Now, I remember the days when my roommate dressed in skintight spandex top to bottom a la Olivia Newton-John in the final scene of "Grease" and was faux-astonished at the amount of attention she gleaned. I was a Deviled Egg - red turtleneck and tights, egg-shaped sandwich board with a satin tail sticking out the back, red horns, makeup, pitchfork. The sauciest comment I got was from a guy dressed as a chicken who asked "did I lay you?"
(Actually, that's not quite right. A fellow came up to me and asked "How's your bed?" I was flustered, taken aback and thinking this was the most forward man I' ever met until I recognized him as the guy from the local furniture store who, yes, sold me my bed four months earlier.)
When it's come to costumes, I've always opted for witty over sexy, which may go far towards explaining my single girl status. One year I spent the afternoon before Halloween painstakingly sewing mousetraps and plastic army men and tanks onto an enormous brassiere that my neighbor Donna had dyed olive green. We made her a matching hat and skirt out of tulle. And she was...a Booby Trap! Brilliant. I was also a "Glamour Don't" one year, with a mishmash of uncoordinated clothing and a black strip of cardboard with tiny eyeholes, attached to a pair of sunglasses. The women at the party all roared with laughter, the guys just blinked in confusion.
But lately, the only ones I see in smart and witty costumes are either men or dogs. You heard that right - one of the winning entrants at the annual dog run Howl-oween party was a big mixed breed hound dressed as a Chilean miner, complete with a flashlight attached to her belt. Two years ago she won as a "polar bear for Obama." The best human costume I saw this year was a fellow dressed as a bed bug. Very topical for New York.
As I said before, most weekends could be mistaken for Halloween here in the Village and I've noticed that twenty- and thirty-something women continue to wear skimpy clothing as eveningwear. Really, a dress so short you need a bikini wax to wear it. Really? One evening while taking my Cairn terrier Petey for a late night walk, I passed Whitney Port, of "The Hills" and "The City" reality tv fame. Easily 5'10" tall, she was even more giraffe-like in 5" platform heels. At 5'7" in my flats, this put my eye level approximately at Whitney's crotch, which was barely concealed by a flap of fabric. I have belts that are wider than her skirt.
And she is not the exception but the rule. On a nightly basis, I see women teeter-tottering over cobblestones in nosebleed high heels, in all kinds of weather. Only a few can saunter by with Carrie Bradshaw bravado, most tiptoe like geishas or lurk on their stilts, more precariously with every subsequent cocktail.
It also seems the shorter the skirt, the higher the heel, the louder the pitch of her voice. Shrieking in delight at seeing her friends, shrieking into the omnipresent cellphone between courses in restaurants, shrieking drunkenly at her boyfriend—"I've always had your back, fuck you!"slurs under my bedroom window at 4:00 a.m.
What has happened to grace? I was an early feminist in my teens and twenties and I look at these girls and they seem to have slid backwards by decades. Here's my impression: They want to be objectified. They'd rather be noticed for their appearance rather than their intelligence or point-of-view. They don't want to be seen as too smart or too funny as it could be threatening to that guy they're going to yell at, right around 4:00 am under my window.
Now, I also realize, as a 52-year old woman writing this, that I can definitely sound bitter, overly conservative and well, just plain old. Yes, I do remember wearing a thigh-skimming Norma Kamali tee-shirt dress with the Flashdance-inspired neckline that would slide provocatively off one shoulder then the other. Today it would be a tunic-length top. Then I wore it as a dress. (But with flats!) I had my love affair with mini-skirts that skimmed my knuckles when I held my hands at my side. But that was in high school - by the time I was in college and then in the workplace, I'd gained a sense of appropriateness.
Is "appropriate" even a word that's still relevant when it comes to fashion for the under 40 set? I hope so. I hate to see what I have to perceive as the dumbing down of women today—young women who seem to feel what they think and say is much less important than how they look.
I had a male friend tell me years ago, "You can't spot a great personality across a bar, Jane." To which I responded, "Yes, but you can't really talk to a Barbie doll for more than a few minutes." Beauty can fade, intelligence only attains a gleaming sheen.