For the past several years, I have observed an increase in the amount of women's clothing items imprinted with the word "love". Victoria’s Secret, chain stores, budget lines, and high-end brands alike are plastering their casual wear and t-shirts with the word. A chain retailer called Love Culture emerged, and there is even a fashion magazine titled with the misnomer Love. Of course, men’s clothing is devoid of any love, caring, or romance messages.
My initial reaction to the love messaging was disappointment at society’s attempt to keep women in the role of nurturer. Women are imposed with a duty to provide unwavering love to men, who are supposed to be the recipients of women's love and devotion. A woman is taught to always prioritize her love for her family, children, and pets. If a woman fails to exhibit this characteristic signifying femininity, she could be labeled cold or a misfit. Oppressive dismissal of women is often justified on associating them with love and other supposedly distracting emotions.
I realize my opinion is subjective, and another woman could like wearing the message and be completely empowered in her choice. The large quantity of “love” items for sale is what puzzles me. Why is this a trend that refuses to die? Instead it has spread, despite no discernible increase in profits from adding the word onto more items. Any attempts to emulate the well-known Victoria’s Secret’s “love pink” trademark are no longer savvy because the word “love” and its placement have been genericized. Thus, companies are probably not trying to boost sales by capitalizing on consumer preference.
Although overusing “love” is better than pushing other blatantly gendered or sexist messages on clothes, it reminds me that the clothing industry and our culture are irresponsible and lazy towards women in a way that frequently sabotages them. The Photoshopped and sexualized marketing images that women view can be damaging to self-esteem. Furthermore, inconsistent and often arbitrary sizing of women’s attire can do further damage to women's self-assessments. Sizing and the way clothing is cut can fool uninformed young women into thinking their bodies are somehow not normal. Confusion sometimes exists over bra fitting because manufacturers “size out” women above and below the small standard range carried in most stores, and might not have updated measuring guides to account for modern stretch fabric. This strategy allows companies to save money and fit as many women as possible into the standard range. With all of the cost-cutting that manufacturers and retailers do, women may begin to feel inadequate. Women are already scrutinized more than men for their wardrobe choices. Many attempts to help women create their own versions of power dressing without over-thinking seem resigned to the fact that sexuality must necessarily be read into every choice. When many women are finally content with a few fashion styles they determine work best for them, conservative sections of the country attempt to punish them.
While many of us realize that others’ negative perceptions can be harming us, what about the feeling of discomfort in our own minds? Embodied cognition studies confirm that we can manifest thinking and behaviors in line with our perception of the roles our clothing puts us in. Perhaps this is one underlying motivation behind reviving skirts and feminine details at times when women are seen as stepping outside traditional roles. The “love” messaging could be a reminder to prioritize romance and interpersonal relationships in an age when more women are choosing casual relationships and attempting to step down from constant care-taking.
Everyone has observations about women's clothing. What kinds of fashion trends or messages have subtly bothered you lately?