Posted by: roamingolivia | November 19, 2010

Gender at a fashion auction

Last night I went to a fashion show fundraiser for the Pakistani flood victims, and as you’d expect there were more women than men there. I really liked clothes by the designer who runs the Pussy Willow boutique in Bermondsey, and I wish she could make all of my clothes for me. There was champagne, and really a 2:1 ratio of women to men (at least), and most of the women were kind of networky types. So I thought it might be some kind of empowerment thing – you know, that postmodern feminism where you are powerful because you have money and you spend it conspicuously.

It seemed a bit like that, but the men were snickering and making kind of annoying comments about the models (you can imagine) during the fashion show, which is fine. I get that.

The really interesting gender thing happened when the four pieces that were auctioned came out. At that point, the women who were interested in the clothes, discussing them or admiring them, got silent. The auction was for men. I think women bid only two or three times, and only one woman won an item (a shirt that had been in Vogue). Otherwise, the bidding bounced between about five men, and the women demurely laughed. (Me included; I wasn’t going to pay 700 pounds for a wool dress.)

In three men’s cases, it was hard to tell if they were bidding for someone in particular, or just as a present, or for the woman who had accompanied all three of them but was absent for the entire bidding process (not sure why – she came back when it was over). In another, he was accompanied by a woman so presumably they were for her.

The auctioneer said things like, “Come on guys, you know those bonuses are coming…” etc.

It was just interesting from an anthropological perspective – do the women make less money? Are they just more conservative with what they do with it? Do they know that 700 pounds is too much for a wool dress made by a relatively unknown designer (even if they boutique’s been featured in various places)? Is an auction an inherently male space? Etc.

Anyway, the moral of this story is: it was weird but the clothes were really cute.

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