The art of being dowdy

"The art of being dowdy  "For some time now, I’ve not felt in the vein of a ‘proper woman’ at what time it comes to fashions. All in the region of me I perceive ‘put-together’ women who be acquainted with how to match shoes to skirt to conjure tops, and I recognize that someplace the length of the stripe I opted to for security rather than impudence.

My individual ‘dowdification’, the fine art of dress down, began later than my family stimulated to the whitest, the majority middle-class neighborhood in Australia. Once upon a time I’d gladly rocked the noisy op-shop skirts my mother bought with dazzling red tights and hand-me-down exclusive rights leather shoes. But on appearance at ‘Stepford Primary’, the Queen Bee of Grade Five gave me a on a daily basis fashion re-education.

Lesson 1. Never show pride. (“You must think you’re so special with those shiny loud shoes.”)

Lesson 2. There is only one colour: muted. (“Don’t you know that pink and red don’t go?”)

I finally saved up adequate pocket money for a voyage to Just Jeans and by no means looked reverse. I recognize I’m not alone in trouncing my sartorial light under a mountain. But what does bombshell me, later than an immediate survey among friends, was how a great deal people ‘dowdify’ for others – and how much their weight plays a part.

“When I was 20 kilos heavier, I thought I had to deny my femininity”, said Veronica, a medical researcher. “Inside I desperately wanted acceptance… but outside I didn’t look like the woman I thought I was supposed to be. I was afraid if I wore something pink for example, people would say ‘who are you to be feminine? You’re not a ‘proper woman’.”

"Lifestyle"It appears that ‘Dowdifying’ is not just a downy sartorial concern, but a compound psychological one. And while there are lots of and varied rationales for doing so, the one unifying characteristic is security. While Veronica dowdified as a means to apologies for her weight and run away mockery, others dress down to keep away from what they see as ‘offending’ others by standing out.

In my premature twenties, I noticed that other women were frequently stand-offish unless I completed super-human attempt to demonstrate that I was not an intimidation. It didn’t assist that I’m extremely giant, so the consequence of whatever I wore was exacerbated. Ultimately it presently seemed easier to just dress a little bit ‘less than’ so others felt more comfortable, rather than going in guns blazing and having people articulate ‘Who does she think she is?’

Dressing down completed I am aware of safer. Not only could I keep away from male concentration I couldn’t grip, but I avoided the bloodthirsty watch of other women. In my underlying principle, dowdifying destined people would like me more.

But for yoga teacher Donna, who doesn’t consider in dressing down, these attitude smacks of insensitivity. “Not making an effort is a kind of arrogance,” says Donna. “It’s saying that in some way we believe we’re better than others and if we show up, they’ll be threatened by us.” In other words, ‘dowdifying’ can be like a reverse status symbol. The statement being not so much ‘Check me out, I have the legs for this mini’, but “I’m so gorgeous I can get away with dressing like a 80s accountant.”

Inquisitively, the ‘Who do you think you are’ syndrome doesn’t just affect women. My partner (a gamer, never far from a howdy and a console) recently went to Italy, and started taking a shine to tailored shirts and designer jeans during the trip. “How long did it take you to want to dress like that?” I asked him. (After all, this is a man who has a deep suspicion of collars.) “After arrival?” he asked. “About twenty minutes. But it’s different over there; people dress up just to walk down the street. If you don’t, people look at you like you’ve got no self-respect.” Sadly, the Italian tailoring didn’t last in Melbourne. You’d get called out for being ‘stuck up’ for making too much of an effort here.

What struck me in the photos from Italy was that people did not look stuck up. They looked proud. From the street sweepers to the baristas, it was a pride that seemed elevating, not arrogant. When my partner returned to work in the non-threatening hoodies and sneakers of his colleagues, part of me felt sad. I realised that when we dress down, presumably to make others feel better, we all lose out as life becomes a little more colourless.

Donna is right, there is an arrogance in dowdifying. Looking at the hipsters on my tram, I realise we probably spend just as much on our carefully understated outfits of charcoal and steel as the ‘show ponies’ we ridicule, and have less fun doing it.

When I think of the women whose style I admire, there’s no defining trend; no Kate Middleton-inspired waistline, nothing you could quantify in Vogue. Yet there are rules. Whether it’s cut-offs and heels, or a strapless gown and denim jacket, these women 1. Dress unapologetically. 2. Dress in a way that feels good to them. It’s called chutzpah. Respect.

– Alice Williams is an author and yoga teacher. She tutors in media writing at the University of Melbourne and blogs at

Courtesy: Alice Williams and Stuff