Dress, Gender and the Public Display of Skin

Posted on November 1, 2012



“who wore khaki pants and a casual blouse which was chided by onlookers who told her that she was not properly dressed.”‘

-Ironically to see the difference that it it is not proper to the Kalabari but is used as a uniform and professional dress in the Western culture.

“For the vertical lines found in the gowns and wrappers emphasize the hat and head of men, the location of decision-making.”

“The horizontal lines of women’s wrappers and blouses emphasize the roundness of the fertile or potentially fertile woman.”




Before formally studying fashion, growing up I noticed the difference of men and women’s dress. In early adolescence I was dressed by my mother in super cute outfits surrounding Western holidays and traditions. By the time I reached middle school I noticed the difference of what the boys were wearing compared to the girls. However, the greatest changing point for me was during my college years. After turning 18, I occasionally went to-night clubs because this was on of the “privileges” of becoming an adult. Nothing upset me more than dress code, Guys could get into a club in Hollywood in any pair of jeans, a graphic tee, and their sneakers. Waiting in line to get in I would obsessively observe the difference between genders. Being a women, the stereotyped club outfit was a shorts dress and high heels. How is this benefiting me? I always complained to my friends saying how is it fair that we had to be soooo uncomfortable as well as cold the whole night while they were in their everyday street wear. I have often been hushed about this statement saying “why do you always complain?” or “Relax, you’ll be fine.” This is when I began to slowly dress more and more casually to school, work, and on my leisure time to what is evolved into jeans and a tee/hoodie.

The people of Kalabari still use dress as a form of rank as well as stages of life and compared to the Western world of formal dress such as the example of weddings. In both cultures, the women expose more of the bodies and specifically skin while men dress in several layers covered from head to toe. Some believe it has to do with women bearing children and showing the different stages in their life such as, when they’re developing. However, I believe it makes them more vulnerable than the male sex. Following along with what is believed to be appropriate to wear leads others to think its ok as well as yourself eventually. I believe to dress for yourself rather than others and be comfortable in everything you wear. You’re the one wearing it!



Posted in: ART 302