Thursday, December 29, 2011

On bodycon

Sweater: JCPenney
Belt: Old Navy
Ring: class ring
Skirt: JCPenney
Booties: Old Navy
Nails: butter London Bluey

In my internet travels over the past few months, I've come across the term bodycon, especially in reference to a certain style of dress, eg. the Herve Leger skin-tight curve-hugging band aid dresses that look so amazing on Kim K. For a long time (threeish months) my brain filled the blank for me and expanded bodycon into body confidence, and I operated on the assumption that this is what bodycon stood for. I recently realised that I didn't actually know the full meaning of the term, so I looked it up. Lo and behold, I was wrong--even according to the Oxford English Dictionary, bodycon actually stands for body-conscious.

In my mind, these two phrases have very different meanings. Conscious, sometimes misconstrued as conscientious, is a rather dubious term that is usually reserved for the easily influenced (or awake). Being self-conscious is rarely seen as a good thing, for example; especially when we compare ourselves to society, the self-conscious label is attached to those who battle low self esteem or with sociological struggles. To be conscious of a subject is colloquially to notice it in a critical light, rather than an optimally positive one. Confidence implies something entirely different, of course--we all want to feel, look and be confident, and we all want to be recognised as such. We strive, day in and day out, to be taken seriously by others, and at the root of successfully winning a client, helping a patron or passing a test is confidence. The confidence to say that I will pass that oral final, that I will find that book with the green cover and the dog (really, that happened once), that I will crack that glass ceiling. That I will wear this outfit--this outfit will not wear me.

So why is bodycon a placeholder for an ambiguous at best, insulting at worst, loaded term thrown around today at the outsiders of the crowd like it's a disease? The women with the chutzpah to wear bodycon dresses are, to me, anything but body-conscious. Instead, they are self aware and understanding of the power of confidence, which is what is instilled in them when they wear this style of clothing. Perhaps it is the strain that society places on perceived attractiveness that brings this terminology to the forefront--the insinuation that we aren't just noticing how another woman dresses, but we are noting it with a critical eye.

I, personally, refuse to give into the true terminology of bodycon; rather, I prefer to keep in mind that any woman willing to slide into a Herve Leger dress or a hip skimming pencil skirt--myself included--deserves the utmost respect for displaying her confidence first and her self-consciousness second. The idea that even as we praise a woman for embracing her body we compress her successful confidence by attaching a cleverly disguised backhanded compliment is gauche, and I refuse to fall victim to the ruse.

Outfit (and, ultimately, post) inspired by this pin.

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