Magpie Men Speak Up

In Accessories, Shoes, Sundresses on August 19, 2010 at 9:55 pm

While Mr. Magpie is fashion-conscious and always in-the-know when it comes to fine men’s clothing, he bristles when it comes to the female wardrobe.  You should see him in a women’s clothing store — his whole body language changes when he enters: he stiffens his back and an expression of I-shouldn’t-be-here confusion crosses his face as he frantically looks around for a couch or chair or “men’s waiting area.”  So when he talks about women’s clothes, I’m always eager to hear what he notices and how he processes it.  On our way back from the honeymoon, he did a double (more like quadruple) take when he saw a young lady wearing harem pants in the security line.  His eyes were like saucers — “what is wrong with that woman’s pants??  It looks like she’s wearing a dirty diaper or something.”

Dhoti pants on the street

I had to laugh — he was so baffled and concerned.  Thank you, Balmain, for jumpstarting that trend.

Balmain on the runway

His commentary left me wondering about the ways men relate to women’s fashion more generally — i.e. what else is there that women might find chic and trendy but men find hideous and unapproachable?  I drafted a brief survey of questions (you can check it out here, but please do not respond unless you are a gent, as it will skew the results) and circulated it to some of my male friends, eager to determine whether they would share Mr. Magpie’s disdain for the dhoti.  I was surprised to find — amongst a sea of nay-saying responses — “My aunt owns a boutique in Gordonsville and is VERY fashion forward.  She wore these at Christmas and I loved them.”  I’m impressed.  Few women are as open to “out there” fashions as this bloke.  (Though I have to say that I concur with the male consensus: dhotis are not OK.)  The other responses were just too colorful not to share — here are a few of my favorites:

  • “Don’t like them. Look like a combo of saggy diapers and MC Hammer pants. They are like skorts but worse.”
  • “They look like Eeyore’s training diapers. Scheherazade called, she wants her sexy back.”
  • “Looks like they messed their pants and that’s why the pants are sagging.”
  • “Makes it look like you pooed your pants.  Why not just wear a skirt and tights?”
  • “I think they are awful and should never be worn. It looks like they have a little something extra between their legs (if you get my drift, especially the one on the left). Plus it does nothing to show the backside, which is a big negative.”
  • “Leave the dhotis to Gandhi.”
  • “First word that comes to mind: Diapers. These are the most embarrassing things I’ve seen in a long time. Girls — if you don’t want guys to hit on you, wear these pants.”

After I’d laughed for about 23 minutes straight, I found myself a bit more touched, more intrigued by some of the other (more insightful) comments I received.  When asked about red lipstick, several indicated that makeup is altogether unnecessary and in fact distracting: “Ideally, girls wear no make up at all” said one; “It distracts me from looking at the rest of her face, like her eyes” said another.  One more proactive respondent suggested that girls “stick to lip gloss.”  (I’m not in love with the texture of lip gloss, but cannot live without Fresh’s Sugar Rose lip treatment — $22.50, Neiman’s.  Don’t be warded off by the rich color in the picture below — it leaves just the slightest smudge of color, tastes wonderful, and truly moisturizes.)

According to the gents, this look is not so hot, Penelope

The majority of guys claim that they will forgo “sexy dressing” when it comes to their girlfriends, in fact preferring them to wear “classic” styles — and by and large would rather see you in a casual sundress than a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, which surprised me.  I feel that Cosmo and those other trash bag mags are always telling me that guys prefer the totally dressed-down, un-done look.  (Of course, one respondent claimed he’d prefer girls to wear “nothing at all.”  Saw that one coming a mile away.)  But by and large their responses tended to confirm what I suspected: that guys are generally open to girls wearing different styles and trends as long as they do so confidently and with a sense of proportion.  Most of the guys either did not notice or were impressed with the metallic oxfords Olivia Palermo is wearing in the pic below:

This caught me off guard.  One of my wonderful readers asked whether she should test the style herself, and I was forthright in admitting that I honestly didn’t know.  Palermo did so successfully, balancing the menswear-inspired shoes with the femininity of her full skirt and oversized, slouchy bag.  It works.  But on the average person?  Hard to gauge, to be honest.  Most guys were equally open to the panama hat that’s been all over the place this season (you know it’s mainstream when it shows up in J. Crew), which I feel many girls I know have been a bit squeamish about.  (I like it.)  Of the Bilson picture below, one thoughtful gent observed: “The hat is fine, but, in my naive fashion sense, it doesn’t seem to go with the dress.”

The main message throughout was that guys tend to look at the overall package — the bigger picture — and are confused when asked about specific elements of their outfit, which means to me: girls, have at it.  If you wear it like you know what you’re doing, you win.  For example, many of the guys found Sienna Miller’s oddball hippie outfit (she was at Coachella, so…anything goes) bewildering, but couldn’t really articulate why (most also added that she was “hot”); most of them liked Bilson’s getup, but didn’t know what to make of the hat; and when asked about the clogs below (Chanel brand — clogs were this season on the runway, but more on that later), most of them commented on her nice legs/thought they could be OK-looking but were also baffled by the style.  (Incidentally, I cruelly asked them to identify what “type” of shoe the model was wearing and received a range of dubious: “pumps?” “heels?” “stilettos?”  Every single response was accompanied by an uncertain question mark.)

Sienna Miller at the Coachella Music Festival

Clogs on the Chanel runway

There were some choice responses to my query about the above picture (“If you saw a girl wearing the shoes above, what would your response be?”), including: “Don’t fall,” “Please fall,” “I feel like I’m in a Vermeer painting,” “Anger because she now probably towers over me,” and, more typically: “I don’t really care, but nice legs.”

I share these results not because I think they should dramatically influence the way we dress — let’s be honest: most girls dress for other girls, at least in the sense that we anticipate that only girls will truly appreciate our efforts (as confirmed by the responses above).  But maybe you’ll feel a bit less hemmed in by the fact that guys generally don’t notice the details, but do recognize a well-dressed, well-put-together woman.  And if you take nothing else from the Magpie Men: avoid dhotis.

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