People used to say, “Clothes make the man.” That was true. Before the French Revolution, commoners were prohibited by law from dressing like nobles, so a person’s class was recognizable from their clothes. Clothing was a sign of status, wealth and power.
Today celebrities wear jeans, and commoners can buy designer knock-offs, so it’s hard to tell who’s who from the way they look. Only male politicians seem to wear status uniforms all the time – dark suits, solid ties, flag lapel pins, and boring shoes.
Even if they no longer identify class, our clothes still make an impression on others, and are designed to do just that. Wearers, designers, and manufacturers collaborate to create individual looks, which are always socially influenced and sometimes socially prescribed. In the American world I see in my small hometown and everywhere else, the look prescribed for women is sexy. And I think it’s a mistake for women to capitulate to that fashion in their everyday dress.