"You Don't Have to Be Pretty"

Ode to Joy

Well-known member
I enjoyed reading this, so I thought I would share it with you


So the other day, folks in the comments were talking about leggings. I'm pretty agnostic about leggings, but the whole discussion (which centered on the fact that it can be *really* hard to look good in leggings) got me thinking about the pervasive idea that women owe it to onlookers to maintain a certain standard of decorativeness.

Now, this may seem strange from someone who writes about pretty dresses (mostly) every day, but: You Don't Have to Be Pretty. You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked "female".

I'm not saying that you SHOULDN'T be pretty if you want to. (You don't owe UN-prettiness to feminism, in other words.) Pretty is pleasant, and fun, and satisfying, and makes people smile, often even at you. But in the hierarchy of importance, pretty stands several rungs down from happy, is way below healthy, and if done as a penance, or an obligation, can be so far away from independent that you may have to squint really hard to see it in the haze.

But what does you-don't-have-to-be-pretty mean in practical, everyday terms? It means that you don't have to apologize for wearing things that are held to be "unflattering" or "unfashionable" -- especially if, in fact, they make you happy on some level deeper than just being pretty does. So what if your favorite color isn't a "good" color on you? So what if you are "too fat" (by some arbitrary measure) for a sleeveless top? If you are clean, are covered enough to avoid a citation for public indecency, and have bandaged any open wounds, you can wear any color or style you please, if it makes you happy.

I was going to make a handy prettiness decision tree, but pretty much the end of every branch was a bubble that said "tell complainers to go to hell" so it wasn't much of a tool.

Pretty, it's sad to say, can have a shelf life. It's so tied up with youth that, at some point (if you're lucky), you're going to have to graduate from pretty. Sometimes (as in the case with Diana Vreeland, above, you can go so far past pretty that you end up in stylish, or even striking (or the fashion-y term jolie laide) before you know it. But you won't get there if you think you have to follow all the signs that say "this way to Pretty." You get there by traveling the route you find most interesting. (And to hell with the naysayers who say "But that's not PRETTY"!)



Well-known member
How profound! Thanks for sharing that! I will be printing this and re-reading it.

It's so simple when you think about it- but I never HAD thought about it that way. This is an "A-ha!" moment for me!

Thanks again xo

I just wanted to add: thanks for introducing me to that site. It really does warm my heart to see a purple lemur halter dress. ( A Dress A Day: "Marilyn Monroe meets <i>The Magic School Bus</i>" ) I know i shall never own it, but it makes me feel happy just to look at it. WHy? Because it has lemurs on it!


Well-known member

I think I see this "women must be pretty" attitude so strongly among celebrity mags and rags. They spend so many pages dressing down celebrities for what they wear when its not an "ideal" choice as if they somehow owe it to their public to look perfect all the time, every moment of the day and night. As if they aren't real people who have bad hair days, or just want to run to the grocery looking like a schlub like the rest of us.


Well-known member
Thank you so much for sharing this.

To be honest, in the past I was always afraid of wearing clothes that I liked to wear...mostly, because I thought for some strange reason, I didn't have any safety net to land on if I looked ridiculous. Like, if I showed up to class wearing something resembling a trash bag and thought I looked hot, people would whisper "...well at least she's pretty." I always thought only "pretty" people could pull off clothes.

Twisted logic, huh?

Well now it's nice to know that I don't have to be pretty to wear what I love

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