It’s all about the clothing

I read an article today (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/04/why-women-bike-and-why-they-dont.php?campaign=daily_nl) based on a survey of why women choose to bicycle or not to bicycle.

The reasons include what you might expect: it’s cheaper, it’s more fun, I’m doing my part to keep the Earth clean, and so forth.

But here’s a surprising one that caught my attention: It gives me a chance to show off my sense of style.

OK. That’s another reminder, not that we needed one, that what women do and why they do it nearly always contain a huge component of wardrobe considerations.

For example, I know this couple that go dancing fairly regularly. The woman likes to dance, and the man likes to watch her dance and also likes to make her happy. So he throws on a nice pair of pants and a shirt, puts on his dancing shoes, and willingly takes a few turns about the floor. But one of the big reasons the woman likes to go dancing is that it gives her an additional venue for what I’ll call “wardrobe activity.”

Every time they go dancing, she gets to choose what top and bottom, plus shoes (and underwear, or lack of it, suitable for her outer clothing) she’s going to wear for that evening. Her choice of outfit also entails choices of jewelry, makeup, and hairstyle. And she loves making those choices. But her clothing choices don’t get made in a vacuum. Oh, no! She can choose only from what’s in her closet. So the need to get dressed for dancing fuels a need to go shopping fairly regularly. She finds a new top she likes. But then she needs a skirt or a pair of pants to go with it. That requires new shoes, and perhaps a new purse. She can’t wear the same jewelry too often, so she needs to maintain a regular flow of new earrings, necklaces, and bracelets coming into her dressing room.

It works the other way, too. She finds a great dress or a cute jacket, so then she not only has to fill in the rest of the outfit to wear with that dress or jacket, she needs to find a place to wear them.

I remember when guys used to exercise and gals didn’t. The gyms were not only smelly, they were a sea of baggy grey sweat shirts and sweat pants. Then the gals found the gyms, I think it might have begun with something called Dancercise. Whatever. Pretty soon the women were wearing colorful and clingy outfits covering and revealing various parts of their bodies in a wide variety of styles and fabrics. Not just shorts or pants and a shirt, but layers! Something with long sleeves under something with short sleeves. Leggings or tights under some style of shorts. FloJo famously beat the pants off her competition wearing just one leg of her leggings. (Someone has yet to explain to me why male runners wear regular floppy shorts while women runners favor something closer to bikini bottoms. Is it so the male runners will be more inclined to stay behind them? So male fans of the sport will be more willing to watch the women, who run slower than men but generally look a whole lot better doing it? Or what?)

And then there were the revolutionary Sixties, when you could pretty much discern a women’s political stance by her wardrobe: suits and alligator handbags = trickle down economics; bush jackets and berets = power to the people (although I’m sure the language of political clothing styles was far more complicated than I, a mere man, could possible recognize).

Back to bicycles: It has been decades since engineers proved that women’s bikes are structurally less stable and therefore less efficient than men’s bikes. You gals have to pedal harder just to go the same distance in the same time as your male companions. But women still favor the “no crossbar” style of bicycle frame. Is that so they don’t have to wear pants, but can mount and dismount their bicycles with modesty while wearing skirts? Now that I’ve been alerted to the “sense of style” that some women are happy to express by bicycling, I’m waiting for a new line of clothing designed expressly for the female cyclist.

And no doubt, so are they.

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