Who do women dress up for, really?

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Ask a million different people who do women dress up for, and you’ll get a million different answers. The common candidates, however, won’t come as a surprise—while some version of ‘women dress up for men’ has been parroted down the ages, others have cause to believe that they dress up for other women. Yet another strain of thought suggests that women dress up as an expression of their creativity and world view. The conflicting views are perhaps to be expected—the confines of a woman’s wardrobe have a long-standing political history, mired in societal subtext. The endeavour to discern whom women actually dress up for can then only begin from one point—the place where it all began.

So, do women dress up for men?
The heteronormative narrative that women dress up for men has found great heft through the ages, with acres of newsprint and literary tomes alike devoted to passionate arguments for and against the school of thought. However, recent history would suggest otherwise. In the right hands, fashion can serve as a medium to declare one’s independence from the agency of men—further proof can be found in the style files of the late Princess Diana. Over the course of her lifetime, she transitioned from young ingénue to sartorial savant, each phase of her life chronicled through the distinct change in her wardrobe choices. The conversational route starts from the black sheep sweater that stated her dissonance from the royal fold and ends, inevitably, at the infamous Revenge Dress.

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