Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Things Asexuals Like: Dandyism

I'm in the mood for a not-so-serious post, and maybe this one is cheating. After all, dandyism seems like a subset of androgyny, which I've already covered. But, do I care? These have always been my favorite posts, and it's high time for more. It's hard to define what exactly a dandy is, whether it's a way of life or only a dress sense. It has a long history in various cultures and I can't possibly do it justice in one post. Just think of Oscar Wilde, though, and I think we'll be on a similar page. Modern dandyism seems to have something to do with aestheticism, gentility, and elegance. People who want to be known for their good taste, manners, wit, and general panache. While in real life, I'm often in jeans and a t-shirt, in my mind I'm like this:

[Image: Woman in a fedora, bright-blue jacket, tie, vest, and yellow loafers. Image from here.]

Or perhaps this:

[Image: Black-and-white vintage images of dandy-esque women in menswear ensembles. From here.]

Although it in no way relates to my daily presentation, at heart I am a dandrogyne, a term which was coined here on the TransYada forums. Dandies would probably prefer to hang out in Victorian-style conservatories, parks, libraries, tea shops, speakeasies, vintage clothing stores, and quaint or unique urban or rural areas not yet beset by Wal-Marts and Starbucks. They would probably not prefer sports bars, 7-11s, rodeos, subdivisions, or shopping malls. There seems to be something very Victorian-era about dandies; I must admit to loving a lot of their aesthetics but hating a lot of their attitudes (see my crush on certain Merchant-Ivory films for evidence of this). Also, there is something very romantic about it, in a Romantic-poets sense, rather than an attraction sense.

Now, I don't think dandyism is relevant to all asexuals, but I feel like there is a strong dandy current in our community. It would not be out of place. In this post, I wrote about some ways in which my personal style could be considered an asexual presentation. On some style blogs that I read, people fear the word "costumey" as a description for their outfits. But I have long been drawn to costumey styles, perhaps because the emphasis is on the wearer's clothing rather than their sexualized body, and because those styles break or mock the norms of gender presentation. I like looking at dandies, but I wouldn't consider them sexy at all. I'm just impressed by the way they put an outfit together--their use of clothing as an art form. Although to dandies, what isn't an art form?


Anonymous said...

>>While in real life, I'm often in jeans and a t-shirt, in my mind I'm like this<<

HA. YES. ::raises hand:: I can never get my daily wardrobe to keep up with the image in my brain. I need a costume department for my life.

On the costuming note, I've been drawn to costumey styles for a long time, also -- but for different reasons. (Actually, I'd question whether costuming inherently counters the sexualization of the body, since - presumably - there are certain costumey styles- the schoolgirl/ Lolita look comes to mind -- that actively work with it.) Regardless, I think what I like about the costumey looks is their ability to undermine our sense that certain kinds of clothing *aren't* costumey. Polos and khakis are costumey. Goth dressees are costumey. Dandyism is costumey. I like the way that being overt about the notion of costuming challenges our sense that there's anything natural or normal about other styles of dress.

I mean, I like it in theory. In practice, my costume tends toward the tee and jeans as well. ;)

Jessica said...

When I got to this part of your post:

"People who want to be known for their good taste, manners, wit, and general panache. While in real life, I'm often in jeans and a t-shirt, in my mind I'm like this: (picture of dandy)"

I went ah-HA! I find this idea fascinating. That dandyism is in fact an ISM and not just trendy clothes interests me greatly.

Ily said...

@mmmax: I need a costume department, too! And a music director...and on that note, where IS my script?! Anyway, it's true, some costumes are sexual--I remember doing a blog post about a "sexy mustard" Halloween costume. Although, I don't find any iteration of mustard sexy, nor do I find Lolita fashion sexual. It's definitely subjective. I feel that much of my everyday, just-throw-it-on style isn't necessarily a costume, but a camouflage. Because if I dressed like how I felt inside, I would get a lot of stares and weird looks where I live.

@Jessica: Yay! There seems to be a lot of information online about dandyism, but no real authority on what it is. The Wikipedia article has some more info on dandyism's original philosophy.

Anonymous said...


Personally I'm more steampunk than dandy (well, personally I'm dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, but you feel me), but I do love me a dandy.

Are you an Etsy fan?

Ily said...

@feministbookproject: Yep, I get it! I don't claim to understand all of the Steampunk ethos, but they do have some very beautiful clothes. I love all that jewelry on Etsy made out of the watch gears. Did you ever see my shop? There's nothing in it now, so it's not too exciting at the moment...

Also, Steampunk menorah?

Anonymous said...

I think I saw your shop once--maybe for zine reasons? I have one, but it's empty too!

We should actually talk about this, because I have some ideas for stuff to sell, but it's serious niche marketing and I'm not sure of the reach.

TheJester said...

Just some quotes for you :)

“After loss of Identity, the most potent modern terror, is loss of sexuality, or, as Descartes didn’t say, “I fuck therefore I am”.”
Jeanette Winterson,

“Men know almost nothing about desire, they think it has to do with sexual activity or can be discharged that way. But sex is a substitute, like money or language. Sometimes I just want to stop seeing.”
Anne Carson

“Physical experiences, lacking the joys of love, depend on twists and perversions for pleasure. Abnormal pleasures kill the taste for normal ones.”
Henry and June by Anais Nin