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March 08, 2010

Missing the Point, Big Time

Honestly, this really is not rocket science.

Our unusually smart commenters need to weigh in on the ageless question.

Age has nothing to do with the question of propriety. A state dinner is not a fashion show.

First of all, the disclaimers: Bruni looks lovely. There is nothing wrong with her breasts. They are lovely too. And I'm not shocked by her nipples, but then as the proud owner of two nipples of my own that's hardly surprising.

These things are all beside the point. If she's at a private function (in other words, any time she and her husband are appearing as Mr. and Mrs. Sarkozy rather than hosting an official state dinner as the President and his First Lady) Carla Bruni can and should dress as she pleases.

When did we lose the notion that heads of state (and when they appear at a state function, their families) represent something larger than themselves? Ms. Bruni's role was not that of a former model, nor was she simply "Carla". She was the hostess of a state dinner; the wife of the French President. There's a reason such affairs are snooze fests: the attendees (to say nothing of the host and hostess)are expected to exercise a little self restraint.

Bralessness and large expanses of cleavage are normal and expected at the beach or at social functions when people are expected to relax and be themselves. At work, however, they are considered inappropriate for a variety of reasons:

1. At work, employees do not act solely as individuals - they act on behalf of (and represent) their employer. Their behavior and appearance reflect upon their employers and it's not unreasonable to expect them to exercise more restraint and decorum than they would at home.

2. It's distracting and inconsiderate to provide that much visual stimulation to men who are trying to concentrate on their work and who are expected to treat women as fellow professionals rather than objects of desire.

As amusing as it is to watch liberated women like Taylor Marsh demand the "right" to expose their mammary glands to public scrutiny express their "sensuality" in the workplace and then shriek like scalded cats when some poor male coworker has the temerity to notice what they plainly want him to notice, I can't help but observe that such behavior is even more inappropriate at a state dinner than it is in the workplace.

It is not at all unusual for state dinners to involve guests from many different cultures, not all of whom are comfortable with scantily dressed or braless women. I have it on good authority that nipples attract a lot of attention from red blooded menfolk. Thus, it shouldn't take a brain surgeon to understand that persons appearing in an official capacity have a role to play that often precludes the full expression of their individual tastes - even though these tastes might be perfectly kosher in a more relaxed setting.

This is why Michelle Obama was widely criticized for being photographed in casual attire while exiting a plane and for wearing a brightly colored, sleeveless dress to a posthumous Medal of Honor ceremony. There was absolutely nothing wrong with her attire, per se, either time. The problem was that we expected more decorum (not to mention a sense of time and place) from the First Lady.

I can do and say things as "Cass" that I'd never dream of doing or saying as "the Colonel's wife" at an official function because whether I like it or not, my behavior does reflect upon both my husband and the Marine Corps. It has never been worth it to me to make a statement by affirming my individuality at such occasions because they're not really about me.

Adults used to understand that. I'm not sure when that changed.

Posted by Cassandra at March 8, 2010 06:13 PM

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I have looked through several set of photos through the link you provided and except one possible picture she was absolutely decent :o) But I agree with you - this was a state dinner and she should have dressed "office appropriate" to eliminate any possibility for double visual stimulation...

Posted by: olga at March 8, 2010 08:05 PM

I don't think her attire was outrageous. In fact I think her dress was stunning and I LOVE the color.

Here are some better pics:


The second photo leaves precious little to the imagination.

I just object to the "You're a prude if you find her attire inappropriate" business. More and more these days that seems to be the default response to any suggestion that people should take their surroundings into account when deciding how to dress, talk, or behave :)

The sexiest (and most beautiful) dress I ever tried on was a gold chiffon number seeded thinly with gold bugle beads. It had long sleeves, a draped neck and was cut low in back. But man! It clung to every inch of me and it was cut perfectly.

I didn't buy it. It was $800, which I realize isn't a lot of money to some folks but I couldn't justify the expense. Besides I wouldn't have been comfortable in it.

I bought another very pretty dress for my second son's wedding. The bride wore a 20s style beaded dress and this was PERFECT -- same period, pale peony pink with gun metal beading. A spaghetti strap bodice cut away to the waist in back.

I didn't wear it to the wedding even though my DIL loved it. It was just inappropriate for the mother of the groom. But it's still hanging in my closet! I found a beaded sleeveless sheath in an amazing steel blue color. It was very pretty and age appropriate, too!

I love evening wear.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 8, 2010 08:20 PM

There is nothing wrong with her breasts.

Well, that's a relief!

Posted by: spd rdr at March 8, 2010 09:12 PM

mr rdr....

[tapping foot]

Put out your hand. No, I don't care which hand.


You may be seated now :)

Posted by: Sister Mary Bag o'Metaphors at March 8, 2010 09:46 PM

I'm right there with you, Cass. I used to work at a credit union. The secretary for the president was a young woman who wasn't very well endowed. Guess she felt that meant she didn't need to wear a bra. I'm sorry, but I really didn't appreciate having to see her "headlight on", even in passing. Then, there is the senior citizen wife of one of the Legionnaires at the Post I go to. She doesn't normally wear a bra, either (she did at the one more formal occasion I saw her at). I really don't appreciate seeing her saggy boobs, either... Going braless isn't something I would ever do, but then again, I've long since "outgrown" the ability to do so inconspicuously...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at March 8, 2010 11:00 PM

I remember lounging in a pool once )while vacationing in the French Alps) where several sets of pert breasts were on display. I've got to admit, I enjoyed the view.

As for propriety at State functions? Different culture.

Posted by: camojack at March 9, 2010 01:28 AM

What, a bit of the old multi-cultural dress convention so no one is discomfited? :) As you said there is the Cass side and the Mrs. Colonel side.

It's in the context in my mind. Was the event in Paris? Was her dress considered within the norm of French fashion? Who attended? How were some of the other female guests dressed? Would her dress be considered controversial within that context?

When in Rome, or Paris for that matter.

Posted by: Allen at March 9, 2010 02:45 AM

...where several sets of pert breasts were on display. I've got to admit, I enjoyed the view.

Well.... OK, Camo. So long as they weren't impertinent breasts....

*running away*

Posted by: Cassandra at March 9, 2010 07:17 AM

Was the event in Paris? Was her dress considered within the norm of French fashion? Who attended? How were some of the other female guests dressed? Would her dress be considered controversial within that context?

I agree with all those guidelines... for a guest. I think perhaps I'm old fashioned, but I was raised that the hostess puts the comfort and wishes of her guests first. She also sets the standard.

Again, I really liked her dress. A lot. It looks fantastic on her.

I just think that it would have been more appropriate for a different occasion (or she could have just worn those stick on pasties they sell that make it less apparent when one goes braless. Most of my evening dresses don't allow for a bra, but then most of the bodices are lined. If I were wearing a very clingy dress without a bra, I'd use those things unless I was at a resort with my husband.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 9, 2010 07:22 AM

Well, to be fair, had I not read this post, I'd have never even known about this. And had I not read this post, but seen the pictures out of any other context, I am afraid to admit, I'd not have assumed she was bra-less. But then again, I'm not exactly a fashion kinda guy.

All that said, I'd have to say not knowing she was bra-less, I'd say her attire was completely appropriate. Knowing that she was, then perhaps a bit more discretion would have been prudent. But I do agree with you Cass, her age certainly has nothing to do with it.

On the nipple front, nipples are all different. Some women never really seem to have to worry about whether they show or not, some need to wear specially designed bras to prevent any "show through". Personally, I happen to have a pair of thermometers on my chest, and even with an undershirt, you'd probably notice. It doesn't particularly bother me, and that is a cultural thing as well. Apparently, male nipples aren't titillating (pun not entirely intended).

But one final disclosure, men normally are grouped into "types", mine is that I happen to be a "breast man". I was heartened to find out that women have "types" too (my wife likes backs, my best friend's wife is a "butt woman"). I mention this for only one reason. I was not checking out Ms. Bruni's chest. This isn't fishing for compliments or being a gentleman... but fine though they may be, her single most striking feature to me happens to be her eyes. Seriously. Look at the third picture on the Marie Clair link. Her eyes draw your attention. In my opinion, in that third picture, she's having a genuinely good time, and you can tell because her smile extends into her eyes.

Posted by: MikeD at March 9, 2010 09:53 AM

She is a truly gorgeous woman, Mike. As far as types, I don't know what I would be. I don't really think that way.

I suppose I enjoy looking at a well muscled chest or a man's arms more than other parts but to me, it's all good! I find all sorts of men attractive, and for very different reasons most of the time.

Every man has something attractive about him. Maybe it's the warmth in his eyes, or the way his face sort of crinkles up when he smiles. I think the same is true of women. Sometimes you just don't see it at first.

Some of the men I've been most attracted to, I could stand back objectively and see that their physical attributes didn't play all that big a part in the feeling I had for them. And I have seen men who fit my idealized "perfect man" image to a T, but for some reason there was no spark there.

Nice to look at, but nothing to get my heart beating any faster than usual. In my experience, when I like a man, I tend to find him more attractive than men I don't like regardless of his objective physical appearance. I notice his good features more and am not as inclined to notice the less attractive ones.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 9, 2010 10:03 AM

Every man has something attractive about him. Maybe it's the warmth in his eyes, or the way his face sort of crinkles up when he smiles. I think the same is true of women. Sometimes you just don't see it at first.

Ah, allow me to clarify. It's not that I do not find Ms. Bruni attractive because she is "not my type". Not even remotely. And can I find other attractive features about a woman if she is not "well endowed"? Of course. And the same is true of women who have types. I assure you, my wife did not see my back when she pointed me out to her friend who introduced us. But what is it that draws the gaze most significantly? That depends on type.

Is it "objectifying" someone? No, I don't think so. My wife is not objectifying men who row on a crew team (and man does she love watching mens crew teams). It's merely the masculine feature she most readily focuses in on when she is looking. I don't feel there's anything disrespectful or shameful about it. I personally do try not to ogle women (that's just rude), but if asked for an honest assessment of "the most attractive actresses" or some such, my list does tend to contain women who have attractive chests. I cannot explain why that is, and more than I can explain why another of my friends prefers legs. Be it genetic, or behavioral, I do not know.

And trust me, there are women who "fit my type" that I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole (were I single... I specify that not to imply I would currently touch them). And I have had fairly serious relationships with women who did not "fit my type". It just so happens the woman I married did (as well as matching all of the "non-type" attributes... and no, they're not all physical :P ). Would I have married her had she been an A cup? Absolutely. Though I enjoy them, breasts do not the woman make.

Oh, and as a final note, she does know that. We did have a slight mammogram scare this year that worried her, but before we knew the results of the follow-up, I did assure her that mastectomy or no, it would never change the way I feel about her.

Posted by: MikeD at March 9, 2010 10:16 AM

Oh, and on a completely unrelated note (sorry for the threadjacking) I'm glad you're back, Cass. I missed ya.

Posted by: MikeD at March 9, 2010 10:17 AM

I'm sorry - I expressed myself badly :p

I didn't mean to sound as though I was criticizing. I was just trying to figure out if I had a "type" (and I do tend to be more attracted to tall, athletic, dark haired men with brown eyes - there is no doubt of that). If you lined up pictures of every guy I dated, the vast majority of them fit that general description, though there is quite a bit of variation too.

I only ever dated two guys with blonde hair and the one I was serious about had brown eyes. The other one was more of a casual dating thing - somewhat atypical for me. And on second thought I did date another blonde/brown eyed guy briefly. I had forgotten about him, probably because there was no real "spark" there.

I don't think it's "objectifying" someone to be attracted to appearance. To me, objectifying is when the appearance is the ONLY thing or the most important selection criterion to the point where who the person is becomes irrelevant/unimportant. I can think of good reasons for having a "type", like positive association or imprinting. I've noticed that many men continue to date girls who look like the first woman they loved or slept with.

And there's also the "I want a girl just like the girl who married dear old Dad" thingy. Somewhat unsurprisingly, my Dad is a tall (6'4"), athletic, dark haired man with brown eyes. So I'm sure a lot of my positive feelings about my Dad transferred to my choices in men. I've just noticed that I don't really have a body part I like particularly - it's more of an overall type with me.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 9, 2010 10:33 AM

Oh, I didn't take it as criticism. Honestly, I just wanted to make clear what I was trying to say.

My wife definitely had rules about who she would or would not date. The man could NOT be shorter than the woman (tough for her since she's 5'9"), the man cannot be a blonde (the only exception for her was Brad Pitt), redheads were RIGHT OUT (she's a redhead and one of her brothers was a redhead, so that was a turn off for her), and the guy's hair had to be shorter than the woman's. I was close on the height (she later told me that if I had been 1/2" shorter, I'd never have been given a chance), but fit the bill everywhere else.

I can honestly say, I didn't marry a woman like my mother (other than they're both smart). But then again, I and my mother are far too alike. We argue(d) constantly. Don't get me wrong, I love my mother to death, but I could not live in her house another minute. We get along splendidly now, but it was pretty contentious as a teenager (which is not a problem any of my other three siblings had). And again, both she and I attribute it to the fact that we're both stubborn, bull-headed folks.

Posted by: MikeD at March 9, 2010 11:29 AM

I was never conscious of having any rules w/regard to dates except that the guy had to treat me with respect and I wouldn't date a guy unless I could tell the attraction was mutual and fairly equal.

I think balance is really important in a relationship. At least for me, I couldn't date a guy who was far more into me than I, him. And I couldn't date a guy I was head over heels in love with who didn't feel that way about me. I'm too intense - the first would make me feel smothered, and the second just plain miserable.

As for looks, I was attracted to all sorts of guys ranging from Chuck (a tall, redhead with freckles in 8th grade) to John (muscular, olive completed brunette with brown eyes a girl could drown in) to Sean (blonde, green eyes) who I never dated but who nearly caused me to fail a typing class :p

One guy I have never forgotten was actually not very good looking at all. Tall, brown hair, blue eyes, glasses and a face I can only call "Tommy Lee Jones-esque". He had a terrible crush on me in college, but he never let on. I could tell, though.

I have no idea what it was about him that so struck me, but he was one of the most masculine men I have ever known. And yet he wasn't the kind of guy you'd notice in a crowd - the attraction just snuck up on me. It may be that he was so thoroughly comfortable with himself in the best sort of way.

Attraction is an odd thing, no?

Posted by: Cassandra at March 9, 2010 11:45 AM

The world is in a good place when this dress generates so much comment around the world. It seems to me that the sin is mostly in the eyes of the complainers, who seem to be demanding that she conform to their local customs rather than her local custom. Good to see you posting again, Cass.

Posted by: htom at March 9, 2010 12:28 PM

the sin is mostly in the eyes of the complainers, who seem to be demanding that she conform to their local customs rather than her local custom.

I don't see this as a "sin", a big story, or even a big deal, frankly. As I said, I'm not outraged about it and in the big scheme of things I agree that it's trivial.

What was interesting to me about the story was the arguments of those who think it's off limits to comment or have an opinion when someone does something that in the past wasn't done (for whatever reason). I was also interested to see how many people ignore the context: people have different expectations of a hostess at a state dinner than of a supermodel or a private citizen.

I don't think (or at least I haven't seen this) anyone is trying to string her up by her nipples :p

The point (IMO) is more that people are much more self centered and self involved nowadays. Instead of thinking about how they fit into a situation, people assume every situation revolves around them and their likes and dislikes. Again, you can not like this, but I think there is some value in the view that a hostess's job (especially at a state function) is to make guests feel comfortable.

If your guests don't eat beef, who cares whether it's customary for you to eat beef in your country? It's rude and inconsiderate to serve something you know they can't eat. If they are uncomfortable talking about politics, does it matter that you always talk about politics over dinner therefore your guests should just "get over it"?

The interesting part of this story to me had nothing to do with her dress, but with the "I can do whatever I want, wherever I want" attitude I see everywhere these days.

People can certainly decide they don't care about such old fashioned notions, and for the most part they seem to have done so. I guess I just don't see this as progress.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 9, 2010 12:55 PM

Overall, her dress is quite tasteful and flattering (more so than some outfits I've seen recently). Personally, a little discretion about going "unholstered" is always prudent, IMHO, since you can never be sure who might be offended, or if something might spill. And yes, adults know that there is a time and a place, and there are times and places to abstain.

Example: I have a lovely dirndl from Austria that is quite "uplifting." ( You know the style if you were stationed near Bavaria). I love it and wear it to church, but always with a scarf so as to show respect and so as not to distract or lead others astray. When I wear the dirndl to Oktoberfest parties, it's a different story. I think the same should apply to Madame Sarkozy, the FLOTUS, or PM Gordon Brown, or the average Joe. But then I also get irked by sloppily-dressed tourists of any ethnicity. You are not just a tourist, you are (inadvertently and indirectly) representing your country of origin. Rather poorly, in some cases.

Posted by: LittleRed1 at March 9, 2010 01:56 PM

Example: I have a lovely dirndl from Austria that is quite "uplifting."

Heh :)

I used to own one of those. Surprised the heck out of my then very young husband one night when he got home from work one evening. Funny... those things look very different without the demure white blouse underneath...

Posted by: Cassandra at March 9, 2010 02:01 PM

Part of the problem with the attitude "I can do whatever I want" is that many people seem to think that with that attitude comes permission for "You should also do what I want" (where "should" frequently has the meaning of "must".)

The host/hostess should do what is expected of them, which in this case seems to be that she dresses like a supermodel hostess and then the British-USAian press is scandalized. For some state events you wear your national dress; for the French (and some others) this is to "look hot" rather than "look 18th century". I haven't looked, but I suspect that was true several centuries ago, too, even before the invention of photography. The French court has been in perpetual war with the Italian court over who was going to be the most haut-monde. USAian rules seem to be that the ladies should wear ball gowns.

This is different than serving steak tartar to vegans when you've announced that the menu is vegan. The rules are not universal. Well, Dress Blues in place of a tuxedo seems to be always accepted by the ladies, although I've heard mumblings among the single men that it's a form of cheating.

Posted by: htom at March 9, 2010 05:35 PM

There is no force involved in social conventions.

One is perfectly free to flaut them, but it seems a bit much to object when others take note. I don't know that she has complained (and don't care enough to find out) but other people complaining about it isn't much different.

It seems to me that if what was expected of her was to go braless at a state dinner, we would not be having this conversation because her attire would have been customary. The incident sparked comment precisely because she didn't do what was expected of her :p

She can certainly do that. There are lots of things people can do. The question is, "Should they?"

Posted by: Cassandra at March 9, 2010 06:13 PM

Sorry, but if she's braless, I just can't tell from those pictures. If there is more, ahem, revealing evidence, I'd love to see it.

In the interests of accuracy, of course.

Posted by: Oink :©) at March 9, 2010 06:59 PM

I give up.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 9, 2010 09:07 PM

I don't know that I really have a "type", either. I've been attracted to many differnt physical types of men: taller/shorter (though they should be taller than me - not hard to do, since I'm not quite 5'3"), muscular/thinner, fair complected or not, hair color makes no nevermind to me, don't really go for long hair (there is something about a military-style cut...) or facial hair (yeah, the facial hair thing goes WAY back - apparently my dad came back from TDY in England with a mustache when I was very young [not even in school yet], and I wouldn't have anything to do with him until he'd shaved it off). I like to think I'm not TOO picky about appearance...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at March 9, 2010 10:05 PM

Yep, dirndls are pretty much "here's my boobs!". The one I had as a girl wasn't cut that way. Then, when I was older, I borrowed the one my mom got the first time they lived in Germany in the mid-60s. A little self-conscious in that one, and that was WITH the little white blouse underneath... Wonder if I'll be able to fit back into that some day?

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at March 9, 2010 10:16 PM

I don't think I ever had a "type" (most people don't think that "smart, spunky, and sassy" is a type.) Probably over half had first or last name that began with "S", which is strange. Mom's name is Helen, so that's not it.

Posted by: htom at March 9, 2010 10:17 PM

I don't think you're allowed to give up the second day back on the job, Cass. :)

Here, try this. That should give you something to blog about.

Posted by: Grim at March 9, 2010 10:55 PM

OK, Camo. So long as they weren't impertinent breasts....
Posted by: Cassandra at March 9, 2010 07:17 AM

Actually, there were some of those hanging about too. I averted my gaze... :-(

Posted by: camojack at March 10, 2010 03:55 AM


I am reminded of a thought I had frequently when I was a stay at home Mom.

To say that men don't understand female sexuality has got to be the understatement of the century. We read about male sexuality all the time and how we ladies "have" to understand and accommodate it.

Somewhere along the line men are going to have to decide just what it is they want from women and that involves [shudder] facing trade offs. Most happily married men have figured that one out but there are a lot who seem to believe Obama's siren song of endless freedom without any responsibility.

Traditionally, women were the arbiters of morality. We were expected to set the tone - a society of mostly men always changed when women were added to the mix. As my Dad pointed out to me many times during my growing up years, women were the civilizing force and society was better off for their contributions.

Now women are vilified, and nowhere are they vilified more than when they attempt to perform their traditional roles.

Conservative men - and conservative bloggers in particular - love to wax nostalgic about "how things used to be" and how the world was a better place when women acted like women and men acted like men. I've never understood how they can say things like that with a straight face, and I've given up trying. The disconnect between what they say they believe and their behavior is just too jarring.

As my husband is fond of saying, watch what people do. Not what they say. That tells me all I need to know.

And by the way, that wasn't aimed at you. I've seen no such disconnect in your writing or behavior.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 10, 2010 07:04 AM

Yep, dirndls are pretty much "here's my boobs!".


That one caused me to inhale my coffee, MLB :)

Posted by: Cassandra at March 10, 2010 07:06 AM

This is such a titillating conversation.

I guess one of the reasons I like watching the 'morning after' of the Oscars is seeing who was well dressed and who wasn't.

I have been surprised to note that the fashion geeks who make these observations dislike over exposure as much as too little.

One trend that I have noticed is the bare shoulders look. It is stunning and yet, well, while I *know* there is glue and underboning, it still looks like it could fall off at any moment.
Not only that, there is maybe a half yard of fabric covering the lady above the waist, but 5 yards for the skirt.

I always thought that was rather funny. Sort of like men who wear pajama bottoms and their wife or girlfriend wears the top.

Inquiring minds, yanno...

Posted by: Cricket at March 10, 2010 07:13 AM

Miss Ladybug, I have dirndl patterns from Germany. I bought a couple of Burda magazines when I was over there. Not all of them are 'in your face.' Some are formal, made with velvet and satin and quite lovely.

My favorites (this was when I could still fit into a dirndl) were the ones that had a fitted basque as opposed to the vest.

Posted by: Cricket at March 10, 2010 07:18 AM


The latest trend from the Hollywood/high fashion set is dresses/tops that are see through or so clingy that they might as well be. There was a whole slideshow on some news site that showed 30 or 40 of them.

Ms. Bruni's dress was designed that way. IOW, that was a feature, not a bug :p

Posted by: Cassandra at March 10, 2010 07:36 AM

Somehow I never absorbed the message about modesty. I cover myself up strictly to accommodate other people. When I was young, I had no views to speak of about sexual morality or fidelity, either, so it never occurred to me that I should adopt one behavior in private with a man I was committed to, and another to everyone else. That did change over the decades; I've been married a long time, and completely monogamous. Early on, that was a question of avoiding behavior that would hurt or worry my husband, and later it became a matter of religious conviction as well. Nevertheless, I still don't seem to have any natural, internal instinct to behave modestly around men not my husband. Of course it's a largely theoretical issue these days, when I cover up more out of good manners than out of concern about stirring up an unwelcome interest, or about sending a confusing sexual signal.

I'm glad you're back, too, Cass.

Posted by: Texan99 at March 10, 2010 09:30 AM

You write so many things that could have come straight from my brain :p When I was younger I thought nothing of jaunting around in a tube or halter top (braless, of course) and very short shorts. To be honest, I was pretty much unaware of whether guys were looking at me or not. I didn't dress that way so they *would* look.

I just dressed that way because other girls did and they looked nice. I was pretty much oblivious to the sexual aspect.

What changed that for me was noticing that my then boyfriend (now husband) felt it was his job to protect me from other guys. He almost got into it a few times when some moron was being pesky. I wasn't upset and thought I was handling it, and I was initially astounded that anyone would think I needed protecting.

But as I got older, I changed my behavior to, as you say, avoid worrying or hurting my husband.

It annoys the snot out of me when guys attribute anything a woman says to "prudishness" or sexual jealousy. They have no idea what it is like to be a woman and they have NO idea of the degree to which most women change their behavior to avoid causing distress to their husbands.

Left to myself I'd behave quite differently than I do every day. Being married to a Marine officer has meant learning to pay attention to my surroundings and often curtailing my nature to provide a better example for younger wives.
Though this isn't always easy, I happen to think it's a *good* thing and I certainly don't go around telling anyone else what to do.

That said, I continue to believe there's a lot to be said for consideration and situational awareness. Who'da thunkit? My Mom and Dad were smarter than I gave them credit for back when they were exhorting me to think of someone other than myself :p

Posted by: Cassandra at March 10, 2010 10:55 AM

Sorry about that, Cass ;-P

Mom wasn't/isn't as well-endowed as I turned out to be (even before my weigh-gain, which I'm slowly reversing), so the way the dirndl fit her wasn't quite the same as how it fit me. That's one thing I have to be careful of with necklines - for a smaller-chested woman, something might be perfectly modest. Maybe not so much with me...

Do your patterns account for the seam allowance? I've never sewn a German/European pattern before, but I recall my mom doing so while we were living over there and her commenting about the difference between American patterns and those she got on the German economy....

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at March 10, 2010 11:46 AM

For my 100 Kroners' worth of input on the matter, let me say that is it jealousy or envy.

The wymnyn are jealous they are not assembled like the first lady of France, and the knuckle dragging 5th appendage enabled types are envious that their SO is not assembled like the first lady of France.

I had one of my lads send me a motivational type poster with Carla posing with a piano on the left and Michelle Obama in the garden with a pained look on her face; the caption proclaimed:FRANCE WINS

I tend to agree. And I only barely can converse in French. ;^P

Posted by: kbob in katy at March 10, 2010 03:12 PM

You're entitled to your opinion, but I wouldn't feel one bit different if it were Helen Thomas who went braless (or Michele Obama, or any other woman). I wouldn't want to see a man attend a state dinner in assless chaps either, even if he looked like Brad Pitt.

Saying "You're just jealous" has always struck me as a particularly lame retort. It's an attempt to elide past the merits of whatever actual argument was being made. You're essentially calling the person a liar ("Yes, I realize that you said you objected for reason X but rather than discuss the merits of your argument, I'm going to assign ulterior motives to you.")

Pretty insulting, and also not a counter argument.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 10, 2010 03:21 PM

Burda is notorious for not adding a seam allowance. You have to in order to get the proper fit.

Cassie, I know what you mean about Hollywood taking it one step further. There was a pic of a braless Babs Streisand wearing a see-through top.
While she has always been curvy, I think leaving something to the imagination is a good thing.

Modesty is not just dressing so you are covered, it is also dressing in such a way as to not call
attention to oneself. Clingy stuff is fine if you have the figure for it.

If she is daring enough to set a trend, I wonder what the cost will be when it trickles down. Far better to have thought it through. So, to answer your question of 'should they?' Under the circumstances, non.

I am glad you're back too.

Posted by: Cricket at March 10, 2010 03:28 PM

I still don't seem to have any natural, internal instinct to behave modestly around men not my husband.

I have long thought that most women don't have that instinct by nature. For many of us, we're just unaware how things seem to guys. I know that I've been surprised many times when my husband pointed out how men think when they see a woman do X, Y, or Z. It was the furthest thing from my mind.

I have also been guilty of underestimating how often guys interpret certain behaviors as "coming on to them". I wouldn't interpret the same behavior that way so I can be very clueless in that regard. If anything, I have always been extremely slow to get it when a man is being flirtatious. My friends used to tease me about being naive. Since I am married and also no spring chicken, I interpret pretty much everything as innocent friendliness.

I've become more careful around men as I've gotten older, but it's still not natural for me. If I truly like and trust a man, I tend to treat him as I would another woman - i.e., I'm "myself" around him.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 10, 2010 03:43 PM

I don't think a man has ever thought I was coming on to him when I wasn't, modesty or no modesty. A small compensation for being somewhat deficient in the tact department is that guys tended not to misunderstand whether I would welcome their advances. It may be difficult to get a potential suitor (or caveman bent on dragging one off to his cave) to back off if you've been raised to think you should make boys like you, but I always found transparent candor effective. Would-be Lotharios tended to back off pretty quick. As for the guys I WAS interested in, they'd have been hard-pressed to misunderstand that, too.

So it was never of any concern to me whether guys might think that my dressing provocatively was a come-on; I callously assumed their reaction was their problem, as long as they didn't get violent. My husband seemed not to care, either. All I needed to do to keep him happy in the modesty-flirtation-fidelity department was not leave him and not cheat on him. The rest he just passed over.

If I had it to do over again now, having grown up and come to care more about other people's comfort, I might do it differently. I'm not sure, though. I still think that as long as we're not talking about rapists on dark streets, a man's self-control in the face of a woman's skin is his own problem. On the other hand, whether because I was no bombshell or because of my persuasive style of "no," I was never in danger of starting fights that my husband would have to deal with. I wouldn't like that.

Posted by: Texan99 at March 10, 2010 05:04 PM

Trust me, I was never a bombshell either :p Or if I was it was only in my girlish dreams.

I agree that people ought to behave themselves regardless of any provocation, but I guess I'm also aware that guys just don't think the way we do so I was always aware of the potential for misunderstanding. I also thought it must be very hard to have to be the one to make the approach and risk getting shot down all the time so my sympathy kicked in big time.

As to fending off advances, I tended to be "too nice" out of a perhaps misplaced regard for their feelings. That was something that always annoyed me - I used to try so hard to let someone down tactfully and with respect and then they'd keep on when I thought I had been perfectly clear. I still don't know whether I *was* being clear and they were just being persistent (and there are guys who won't take even NO for an answer) or whether I just thought I was being perfectly clear.

I felt a lot less pressure to be nice after I got married. I figured if a man was approaching a woman with a wedding ring on, he was up to no good and didn't deserve the same deference. Still, I always found it hard to be anything but gentle.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 10, 2010 05:26 PM

An honest approach to an unmarried woman is always a compliment, and deserves a kind and respectful response. The only problem is with someone who won't take no for an answer. Anyway, it's not as though I insulted or berated men who approached me against my inclination. There was just something about the way I communicated "no, thanks" that seemed to surprise or discomfit them -- at least, I never knew anyone willing to persevere in the face of it. I wonder if it didn't help that I never let them buy me anything. That was one advantage of having a morbid fear of dependence. Maybe that's my kind of modesty: an unwillingness to allow even the shadow of a doubt to develop over whether I'm entering into an obligation by accepting the attentions of a man who's offering to spend money on me. I want everything from a man -- except his money.

Posted by: Texan99 at March 10, 2010 11:16 PM

I know that I've been surprised many times when my husband pointed out how men think when they see a woman do X, Y, or Z. It was the furthest thing from my mind.

Or vice versa, my wife seems to have a blind spot when it comes to men's behaviors. I cannot count the number of times that I've had to point out to her that a particular man was hitting on her. She "thought they were being nice." I know what being nice to a woman looks like, and it's a far cry from that to hitting on her. And yet, she couldn't seem to tell the difference. We no longer go out as much as we used to, so it's been a while since I've had to do this.

One other thing you said interested me:
What changed that for me was noticing that my then boyfriend (now husband) felt it was his job to protect me from other guys. He almost got into it a few times when some moron was being pesky. I wasn't upset and thought I was handling it, and I was initially astounded that anyone would think I needed protecting.

It may not be that he thought you needed to be protected (though some of that is probably true, guys can be quite protective of our ladies). There's also the defense of his own honor to consider. If the lothario knew your boyfriend and you were an item, and he was hitting on you anyway, that's an extreme form of disrespect towards your boyfriend and a severe guy no-no. Unknowingly doing so is given a pass until they have been warned. If the behavior continues after the warning, then it has crossed the line. In effect, the lothario is saying "you are of no consequence to me, little boy. I will take your woman from you, and there's nothing you can do to stop it." Mudhole stomping generally ensues thereafter.

Posted by: MikeD at March 11, 2010 10:08 AM

I cannot count the number of times that I've had to point out to her that a particular man was hitting on her. She "thought they were being nice."

I'm very guilty of that. If someone is kind to me, I tend to assume they decided it's "safe" to be nice to me b/c I'm a married woman. Usually the last thing to occur to me is that they might be hitting on me.

A few years ago a guy I'd met at a conference (we had attended several subsequent conferences together, so I'd spent a fair amount of time talking to him) pointed that out to me. I said something offhand about how nice it was, not having to worry about men hitting on me now that I'm older.

He thought that was very amusing. After I got back to my hotel room that night I sort of replayed a few of our conversations in my mind in light of his reply. It really made me wonder what goes on with people who travel a lot on business. It also made me wonder how I could be so naive?

Posted by: Cassandra at March 11, 2010 10:18 AM

Anyway, it's not as though I insulted or berated men who approached me against my inclination.

I didn't take your comment that way at all.

If anything, women tend to apologize subtly any time they do or say something that is contrary to someone else's wishes. It's fairly rare for a woman not to do this.

If I had to guess, what discomfited them was that you didn't apologize for not taking them up on their offers. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 11, 2010 10:21 AM