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The Female Form

By Ella Aylmer

The female form is fascinating. Women’s bodies have always been displayed, critiqued, and analysed - usually in the name of Art. Stripped bare and subjected to the male gaze, historically these “ideal” women were idolised by the men that created them. In our capitalist consumer culture women’s bodies became wearable. Who can forget those naked Rihanna T-shirts all the boys wore in Year 9? But these were still exposed female bodies possessed and displayed by the male owner.

Recently there has been a shift. These wearable women are now owned by ladies, with some key differences: they are fully clothed or often just faces. As well as a pair of those ubiquitous face outline earrings, I myself own three tops and a total of eleven faces – all of whom I’ve personified with names and characters and hobbies and histories. Emmeline, Chimamanda, Judith, Mary and Naomi walk with me wherever I wear my favourite jumper. Still we are obsessed with representing women (where are the wearable men?) but now, though they are cartoons, they seem somehow more real, more alive than the passive nude ever was. Wearing them feels like a reclamation. These faces smile and laugh and look shocked or amazed, rather than just giving you “come hither” eyes. They’re clothed in arrays of pink, blue and orange that compliment the attitudes in their expressions.

Yes, they’re just pictures on clothing but surrounding myself with women assures me of my place in the sisterhood. You wouldn’t believe the amounts of compliments I get from other women who also aspire to be part of a permanent mobile girl gang. Who wouldn’t want to be supported by eleven extra sets of eyes staring down the male gaze?