"The women who dress to repel men"

I was recently interviewed by Liz Kearney for her article in the Irish Independent. The article referred to one of my favourite blogs, The Man Repeller.

Transcript of this (really good) article for all of you below!

“The latest big fashion trend is turning men’s heads away in disgust, writes Liz Kearney.

Gemma Sherlock’s favourite outfit is a one-shouldered velvet jumpsuit in a lush shade of petrol green. When she’s getting ready for a big night out, she teams it with an oversized leather belt with gold buckle, gre shoe boots and fuschia pink nails.
Her sister’s boufriend calls the jumpsuit the Kermit suit. Because it’s green, you hope, not because it makes Gemma look like a frog. Her bother isn’t keen in it either. In fact, men in general tend to be confused by it.
“But I think it’s amazing”, she says,”and women love it.” And for Gemma, a 30-year-old stylist, this is all that matters. Men don’t count.
Welcome to the world of Man Repeller: women who deliberately wear clothes they know the opposite sex won’t like.
The term was invented by hip New York fashion writer Leandra Medine, who was chosen as one of 2012’s best bloggers by Time magazine.
Medine spells it out on her website. Man repelling, she writes, is “outfitting oneself in a sartorially offensive mode that may result in repelling members of the opposite sex. Such garments include but are not limited to harem pants, boyfriend jeans, overalls (see: human repelling), shoulder pads, full-length jumpsuits, jewellery that resembles violent weaponry and clogs”.
The look is androgynous, even masculine, and includes lots of mish-mashed styles, oversized men’s shirts, clashing prints and denim cut-offs. To the uninitiated eye, it looks very much like the opposite of sex.
“It’s not about fashion in it’s classic sense,” explains Gemma. “It’s about a very individualistic approach to dressing, wearing clashing patterns, or a crazy pair of boots with an outfit”.
“It’s a very brave look which breaks a lot of rules,” says Anna Kozlowska, a 26-year-old fashion blogger. “It’s definitely too much for people who wouldn’t be into fashion – and for most straight men, I suppose.
It’s probably an odd look that not only doesn’t work but a;sp looks rather mad. I love it.”
Man repellers admire the kind of outfits favoured by Alexa Chung (“she dresses how she likes and she doesn’t give a s*** what anyone thinks of her”, says Gemma), Chloe Sevigny, and Lady Gaga, whose infamous dress made from meat must rank among the all-time great man repellers.
They do not, generally, have much time for the all-out sexiness favoured by most female pop stars or the perma-tanned, deep-cleavaged look adopted by reality TV stars.

So are the man repellers making a feminist statement? Are they reacting to the sexification of pop culture by retreating into a gender-neutral hideout of boyfriend jeans?
“I don’t think it’s a feminist thing,” says Gemma.
“Fashion is one of the areas where women have the upper hand. I believe that it’s still a man’s world, but form a fashion point of view, women have a lot more scope. But it’s not for everyone,” she concedes,”and it takes a certain type of person to carry it off. People are going to look at you, and you kind of have to shrug it off.”
That the look is so popular among influential female stylists and key fashion figures proves something we’ve long suspected: women are usually dressing for other women.
Medine herself says: “Good fashion is about pleasing women, not men, so as it happens, the trends that we love, men hate. And that is fantastic.”
“Most women wouldn’t admit it,” says Anna, “but that’s pretty much what it comes down to.”
“We all have days when we just go with what we want and really not care about others’ opinions but for women, I think most of the time it’s about what other women will say.”
So what are Anna’s own most successful man repelling outfits?
“My most commented-on pieces were spiked white ankle boots, printed pants and shirts and oversized fur, or my harem pants, waistcoat and a pair of heels combo. That just didn’t go down well, even with my boyfriend.”
Ha! A boyfriend! So Anna has not totally succeeded in her mission to repel men, although, she admits, it did take the boyfriend a while to get used to her quirky sense of style.
“Initially, he found some of my clothes crazy”, she says. “He still does, I suppose, but I am happy to keep the more fashion-forward outfits to fashion-related scenarios when he’s not around and stick to more down to earth stuff on a daily basis.”
You can break the boys in, though, she adds, given patience. “I think men get used to new trends and looks as well – my boyfriend wouldn’t look twice at my pyjama pants and heels combo anymore.”
“Also, if I feel like wearing my white boots today, I will.”

Even Medine herself, the ultimate man repeller, found she could not keep romance at bay: last summer she got married, wearing an utterly fabulous – and extremely feminine – Marchesa gown.
But Gemma is adamant that if it was a choice between her beloved Kermit jumpsuit or a boyfriend whi just didn’t get the whole thing, she’d choose the jumpsuit. Every time, and without question.
“If I was to meet someone who was bothered by the way I dressed, I’d have to end it”, she says firmly. “I am not going to start dressing like Cheryl Cole just because they don’t like my trousers.” And the fact she remains single has nothing to do with her dress sense, she believes.
“On the whole, Irish men are not really great at approaching women,” she points out.
“But then again, maybe that’s because I’m wearing a green jumpsuit.”

As published by the Irish Independent, 21st February 2013

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