In an effort to gather all my writing in one place, every Monday I post articles that originally appeared elsewhere, or work that has been gathering dust on my hard drive. This piece was originally published by the The Morning News in 2002. Thanks to Rosecrans Baldwin, for the edits.
If you look like you just got some, it’s sexy. If you’re dressed like you’re out to get some, it’s slutty. In the fifth part of this women’s fashion series, I encourage you to ignore the distinction.
Sit down, my love, I’ve a bitter truth to tell. All of us are gravity’s bitches. Barring superhuman — and perhaps surgical — efforts on your part, your body is never going to look better than it does at this moment. Fortunately, your body already looks pretty damn good.
Don’t believe me? Gain some perspective. Look back at your high-school photos. You would kill to have that ass again. Perhaps this makes you feel glum about your current ass. Well, stop it. When you’re seventy you’ll look back at today’s photos and realize how much time you’ve wasted fretting over a perfectly sexy bum.
If you don’t wear daring clothes because you worry about your cattier girlfriends snickering, I suggest you lose those particular girlfriends and replace them with a buttery pair of understanding leather pants.
Suck in your gut, yank on the pants, and call your raucous girlfriends, the ones who will whistle and holler at the new rock-star you when they pick you up for a night on the town.
Congratulations, sexy thing. You’ve discovered the first of five rules for dressing slutty without feeling slutty:
1. Be Confident
What about modesty? Humility? Saving it for the guy at home? Screw that. There’s nothing wrong with feeling pretty, sexy, fabulous. It’s especially affirming to feel that way in front of a large audience, Tina-Turner style.
Perhaps you aren’t a naturally confident kind of gal. That puts you with about 95 percent of the population. Fortunately, being confident and pretending to be confident are essentially the same thing.
Most women who look ‘willing’ in their slutwear seem that way because they’re seeking approval. If you’ve ever worried that you’re dressed like a hussy, you’ve probably never even come close.
Girls who dress inappropriately do so with intent and grave insecurity. They tug at their tops, constantly hike their low-riders, and pretend not to notice that their pants have camel-toed in their crotches. You’re not one of them. The rest of our rules will help you avoid inadvertently looking like one of them.
2. Be Prepared
The peril in wearing revealing clothing is that it sometimes lives up to its name. Worrying that your left nipple is playing peek-a-boo with your date will destroy your crucial self-confidence. As we’ve discussed, worry makes you look trampy instead of vampy.
If you’re wearing a winningly low-cut tank or a blouse with a loose neckline, invest in some double-sided fashion tape to keep the garment in place. Short skirts call for boy-cut underwear in a matching shade so viewers either aren’t sure of what they’re seeing or realize there’s not so much to see. The lowest low riders need a tight belt to ensure that the waistband never affords a view of your continental divide.
In every case, the proper undergarments—stick-on bras, nude G-strings, the occasional girdle—will bolster your self-esteem. It can look like your blouse is always on the verge of falling open, as long as you know it isn’t. Illusion is our friend.
Often what makes a sexy outfit look skanky is a lack of attention to detail. When you’re getting ready to wear something trashy, groom what’s showing. You want to look artfully mussed; you don’t want to look like a heroin-addict on the prowl. Make sure you smell nice and clean, that your nails are neat, that you’ve paid some attention to your hair, and maybe dab on a little lip gloss if you don’t normally wear makeup. In the winter, self-tanner is almost never a bad idea (as a pasty Irish girl, may I recommend the Bain de Soleil line of offerings), and a little of the Body Shop’s Body Butter on your legs will give them a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition gleam.
3. Be Comfortable
You can’t be breezy if you’re limping. You know you’re going to be walking from bar to bar and dancing the night away, so don’t toddle along in ten-minute shoes. It will annoy everyone who has to wait for you to catch up. Save the spike heels for sedentary tête-à-têtes. Little kitten-heels, open-toed shoes, and sling-backs all have slut-appeal, and they’re much kinder on your delicate arches.
If you want to wear something tight, don’t just buy it a size too small. It will cut into your armpits and bunch unattractively in odd places. Buy clothes that fit. That means an item may cling to you, but you’ll still be able to sit down and breathe normally, and you won’t be continually coaxing it into place.
4. Remember Your Body Type
Accentuate the positive, darling. Maybe your bum could crush a large village, but your boobs are porn-star fabulous. Perhaps your butt drops off like a cliff, but your legs take their time getting to the floor. There are clothes out there for you — sultry clothes — and you should be wearing them more often.
Hide what you want to, reveal the choice pickings. Every girl’s got something admirable about her shape. If you’re not sure what your best points are, enlist a few brutally frank friends.
Your body type will determine what you can get away with. If you’re 5’11”, an eeny-weeny skirt is going to raise some eyebrows. If you’re 4’11”, it’s kicky. Hip-huggers can be tempting or tomboyish, depending on the view from behind. And if you’re a D-cup, you’ll look much racier in a plunging neckline than your AA friend.
Keep these things in mind when you’re choosing what you’ll wear with a sexy piece. If you’re showing a lot of cleavage, then that will help you decide what to wear on the bottom, which brings us to our next point.
5. Find a Balance
If you’re not quite ready to bare it all (or any portion thereof), the easiest and most effective way to wear arresting clothing is to pair it with something mild. If you buy a leather miniskirt that precludes sitting down, wear it with a turtleneck sweater and some tall boots. If your dress is so low-cut that you have to tape the neckline in place, the skirt can be loose around your bum and fall below your knees.
This rule also goes for your toilette. If you’re wearing a transparent T-shirt over a bra-top and you’re not sure if you can own the look, choose dewy, natural makeup instead of the dried-blood lipstick. You can also class things up by going for a more conservative hairstyle. A clingy dress with a tidy chignon can look classy and daring, while the same dress with teased-up hair-band bangs is questionable.
If you’re too modest to show much skin, choose pieces that are sexy without being revealing. Leather pants in a trouser-cut, suede tops, knee-high boots. Or you can opt to reveal less traditionally erogenous zones by wearing low-cut backs, necklines that expose your collarbone, or shirts that have cutouts in unexpected places.
If you’re really timid, test the waters with touchable fabrics like cashmere and angora, or decorative cloth that simply catches the eye with beading, sequins, or texture.
The more you wear something, the more comfortable you’ll be. So break in your new painted-on jeans by strutting around the apartment for a few days before you venture out in public.
Ready, Set, Slut
It’s difficult to seem fun and impossible to seem dangerous in a pair of Gap khakis. No one ever felt like purring in a polo shirt.
You’re not some milquetoast, wallflower, soccer-mom wannabe, you’re a kitty-cat, you’re a doll, you’re Marilyn Monroe. Dressing sexier will not only change people’s perceptions of you, it will alter your idea of yourself.
Tug on those leather pants, and turn up some Aretha. You’ll see what I mean.