Date: 1 January 1984
Originally published in: [unknown] (UK)
When I first started singing, I didn’t care how I looked. I just wore the clothes I’d worn at college – big jackets, men’s shirts and jeans – anything I feit comfortable in, and got on with the job. I wasn’t conscious of putting over an “image”, so I was very angry when some people started describing me as sexily dressed. It didn’t seem to matter that I was wearing simple, ordinary clothes – people who interviewed me when I started out were very sexist and could only talk about my overt sexuality and my body bursting through my jeans!
At the time I was young and inexperienced, so I thought that wearing baggy, unfeminine clothes would make me more acceptable. I went through a phase where I was afraid to wear the clothes I really liked in case l got accused of dressing to kill. I bought lots of big, loose jumpers and dressed down in the hope that people would stop calling me sexy and start to take me seriously. Unfortunately, it didn’t make any difference. In the end I got so sick of being labelled a sex symbol that I decided to beat them at their own game. I took my chequebook and went shopping for all the clothes I’d ever wanted to wear – minis, stilettos, tight trousers, the lot. I also bought a tight leather dress with cut-away sides which left absolutely nothing to the imagination, and wore it on Top Of The Pops – that soon shut up my critics.
Since then, I’ve come to realise women should wear what they want to. If y ou enjoy wearing sexy clothes because they make you feel good, do it. Dressing like a girl won’t make you any less liberated, but dressing as other people teil you will only stifle you. Just look at today’s most successful presenters, like Selina Scott and Jan Leeming. They obviously wear what they feel good in – very feminine, but comfortable clothes – and no one thinks any less of them for it. They’ve both achieved their status through intelligence, talent and expertise, not the colour of the tights they wear or the length of their lashes. They’re respected for who they are, not what they look like – and so should everyone else be! Even Margaret Thatcher has done her bit for female equality. She wouldn’t be seen dead in a pair of trousers at an important function, because, like any liberated woman, she believes in emphasising her femininity while at the same time holding down what many people would consider to be a man’s job. Women can be successful without having to look like men. So don’t feel inhibited next time you choose to wear a feminine outfit to a business function. Be proud to be a woman, don’t hide it.
I think it’s high time the age-old image of feminists in baggy dungarees, Kickers and crew-cuts was destroyed. It is possible to do your bit for equality without looking like an escaped convict. In fact as I see it, expressing your opinion on male chauvinism in a skirt and lipstick will have more of an effect than if you turn up in monkey boots and a donkey jacket, looking like a pale imitation of a man.
Another attitude which should be changed is the male belief that women wear sexy clothes simply for their benefit. It’s a naive view – they don’t seem to realise most girls actually enjoy wearing sheer tights and soft cashmere jumpers next to their skin because they look good and feel good, not because it attracts men. What feels better – a decent pair of boots or a pair of wellies?
It’s also time men realised they’re not the only creatures in the world who appreciate feminine attire – most girls would rather see their friends in clothes which suit them, instead of masculine, unshapely clothes which look awful. The same applies to make-up. Woman wear make-up because it makes them feel and look good. Women aren’t sex objects and the sooner men realise it the better. Some men seem to hold the opinion that women can’t do anything without a man behind them but, in my experience, it’s usually the other way around.
Women are far more self-reliant than men and work hard without blowing their own trumpets. As women, it’s time we showed the opposite sex we’re not just bodies and faces to be admired, but intelligent people who deserve to be treated with respect. Because of my profession and looks, I’ve had to put up with a barrage of criticism and sexist jokes over the years. Luckily, I’ve finally realised that being myself is certainly the greatest form of female liberation – you should try it!