Walking downtown, one beautiful, sunny Jerusalem morning, I noticed a woman coming towards me. She must have been in her sixties and she had Style with a capital S. Dressed head to toe in varying shades of dark green, she’d also stylishly arranged a scarf around her neck. Her look was perfection. I stared at her from behind my dark sunglasses, absorbing every detail.
And then I noticed something… She was staring right back at me, checking me out in return. I was flattered to have caught the attention of someone with obvious good taste. I smiled at her, recognizing our shared sisterhood in the fellowship of Women Who Own Their Style.
It won’t shock anyone to note that men check women out. Perhaps less commonly recognized is the fact that women also check one another out. Sometimes we stare more blatantly; sometimes, more surreptitiously. Women’s thoughts – on quite a different wavelength from the thoughts of men! – go something like this:
“I love that top! Where did she get that top? I must ask her.” (And often, I do.)
“Ooh, I love those shoes. I wish I could walk in those shoes!”
“That whole look is so well pulled together. What is it that makes it work so well?”
Sometimes I stop strange women in the street, just to tell them I love something about their outfit. Sometimes I ask them where they purchased a particular item.
And you know what? There’s always a story. How she fell in love with it and saved up for it. How it was a family heirloom passed down from her grandmother. The trouble she went through to track it down and buy it. That she loved it so much, she bought three identical ones.
I love hearing those stories.
For those fortunate enough to live in the Western world where we have the privilege of choosing what we wear, our clothes are us. They set us apart from everyone else. They allow us to express ourselves. They are a reflection of us, they are a part of us, they are us. It’s not shallow; it is a recognition of the ownership we’re fortunate to have over our own self-expression. Just ask the people forced to wear uniforms at work, in prison or in communist countries.
But back to women checking one another out: We start out young.
A few days ago, around Purim, I was walking by the Mahane Yehuda shuk. I found myself behind a small group of children that included one very impressive bride in an elaborate white lace-trimmed gown with giant puffed sleeves and flowing veil (pictured to the left).
As I was trying to sneak a stealth picture of the puffy-sleeved-bride, a family strolled by in the opposite direction, their young daughter also dressed as a bride (pictured to the right).
Puffy-sleeved-bride’s head swiveled 180 degrees as she stared at the other bride, and not in a subtle way. She appraised the younger girl intently for a good 15 seconds as the other little girl walked on, completely oblivious to the scrutiny.
I was agog with curiosity. What was puffy-sleeved-bride thinking as she checked out the other bride so overtly? Was she looking on approvingly or critically? I really wish I could have asked her.
I can tell you what I was thinking…
“That’s a fashionista in the making.”