Tarty T-shirt trend could signal 'UR an anxious girl'

July 2, 2004

The cheeky T-shirt slogan might suggest that today's woman is more outgoing and sexually liberated than ever before. But a new study indicates that anxiety and peer pressure to appear more confident may lie behind the fashion.

Provocative messages such as "Trust me, I'm a Bimbo", "Pay to Touch" and "U R a Naughty Boy Go 2 My Room" have become commonplace.

Charlotte Church was recently pictured with "My Barbie is a Crack Whore" on her chest, Liz Hurley wears "Porn Star in Training" and the suggestive T-shirt slogan has become the flagship brand for clothes chain French Connection.

But the first academic investigation into why girls and women have taken to wearing such messages has uncovered evidence of a struggle to find their place in post-feminist society.

Agn s Rocamora, senior research fellow at the London College of Fashion, interviewed 52 women aged 15 to 45 about their choice of T-shirt.

"The women I talked to feel obliged to display a fun sexuality, ultimately in order to show confidence," Dr Rocamora said.

"Women are no longer supposed to be silent but are under huge pressure to succeed, and there is an anxiety about being able to show this confidence.

"One way women can be or pretend to be confident is through these T-shirts."

One girl interviewed by Dr Rocamora described the slogan T-shirt as an "icebreaker" that made her seem "a little more outgoing" to boys. Another said: "You just want to show that you're up for anything, sort of, 'I'm up for fun, I'm here for a laugh'."

A third said that women who wore these T-shirts were more confident and hence got more attention.

Dr Rocamora said the irony behind the cheeky slogans allowed the women to display their sexuality without being considered a slag.

She added that the women said that most men understood the messages were not to be taken literally while they felt confident to deal with those who did not.

The study will be presented at the Courtauld History of Dress Association annual conference in London this weekend.

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