A few days ago, the often reckless and ever entertaining Kanye West took to Twitter about a topic that seemed to be completely harmless, but funny—lipstick. He said in a series of tweets:

“Please don’t let girls start wearing dark lipstick again. I just think girls need to know that guys don’t really like black lipstick”

“I think classic red is the sexiest or no make up at all . . . nothing too experimental”

“Do girls even base any of they lip choices on what we like?”

“I think girls be trying to impress other girls with all them weird ass lip colors lol”

Now regardless of whether men truly prefer red lips, and grammatical errors aside (it’s okay ‘Ye, but only because it’s Twitter), he made a very valid point and revisited an age old issue. When women make choices regarding beauty and fashion, on what exactly are they based? Who do we truly do it for? Sure, most of our instant inclinations as style aficionados would be to yell out with pride, “I do it for ME!” And while there may be some truth to this in most cases, we can’t deny the fact that the destination, occasion, and company at hand often mold decisions that are made when we take that final spin in the mirror. For if that were not the case, we’d be glammed up with lashes and lipstick to boot even when at home on the couch on a rainy day, right? And the garments we wear around boyfriends, bosses, and homegirls would be one and the same, right? And we’d never complain that an outfit was “wasted” on an evening when plans fell through and we didn’t see a lot of people out . . . Right? But we know that’s not the case.

I recall WWD posing a similar question to industry vets a few years back; “For Whom Do Women Dress?” And the responses were varied. [*Clears throat and prepares best Tyra impression*] “Noted Fashion Photographer” Nigel Barker (with his fine self) claimed in our favor that, “Most women dress for themselves. Most men don’t realize what’s going on half the time. If their friend at work wears the same thing every day, they wouldn’t notice. It’s not in the gene pool.” Designer Isabel Toledo argued, “Women dress for men. I do dress for myself because it makes me feel empowered, but I’m definitely looking for [husband] Ruben’s expression, not his approval.” And Anne Hathaway concluded, “Most women dress for their most fashionable friend.”

Likely, all of these contributing factors ring true at some point, depending on the circumstances:

I swear, men have really got it good. At the least, all they have to do is keep a fresh cut, decent jeans, and nice shoes. Nope, not us. We have a million things to think about when presenting ourselves to the opposite sex: Is my hair sitting right? Did I shave? What are these toes looking like? Are my jeans fitted? Is my lipgloss popping? Do I smell like a garden of roses? Can I walk in these shoes? Sheesh! The list goes on. But for many women, depending on age and culture, excessive self-grooming is done to gain male attention and approval. If the look, amongst other things of course, is successful in allowing you to snag the guy you want, it then becomes a question of how much effort is put into maintaining those standards. Too frequently we’ve heard about the ones who “let themselves go” after committing to a relationship, which would further support the idea that it was all to get the guy in the first place.

I think Anne Hathaway was really on to something with her assessment of women’s motives for dressing. When we feel the need to throw on those red bottoms or oversized monogram bags, is it truly because those items look, feel, and function better than our more modest pieces? Or is it because we know well in advance that heads will turn and jaws will drop? Are we setting the standards for ourselves, or striving to keep up those standards set by everyone else? I know that it’s difficult for most to set pride aside and admit wholeheartedly that we do, at times, seek to gain approval from our peers, especially other females. But it’s human nature to want to feel accepted. Even if that acceptance is gained by wearing black lipstick, so to speak.

Designer Tina Lutz’s response to the aforementioned WWD question was simple: “I would hope women would dress for themselves because you can only feel good about life if you feel good about yourself.” And certainly, this opinion is ideal. We dress based on how we feel—our personal style and energy. Clothing and accessories are silent communicators that often speak for us when words need not be spared. If we feel sexy, that perfect pair of jeans tell our hips to sway in a way that lets the whole world know. And if we’re feeling a bit rebellious, edgy accessories and a darker color palette will say “I just don’t give a . . .!” Ultimately, despite that which motivates our way of dress, outward appearance speaks volumes about the person on the inside.

Other Factors: Career, Comfort, Practicality . . .

In your most honest opinion, who do women dress for?

– Chelsea Smith

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