What’s the Point of Clothes

Tube Dress“Part of the /point/ of clothing, when thoughtfully chosen, is to enhance/disguise/manipulate the appearance of our body shape.”

I saw this in a comment online and it irked me, including and especially the emphasis on the word “point” as if I were an idiot for missing it and the inclusion of the word “thoughtfully” to indicate that those of us who would dress for any other reason are thoughtless.

I beg to differ. So might firefighters, triathlon participants and Weinerschnitzel employees. Of course, considering the roughly elebenty gabillion articles that exist at any one time in the magazines at the grocery store written about dressing for your body type/to hide your flaws/to look 10 pounds lighter etc. you’d think that nuns chose black because it’s slimming.    Sadly, this is one of these situations where someone has confused their experience for everyone’s experience.

The point of clothes is whatever the wearer chooses. Clothing may be chosen

  • to enhance/disguise/manipulate a body
  • to cover a body
  • to show off a body
  • because someone liked the print
  • to be in fashion
  • to rebel against fashion
  • because it was clean
  • because they liked it
  • because it fits their company’s dress code
  • because it will protect them in a dangerous situation
  • to please their mother
  • to piss off their mother
  • to piss off their kid
  • because they dance competitively and they aren’t allowed to wear jeans and a t-shirt (ok, maybe that one’s just me)  anyway…

People may choose clothing for any reason at different times in their lives and in different circumstances.  Not to mention that fat people have severely limited options when it comes to clothing choices.  Even if we had every choice in the world, there is no law that says that clothing has to meet some criteria of being “flattering.  If I like the idea of a very clingy and bright horizontally striped tube dress then you can believe that I’ll be rocking that dress.  Don’t like it?  Hey look, over there,  it’s a bunch of other stuff you could look at.

As always, you are the boss of your enhancing, disguising, manipulating underpants and I am the boss of my adorable cotton pink polka-dotted ones and that is as it should be.

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62 thoughts on “What’s the Point of Clothes

  1. works on BEING the mother, and pissing off the kid. Bonus points for being fat and wearing peculiar clothes! —Jen

        1. You know, if it would make him scream, I know where you may still be able to get some Union Flag-print skinny jeans that fit up to a 22…. 😉

    1. Maybe, but what I’m saying is that it doesn’t need to be ANY of the point, and choosing clothes without this in mind is neither missing the point nor thoughtless.


  2. Don’t forget that people sometimes wear clothes to keep warm. Personally I’d love to go without them sometimes but in South Dakota it gets cold in the winter. 😉

    Mostly though I wear clothes that are comfortable and like you said “Don’t like it? Hey look, over there, it’s a bunch of other stuff you could look at.”

  3. It’s been a very long time since I dressed for looks. Since before my last child was born, I think. First I’d need to find a bra that fit. Then I’d have to shop, which is exhausting. I dress for coverage, warmth, practicality. I buy cargo pants for the pockets, t-shirts and pullover sweatshirts. I order the same pair of shoes over the internet every 6mo to a year.

    This probably sounds depressing to a lot of women, but I am comfortable and happy. The effort I would use putting together outfits and worrying how I look is spent on other things that I find more important.

    I’m not saying I think it’s silly, and I often admire how other women dress.

    1. You sound like we’d get along well. I also dress for comfort and tend to wear alot of the same things. I do, however, enjoy observing fashion trends and seeing how folks rock those outfits. But, ususally it comes back to my mind… “I’d be so uncomfortable in that…” So I just enjoy from a distance.

      AS for looking at other stuff, I’ve gotten pretty good at that… working with teens, there’s alot of variety and I simply cannot abide the sagging pants thing… so I look away.


  4. I like to dress to express my personality. Of late, alas!, I find I must dress simply because I already own the clothes because my budget will not allow me to buy anything new for a while. Luckily, even when I was on a tight clothing budget I chose according to what made me feel most like me.

    Are there things I happen to think I look better in than others? Yes, there are. Do I tend to choose those lines and colors? Yes, I do. Is anyone else obligated to do the same? Hell to the no!

    But now I totally need polka dotted underpants to be in charge of. Maybe purple with lime green dots. Yes, I think that’s the sort I want. In the meantime, solid electric blue is doing me just fine. But I want polka dots.

  5. Also — because it’s the most practical thing for the task at hand. You’ll never get my lycra bike shorts away from me no matter what someone else might think I look like in them.

  6. Dang, and here I thought I put on clothes before I went out in order to avoid getting arrested!

    Great work as usual, Ragen!

    1. Yup, that’s why I do it. Luckily in my neck of the world, a bathing suit/bikini with shorts is considered dressed. Unluckily, I am very sensitive to the sun, so that’s another reason for me to cover up before going outside.

  7. While I agree that, “clothes is whatever the wearer chooses,” I have always believed that the point of clothing was protection from the elements. Everything else is superfluous.

  8. “you’d think that nuns chose black because it’s slimming”

    Absolutely priceless! That must be why widows are supposed to wear black, to appear slim and available for next hubby.

    1. Oh, is that it? Actually, almost the only time in my life I *didn’t* wear black was when I was newly widowed… it wasn’t fashionable at the time,and he didn’t like the way I looked in black,so I didn’t have any black clothing and, somehow, a husband’s death didn’t feel like an occasion for shopping…

      Since then – yeah, I wear black a lot. It is dress code (though the clothes are different) for several different kinds of work I do or have done. It is practical in a sometimes grimy city. It flatters my skin tones. It beautifully sets off the jewel tones I sometimes wear with it.

      I don’t think it is slimming. I don’t really think people are blind…

      (I snorfled my coffee at that line… )

    2. Maybe that’s why nuns do it too, in case the nunning business doesn’t work out.

      Someone asked me if I was a nun the other day, and I was very carefully NOT wearing black. Go figure.

    3. At one time, I wanted to be a nun because I liked the clothes. Mind, this was about the time I got kicked out of Catholic school. And the Catholic Church, and I wasn’t even Catholic. I… have an interesting history with religion.

  9. I tend to dress for expression. I realized life is too short to dress for the status quo. I used to wear only jeans and tshirts because I thought it was all I was allowed to wear. Like if I tried to dress differently then people would be thinking “Who does she think she is.” Thankfully, I’ve discovered my self-esteem. lol I now dress however I feel like, including mix matched prints that are said to be a no-no. I tie scarves on my head in crazy knots. I now LOVE unique jewelry. I love Victorian era clothing and have been looking for more of that just for day to day wear. If I want to go out wearing a tiara, I damn well will.

    The other day my friend dropped her son off to hang with my son. Her son is 4. He was wearing plaid shorts, a printed button up shirt with collar that did not match his plaid shorts AND despite it being warm that day here in Vegas (and completely dry) a pair of wellies.that looked like ladybugs. My friend actually apologized to me for the way he was dressed. I was like “Are you kidding? I love it! He is rocking that outfit.” And I was thinking to myself–that is how I dress now. Haha! Like a kid who doesn’t care that there are “rules” about clothing. They just wear whatever they FEEL and it never occurs to them that people might be giving them sideways glances.

    No, I’m not a kid but why should I have to conform to some arbitrary set of rules about what I can and cannot wear? Who the hell decided this? Who is the Grand Clothing Overlord who said I can’t wear plaid and polka dots?

    1. According to Stacy and Clinton from What Not to Wear, you are absolutely allowed to mix prints now. They just need to be from the same color family. 😉 Aren’t you glad they gave their approval???

    2. I’m attempting to enter the arena of vintage-y 1940s era fashion. So as a friend says you argue with a firm “Because I want to.” (Actually, she uses profanity, but I cut that. Feel free to add it back.)

  10. Clothes are also for comfort – lots of my clothes were purchased because they’re soft or furry or fuzzy, and they make me go “oooooh” when I touch them. Mainly, though, the point of clothes is pockets. I can’t believe the fashion mavens don’t understand this. If I could get away with it, I would run around wearing nothing but a belt with a couple of convenient pockets attached to it.

  11. Ah, the clothing debate. I wear what I want to wear. Period. I like skinny jeans (love being a fat girl wearing “skinny” jeans lol) and t-shirts with movie, video game and book references on them. I bought a hakuna matata shirt the other day. I went out in public in my flannel grey and white polka dotted pajama pants and I don’t really care what anyone thinks about it. I used to spend a lot of time worried about what other people thought about what I was wearing, don’t have the energy to waste on that anymore.

  12. For the last year I have been buying clothes that I like when I like. I’m still frugal but I have enough money to this. Before that, I bought what I needed but really didn’t think I deserved to play with clothes. I have been trying new styles and some have worked and some have not. Now I have the horizontally striped dress. So cute. So not me. I have an apple figure with a glorious belly. The dress has a waist that is supposed to be at waist level but it wants to turn into an Empire waist on me. I wore it once and decided never again since I will no longer wear clothes that have to be pulled into place over and over. I’m going to give the dress away to someone it works for. Size 2X from Lands End.

    Ragen, is there any way for me to send this to one of your readers if they want it?

      1. Do you have an you e-mail address you wouldn’t mind putting here? If so I will e-mail you back and we can make arrangements for me to mail the dress to you. It makes me so happy to think that someone could use it!

        1. That should have been an extra e-mail address. Sometimes I hate the way Safari tries to read my mind and fails!

    1. Loving the phrase “glorious belly.”

      I’m much more positive about my body than I was when younger but I struggle with the belly. I had an hourglass figure (of varying proportions!) and that self-image has stuck. I had a breast reduction. As I approached mid life most of the weight I gained started settling in my glorious belly rather than my marvelous hips. I was not used to seeing my belly, or my feet for that matter, and it’s still kind of a surprise when I look down. Me, an apple? Huh!

      1. Count me in, at age 64, as another former hourglass who has aged into an apple. It took awhile, but I have learned to feel comfortable as an apple. I am another dressing for comfort & for a very casual, retired person’s lifestyle kind of person. I hate dresses, have not worn one since my son’s wedding 14 years ago, & live in jeans & tees, with hoodies as the weather allows (I run hot, so sweaters do not usually work for me.) I have cerebral palsy & arthritis, with balance & coordination issues & often wobbly legs, so I use a rollator walker when walking outside & must wear sturdy walking shoes, usually New Balance. I do love bright colors & I have several tie-dye t-shirts, mostly Grateful Dead but also a new M&M’s shirt. Otherwise, I love fantasy/scifi-themed shirts & get most of my shirts from offworlddesigns.com, who sell shirts up to 5X. The folks on “What not to wear” would not be happy with me, but I am also not happy with their belief that they are both qualified & entitled to tell others how to dress. How you dress, as long as you do not break any laws about public nudity, is no one’s business but your own.

        1. I like what you’re saying…but will add that I think that certain nudity laws are antiquated, and an example of inappropriate government intervention. Wearing underwear/pants is practical because it might help prevent the spread of fecal or vaginal germs, so there is some basis for requiring covering the genitals in public areas, especially where people will be eating (although, washing hands properly– rubbing soap in hands for 20 seconds and then rinsing–is also helpful for the same reason, but it isn’t mandated). However, in most cities in the US, men are allowed to go topless, but women aren’t. They can’t claim that has anything to do with public health. There is nothing that makes a woman’s upper body dirtier than a man’s, unless she has mastitis with tons of discharge. In my opinion, mandating that women wear shirts is like mandating that they cover their hair. If women choose to do those things for religious or cultural reasons or personal preference, I totally respect that. I just don’t think women should be forced into it.

  13. Sometimes the clothes you pick to wear are the ones that don’t hurt. I have fibro, and shirts or pants that grab me or have lumpy seams can be painful, so on a given day I might be reaching for the knit skirt or the dolman-sleeve tunic top, regardless of how it looks on me.

    1. Why is there no ‘agree’ button?

      On bad fibro days, I reach for my Genie Bra (the weight of my breasts hurts if I don’t wear something), an elastic-waist skirt, and a loose shirt. On *really* bad fibro days, I reach for the Genie Bra and a loose, stretchy pair of underwear, and keep my door shut. If I have to leave the house on a bad pain day of any kind, all I care about is covering up against the sun and getting home ASAP. Honestly, in those cases, my abaya, a good scarf, and some sunblock are my best friends.

      1. I totally understand the comfort thing. I, too, have fibro and need clothes that are looser. Jeans bug me to no end, but I wear them (instead of sweats) to work at our family owned store. I’d actually prefer just sitting home in my PJs because they are loose and 100% cotton, but I know that I need to at least be presentable for customers, so I opt for looser jeans and a big top. I’ve been told by others that I should wear more fitting clothes and that loose t-shirts are unflattering. Well, I could care less if it’s flattering if I am uncomfortable in it or if it irritates my nerves. I also wear jeans with no zipper for some of the same reasons. After my hysterectomy I started wearing them and I tell ya, that was the best thing I ever did!

        1. I love jeans with no zipper & an elastic waist. I have some & I would have nothing BUT those if some designers could get it through their head that a lot of woman want & NEED (I never carry a purse & use my pockets to transport keys, wallet, etc.) functional pockets, including front pockets deep enough to hold things & also cargo pockets with snaps or zippers are nice. I am wearing a very comfortable pair of pull on jeans right now which have perfectly good back pockets, but a smooth front. I don’t like to carry much in my back pockets, I feel as if things fall out of back pockets when I use the toilet more easily & as if it is easier for pickpockets to take things from back pockets.

          PLEASE, people who make pull on jeans & jeggings, include in at least some of them deep, functional front pockets & I will happily give you my money.

          Oh, &, while I would not feel comfortable going shirtless in public, I also agree that it is not fair that mean can run around without shirts but women cannot.

          1. I had a breast reduction done a few years ago because of the pain I was dealing with on a daily basis. Anyway, after exposing my breasts all the time to the doctor I am more free about them now and would have no problem with going shirtless if I could get away with it. I already go braless most of the time. I deliberately wear dark colored shirts that are kinda loose so no one knows and can get ‘offended’ by it. Whoopie Goldberg never wears a bra and she’s on TV every day so why not me? It certainly is more comfortable.

            The pull on jeans I have don’t have very big pockets either and I would pay anything to get some with deeper pockets in the front. I’m even afraid to put anything in the front pockets in case it were to fall out.

  14. I’m not a fan of using words like “disguise” or “manipulate” when it comes to talking about style choices or makeup. “Enhance” is a much better word … Assuming that enhancement is someone’s goal when picking clothing, and it sure as hell doesn’t have to be. Personally I like to wear a minimum amount of makeup, just enough to cover my blemishes and even out my skin tone a bit. So technically I guess there’s an element of “disguise” there, but I try not to think about it that way. When I put on my makeup I tell myself I am enhancing my facial features and natural beauty. I also like wearing lipstick because it enhances my lips, which I think is my best feature, and I think it subtly draws out my eyes as well.
    When I was a teenager I was very self conscious of my body and only wore t-shirts with jeans and often a hoodie over my shirt. It could be a sweltering hot summer day, but if I went out anywhere, I was in jeans, a t-shirt, and a hoodie, if I could hack the hoodie. Then in high school I gradually started experimenting more with clothes and for me it was so liberating. I still do the hoodie and jeans combo at times, there’s nothing at all wrong with it, but it’s nice not to be constrained to it. Now I sometimes wear bright dresses or loose, flowing feminine tops, or sometimes a darker (black, grey or dark blue) more practical blouse… I love being able to express different aspects of myself with different styles of clothes and jewellery. Granted, being slim, it’s probably easier for me, because I don’t have to struggle to find clothes that fit.
    Of course, everyone has different limits. I personally don’t prioritize comfort over style, but I never wear high heels. Too much work learning to walk in them, in my opinion. Plus they make your feet sore and are apparently quite bad for your orthopaedic health (not really a surprise).
    Bottom line is, though, none of us owe it to anyone else to dress a particular way, or do our hair and makeup in any particular way (or even at all, in the case of those last two). True freedom and choice comes from doing whatever suits us best. Personally I find it a self-esteem boost to wear clothing that makes me feel attractive, sexy or cute, but I totally understand that’s not the case for everyone, and plenty of women find it more liberating to not concern themselves with “enhancement”. To claim that clothing is only “thoughtfully chosen” if it enhances a woman’s body shape is ridiculous. As Ragen points out, there are plenty of other factors people consider or prioritize when selecting clothes. Plus, it’s easier for some than others. When you’re slim, you already have the body shape preferred and accepted by society, so “manipulating” or “enhancing” that shape is pretty simple. Also, you typically have the power to choose clothing mostly based on what you like, because finding the right size is rarely an issue. But if we expect fat women to conform to these narrow expectations, we are asking that they spend extra time finding clothing that both fits and meets a conventional idea of “flattering” (or “slimming”, basically). Otherwise, they are being sloppy or heedless with their clothing choices. I think most of us can find better uses for our time.

  15. Nice commentary, but you forgot the most important reason: I wore it because it was the only thing I could find that wasn’t covered with cat hair. 😀

    1. I could wash my clothes everyday and they would still be covered in cat hair!

      So my motto is “I ain’t dressed until it has at least one cat hair on it.”

    2. LOL. I can totally relate. You can tell I own a cat because I keep my ironing board covered in sheets when not in use and I own four or five lint rollers. Also the last coat I bought was grey, and the next one will be too (my cat has long grey and white fur). 😛

      1. I have a black cat, and a grey and white one, so no matter what I wear, it has cat hair on it and it shows. Well except if my black cat rolls all over my black clothes.

        1. As someone who has been cat-owned her entire existence, I can assure you all that every cat has a special supply of fur that does not ever show on their bodies, but is precisely the shade best adapted to show up on whatever you happen to be wearing.

          Jake is a pale marmalade stripe, and yet I sometimes discover the odd brown or even black hair on my clothes, even when I wasn’t communing with a kitty who is not Jake.

          And there was a time when I had a pure black cat. She would get up off my lap, and I would somehow be awash in white fur. Go figure.

  16. Reblogged this on The Cheese Whines and commented:
    Personally, I feel that the first function of clothing is to be protective, i.e., so you don’t burn your butt on a hot car seat.
    Given that this is the first function of clothing, I found myself baffled by what I found when I went into a “sports bar” to apply for a bartending job.
    Granted, I may be naive. When I saw “sports bar,” I was thinking that I might be allowed to do my job wearing a local team jersey or such. Instead, I walked in to find very scantily dressed staff, including the bartender, who was wearing what looked like a bikini top with a barely there mini skirt.
    I’ve worked as a bartender before. I always ended up leaving the place smelling like a brewery. I splashed stuff on myself throughout the shift, including beer and other spirits, and soap and sanitizer from the glass-washing sink.
    Maybe I’m just clumsy, but I don’t want that stuff on my skin.
    I turned and walked out. Even if I had the desired body for such an environment, I really would not want to work in a place which sees its female employees as pieces of ass.

  17. I really dislike the “Oh you look great have you lost weight?” when I hit the gym. No I haven’t it is because I am wearing black. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not wearing black to hide my body but I am hiding the sweat stains and whatever else may have been on the equipment I was using.

    I wear color as a rule, do I look like an Easter egg 90% of the time? Yeah, do I give a flying fuck? Nope!

  18. Since becoming disabled, those suits & skirts & ESPECIALLY those heels-rarely see the light of day! I love it! I’m glad I don’t work anymore, I’m afraid of the beyond HIGH heels!

  19. I’m surprised that this hasn’t been brought up– Nudists are the most body accepting group I have ever encountered. Never any snarking or shaming. I live fairly near one of the best nude beaches in America and I highly recommend going to a clothing optional club or beach. Don’t forget sunblock of course.

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