One of the most stubborn assumptions about us vintage lifestylers is that we’re doing this to impress men, or that we somehow long to be subservient to them. As though we’re nostalgic for an era when domesticity reigned oppressive. Now, I want to make it clear that I don’t find a damn thing wrong with dressing to attract men (or women, or whoever). We’re all looking for love; I’m not going to get on my high horse and pretend I’m too cool for it. But it’s an irritating, not to mention agency-chafing, thing to have assumed of yourself.
The thing is, those criticisms miss the point in a big way. Yes, girdles and pin curls were the gold standard of submissive femininity – in 1950. Doing this in 2016 is not normal by any stretch. It’s deliberate. We might have looked respectably meek sixty years ago, but nowadays anyone dressed this way is a screaming beacon of strangeness. It takes a certain mettle to leave the house in any subcultural uniform, and that’s what this is: a subculture. No longer mainstream.
There’s a hierarchy to who gets hit on in bars, and believe me, the girl in the vintage hat and full petticoat is nowhere near the top. There’s a reason all my partners are fellow theater kids or general eccentrics. Fact is, most people of any gender are weirded out by the “year-round Halloween” thing. If a modern man is looking for a woman to cater to his every whim, someone whose selfhood he can override, why would he choose someone who stands out so much?
And those modern men, it seems, like simplicity best of all. Or at least that’s what anecdata, plus having lots of male friends, has told me. I hear over and over that jeans and a fitted tee are so much sexier than a party dress and perfectly done hair. My own partner can’t even tell when I’m wearing makeup. If I were trying to impress men, I wouldn’t be wearing a goddamn girdle.