this blog post that I liked, which shows some pics of "regular women" and asks "how do you feel about showing cleavage"? Go read the discussion (oh, the final pic of the girl in the blue dress --- minus her flat skinny waist --- looks the most like me in the dressing room today) and leave your own take on the whole dress/appropriateness/fashion industry/weight/gender issue here. Or any other related comments. What do you think?


Sisyphus said...

PS I should add that I would *totally* wear that blue dress and I am not anti-cleavage. But I am anti-cleavage for anything related to work/teaching/schlumping around the house or coffeeshop, which is my average day of teaching and writing. I guess cleavage, for me, is relegated to "special occasions" or a "night out on the town."

Sapience said...

I think you might just want to try someplace other than Old Navy. I've become a big fan of Khols (and to a lesser extent Target), especially for basic t-shirts and tanks: they usually run about 6-9 bucks even with patterns and fun stuff on them, the fabric isn't too thin (sometimes it's actually thicker than I would like) and despite my rather large chest I never have problems with finding clothes that don't show cleavage if that's not what I'm looking for.

Anonymous said...

I'd been thinking of picking up some nice t-shirts at Old Navy to replace some of mine that are getting old, but it sounds like maybe this summer is not the time to do it, or perhaps Old Navy is not the place. If I ever leave my sweet sweet a/c house, it's something I will have to think about more carefully.

Linda said...

I am 5'8", so what you see as average, I don't. I buy regular tshirts at KMart. Plunging necklines show NO cleavage on me. But, I will show cleavage but not at work, or just shopping. At home, my tees are so full of holes that they are obscene in other

Why should women have to cover up, keep knees closed, step out of the way, not be smart, not take up too much room, don't take a job "meant" for men....just to make men feel better or better able to focus? It is not our job to help them keep their mind off our chests.

However, there is a place and time that oversexualization for men or women is out of place. Yes, one of my degrees is in Women's Studies.

I have a difficult time buying for a ten-year-old granddaughter who is overweight AND tall for her age. Neither her mother, my daughter, or I buy things that put her into teen clothing.

How would you like to have a stripper in class who saw no boundaries in dress? Grrrr. I told her if I thought her clothing were inappropriate, she would have to wear my old lady cardigan.

I wrote a post about the rising cost of cotton and posted an article about how cotton clothing would be getting thinner and how blends would be more common. Kmart has thick tees with or without embellishment.

Anonymous said...

What an amazingly clueless comment. Wow.

I have this issue, being chesty and short-waited. I just bought a dress that I didn't have time to try on and it looked fine on the hanger and it did actually fit but the cleavage is off the chain.

I have invested in some close-fitting camisoles to wear under these sort of things because many of the dresses I like are cut pretty low. It's a compromise.

I don't really wear a lot of t-shirts because I can't find them cut to fit right.

anthea said...

Oh I agree with you about T-shirts that don't fit properly, costing arm and leg and at times look as if you couldn't wear them to work due to the low cut of the neckline. I understand the cost of cotton is rising but I don't really understand why companies that sell such badly designed clothes.

Oh have you seen this:

Dr. Koshary said...

I'm not a thread-jacker, so I'll merely observe that you are indexing material for another interesting post: appropriate workplace attire and how we think through these things in terms of gender. There's a particular concern afoot there for professors, since they need to interact with two very different social groups, in terms of both age and power relations. But I'll let you take it from here, if you wish.

Back on topic: I'm not much help here, but I usually buy my 'nice' t-shirts from Banana Republic or Gap. The material is decent quality and thickness, if you stick with the 100% cotton and avoid the vaguely creepy stretch stuff. But that's what I know of their men's clothing, of course. Do you know if those stores market similar shirts for women, or do they maintain a strong gender divide in what they manufacture and sell?

Susan said...

If you are going out, cleavage is fine, but I'd rather not worry about whether someone is going to fall out of their top! But I agree about students: there are always a few whose tops are insanely tight and low cut. I think one of the downsides of the casualization of dress is that many students don't have a sense of what's appropriate when.

Ally said...

I like the organic cotton t-shirts at Belk (probably at other department stores too, but I'm lazy and stay in town, plus my grandmother worked at Belk when I was little so I'm still kind of loyal to them) - they've got some nice prints, a nice scoop neck that is NOT a crew neck, but doesn't come anywhere near showing cleavage on anyone, and they actually have a nice enough "finish" to them to wear with dress pants. I think they're about 20-24 normally, but they go on sale a lot.

Otherwise I have a hard time find t-shirts I think fit well - really casual ones they always make OH SO LONG even if they're fine up top (I don't like having them bunch up on top of my hips) or they run so small that myself as a size 6 has to buy an extra large (but that's generally junior sizing which is weird enough - I used to buy size large tops in the junior section back in hs when I wore a size 2!)

But I'd be glad to hear where people are finding tops - I had no luck at Kohls because theirs bunched funny at the underarms on me =(

Feminist Avatar said...

Maybe this fashion by-passed the US, but I got over the 'showing bra strap' thing when it became part of the fashion. SO, you buy wildly coloured bras and where them alongside strappy t-shirts in other colours, and it is all part of the colourful fun happening on your shoulders. Plus, I think it's unreasonable that we should have to pretend we don't wear bras by diguising them to the nth degree (which I subtly distinguish from hiding bra straps/body/back etc when it makes your outfit work better).

On work clothing- this is clearly a cultural thing, as Americans dress much more formally than us Brits in university contexts (depending on the subject), and then we have different ideas of smartness in other contexts too. But, that is slightly different from people within your own culture not learning the social rules...

Linda said...

Anastasia, My post was clueless? How so? Just curious. No argument, just wondering.