Log in

No account? Create an account
StephenT [userpic]

(Meme) Does your heroine wear a skirt?

8th April 2010 (18:01)
Tags: ,

I saw this on metafandom, and thought it might be an interesting way to distract myself while trying to avoid all the people talking about an issue of the comic I haven't read yet. :-)

The question being asked was "Does your heroine wear a skirt? Does she perform femininity?" Now, I think we all know what Buffy's attitude to such things is:

Oh. You mean the cammo and stuff?  I thought about it but, I mean, it's gonna look all 'Private Benjamin.' Don't worry I've patrolled in this halter many times.
('The 'I' in Team')

Willow, too, once she stops being dressed by her mother, tends to wear fairly conventionally feminine - if quirky - fashion choices. As for my original characters, Hiywan wears an animal skin wrapped around her torso; that doesn't really count as a skirt. :-) She doesn't have the tattoo that the men of her clan wear, and she does bear the scarified cross-symbol of a Guardian. On the other hand, she does carry a spear, which is considered rather a masculine thing to do among her people, and she joins in the men's hunting ceremonies. So she's a liminal character in that way.

However, I got to thinking, what about the other characters from literature that I would consider my "heroines"? The women in the books I grew up with? What sort of clothing do they wear? I have to say, it isn't something that's stuck in my mind; I couldn't really tell you unprompted what sort of clothes they wore. So out of curiosity, I went through my bookshelves and looked for passages of description, and copied them out.

I think it makes for interesting reading. And yes, it also gives away which books made a big impression on me when I was younger. ;-)


Jaelithe of Estcarp:
[Her hair] was coiled rather severely into a silver net, and she was covered primly from throat to ankle by a robe of a similar misty colour. Her only ornament was an oval of the same cloudy crystal such as she had worn then in a wrist band, but this hung from a chain so that the stone rested between the small mounds of her breasts.
(Later on:)
As the men of the Guard she wore mail, the scarfed helmet. There was no outward difference between her and the rest, for a sword hung at her hip, and the same sidearm at her belt as Simon carried.
(- Andre Norton)

Lessa of Ruatha Hold:
She shook out the clothing and held one garment against her experimentally. The fabric, a soft green, felt smooth under her water-shrunken fingers, although the nap caught on her roughed hands. She pulled it over her head. It was loose, but the darker-green overtunic had a sash that she pulled in tight at the waist. The unusual sensation of softness against her bare skin made her wriggle with voluptuous pleasure. The skirt, no longer a ragged hem of tatter, swirled heavily around her ankles.
(- Anne McCaffrey)

Morgaine kri Chya:
A pelt of white anomen was the cloak, and the stranger's breath and that of the grey horse made puffs on the frosty air (...) He looked into the tanned woman's face within the fur hood and met hair and brows like the winter sun at noon, and eyes as grey as the clouds in the east.
(later on:)
He realized finally that the person was Morgaine, Morgaine without her cloak, black-clad and slim in men's clothing, and yet with the most incongruous tgiho - overrobe - of silver and black; she had a barbaric bent yet unsuspected; and the blade Changeling was hung over her chair, and her other gear propping her feet - most unwomanly.
(- C J Cherryh)

V I Warshawski:
"Mmph. I don't remember that bra." It was a rose and silver number I rather liked myself. (...) Morrell took my skirt and sweater and hung them in the closet. His extreme tidiness is a big reason I can't imagine our ever living together. He perched on the edge of the tub when I went into the bathroom to take off my makeup. (...) We went back into the bedroom, where I pulled on jeans and a sweatshirt.
(next day:)
I put on the rose silk sweater and sage skirt I'd worn yesterday. It gets complicated spending part of my life at Morrell's - the clothes I want are always in my own apartment when I'm with him, or in his place when I'm home.
(- Sara Paretsky)

Blue was her raiment as the unclouded heaven, but her eyes were grey as the starlit evening; her mantle was sewn with golden flowers, but her hair was dark as the shadows of twilight.
She put forth her arts of enchantment, and caused her hair to grow to great length, and of it she wove a dark robe that wrapped her beauty like a shadow, and it was laden with a spell of sleep. Of the strands that remained she twined a rope, and she let it down from her window; and as the end swayed above the guards that sat beneath the tree they fell into a deep slumber. Then Lúthien climbed from her prison, and shrouded in her shadowy cloak she escaped from all eyes.
(- J R R Tolkien)

Admiral Lady Dame Honor Harrington, Duchess and Steadholder Harringon, PMV, SG & bar:
[She] twitched her Grayson-style gown and vest straight. Over the years, she'd become completely accustomed to the traditional Grayson garments. She still considered them thoroughly useless for anything except looking ornamental, but she'd been forced to admit that looking ornamental wasn't necessarily a bad thing. And there was another reason to wear them almost constantly here in the Star Kingdom, when she wasn't in uniform, at least. They helped remind everyone, including herself, of who else she was... and of how much the Star Kingdom and the entire Manticoran Alliance owed the people of her adopted planet.
(- David Weber)

Guenevere ferch Cador:
I still remember how she looked that day: in white like her father, hair in a single thick braid draped forward over her breast. Her name in the Parisi dialect means yellow-hair; it must have been lighter when she was small, but reddish now and bound by a single strand of gold wire. (...) A large bronze cross hung around her neck and moved with the gentle sway of her breasts under the soft kirtle.
"My jewelry, all but that left by the queen my mother, is casked and ready for sale. Peredur's men will want for nothing."
A patter of polite applause, and Cador said, "Not even an earloop? My daughter will feel positively nude."
"What need of gold?" said the girl who was gold herself. "With such a family, am I not already adorned?"
(- Parke Godwin)

The conclusion seems to be that most of my heroines enjoy wearing conventionally feminine, 'pretty' clothing - whatever that might be for their culture - on certain occasions, but also dress practically when they have to, even if 'practical' clothing in their society codes as masculine and wearing it therefore makes them stand out from the norm. Hmm. This is one of the formative influences on my worldview that I'm looking at here for basically the first time, and it's kind of interesting.

So, how about your heroines? Do they wear skirts?



Posted by: rapunzel215 (rapunzel215)
Posted at: 8th April 2010 21:03 (UTC)

You haven't read it???!!! Aw, come on, I'm dying to find your review!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 8th April 2010 21:58 (UTC)


I'm in Britain. The comic has to be delivered all the way across the Atlantic Ocean before it finds its way into British comic shops. And Monday was a public holiday here, which delays things even more...

Believe me, I'm biting my nails here too... :-)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 8th April 2010 23:29 (UTC)

I'm trying to picture Ripley in a skirt, but she keeps glaring at me. Same with Starbuck. Post-Terminator Sarah Connor might want to but not get many chances. The trick with visual media, of course, is that clothing tends to get used as a slightly exaggerated characterisation detail - there's a reason Faith looked uncomfortable in that dress the Mayor put her in, or why Zoe looked so very off-duty in the funeral scene in Serenity. Once a character has been established as Not Wearing A Skirt - which is mostly women coded as tough fighter types - they tend to always be Not Wearing A Skirt.

As for literature, if we're talking childhood heroines, well, both Pippi Longstocking and Ronja the Robber's Daughter wear female clothing but not exactly standard fashion. And if I recall correctly, there's even a scene in one of the Pippi books where they try to put her in a normal dress, with predictable results.

Buffy and Pippi. There should be a crossover.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 8th April 2010 23:46 (UTC)

Ripley was one of the people I thought of too, and yeah, I can't really picture it. But like you say, visual media tends to be too codified and up-front about its characterisation. Literature is more subtle about it; as I said, I honestly couldn't remember how many of the Strong Female Characters™ in the books I've read over the years dressed, apart from the obvious ones (Éowyn wearing a man's armour when she went into battle, for example.) But I'm sure it's had a subconscious influence on me.

Buffy and Pippi. There should be a crossover.

Well, they're not books *I'm* really familiar with, so don't look at me. :-) I think my mother used to own one or two of them, either from her own childhood or because she was a schoolteacher, and I glanced at them but wasn't hooked.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 9th February 2011 19:33 (UTC)

Stieg Larsson's character Lisbeth Salander is supposed to be a grown-up Pippi, and influenced by Buffy. Would be nice to see a crossover of those.

Posted by: majingojira (majingojira)
Posted at: 9th April 2010 00:07 (UTC)

Thinking on it, most of mine wear pants.

Or don't wear anything, because they're inhuman monsters that I still identify as heroines in my book.

Thinking on it, my first strong female figures outside of family tended towards two monster: Mothra and Ogra (the mother of the titular monster in Gorgo).

After that, the first figure I can recall is Lisa Hayes/Misa Hayase of Robotech/Super Dimensional Fotress Macross. She was definitely a pants woman, being a bridge officer on a space battleship and all that. Not that she doens't have a soft side, but it does not detract from her strength in the slightest.

The next heroines I encountered tended to be parts of ensembles that don't strike me today as particularly strong overall.

Except Elisa Maza on Gargoyles. She fluctuates between the two. At work, as a detective in New York, she's pants. But if the occasion calls for it, she'll put on a dress too.

Beyond that, most of the programs I watched early on tended to be sureal, but featured largely pants-wearing variety (The Adventures of Pete and Pete). And Monster Movies, particularly old ones.

Sadly, only a few of them have non-token female leads. The only one that I'd call strong in any way was Dr. Pat Medford of the film Them!. Even though she screams and runs when she sees the monster for the first time, she remains competent and professional in every other scene.

Hell, she later goes into the nest of mutant ants voluntarily to ensure that all of them are dead (and that the right ones are dead). She starts off in a skirt (which, conviently, gets caught as she's climbing down from a plane ladder, letter us be introduced to her wonderful legs first), but puts on pants as needed.

After Buffy, things changed and more strong women entered my viewing perview.

What can I say, I'm a film and animation guy.

But of all the heroines I grew to love--all but a handful wore pants (or hotpants, damn anime).

Most of them were action oriented/front line combatants, so it sort of made practical sense. Only half of those, I'd say, would wear a dress is the situation called for it.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 9th April 2010 11:58 (UTC)

Even though she screams and runs when she sees the monster for the first time, she remains competent and professional in every other scene.

I think that's actually a good thing, in a way, because it's surely a natural reaction. Much as I love watching people like Buffy or Ripley kick ass, "fearless female basdass" is just as much a stereotype as the opposite, just a less common one.

Posted by: seraphcelene (seraphcelene)
Posted at: 9th April 2010 05:15 (UTC)

Oh, what an interesting question. I will have to ponder that.

What I wanted to point out, though, is that Lessa, I think, reverts to primarily wearing flight gear. Menolly is in a skirt while holdless (and thus subversive) but transitions to sanctioned pants once she joins the Harper Hall as an apprentice and becomes even more subversive. :)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 9th April 2010 12:02 (UTC)

You're right about Lessa often wearing flying gear; but one of the scenes from 'Dragonflight' that had stuck in my mind all along - despite my earlier disclaimer about not noticing these things - was the joy she took in wearing decent feminine clothes for the first time in her adult life. Also, I didn't find a description of what her flight gear actually looks like, other than that it's made of leather.

Without looking it up, all I could tell you about Menolly is that she wears Harper blue a lot. :-) But I didn't want more than one character from each author I quoted.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 12th February 2011 03:21 (UTC)
vuitton bags

Certainly. All above told the truth. Let's discuss this question.

10 Read Comments