Do Women Dress to Please Men?


This question comes up every so often, for instance, whenever hemlines suddenly grow longer or get shorter, signalling a shift in what women want, or more likely, what designers believe women want.

It’s popular belief that women dress in order to please men. Certainly, that may have been true at some point, particularly when the established rules of courtship made it perfectly appropriate, if not mandatory, to do so in order to attract a suitable husband and provider. But times have changed, and I’d like to think that we have too.

No doubt some women still dress to please the opposite sex, but perhaps teasing, rather than pleasing is the operative word, as writer Alexander Black argues. However, it can also be argued that this exercise is pointless given that most men could care less about how much effort a woman puts into her accoutrement. But teasing aside, it is presumptuous, disappointing, and frankly annoying when men (and some women) are quick to assume that all women prescribe to the latter principle. Oddly enough, people now purport that women dress up to please other women. Granted, women are known to compete with one another in the classroom, and the boardroom, so it isn’t entirely far-fetched to assume that the closet would be no exception.

Ultimately, is it so terribly difficult to believe that women simply take pleasure in dressing for dressing’s sake, partaking in an age-old cultural ritual of self-adornment?

Dressing up is play, it is art (art is meant to be consumed), and most importantly, it is satisfying in and of itself.

As Black contends, and rightly so, although some women dress up with the sole purpose to impress men, while others do it for the sheer pleasure, if men have forgone the act of dressing to impress women, and now dress to their heart’s content, why is it the least bit surprising that women have chosen to do the same?

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