I’m not a fashionista to say the least. If it’s comfortable, I wear it. But I do really love fashion. I like runway shows and I’m astounded by how designers can come up with these moving pieces of wearable art. But with fashion comes models, and with models come body issues. Ms. magazine’s January issues takes a look at whether or not feminists are “allowed” to like fashion in their article “If The Clothes Fit: A Feminist Take On Fashion”. They argue that fashion has been both an advancement for women (Coco Chanel anyone?) and a “weapon of restraint” (Kate Moss’ figure).
The Ms. article talks a lot about how fashion was used to show independence, such as in New York City, when women garment workers in the early 20th century wore hats to signify that they were earning their own money, and thus financially independent. In the 1980s, women adopted a male style of dress (ties, tailored skirt suits, shoulder pads) in an attempt to be respected by their male counterparts in the business world. Not to mention Carol Moseley Braun, the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Senate, who (gasp!) wore a pantsuit on the Senate floor in 1993, ending the Senate’s age-long ban on women wearing slacks there. (Yes, in 1993 there was a ban on women wearing pants in the Senate.) The other side of the coin is that fashion puts a lot of pressure on women to be ridiculously thin …
… and conveys the idea that they are worth the same amount that they are willing to spend on a pair of shoes. Is a high heel any better because the bottom of it is red? Are you any happier because it’s sitting in your closet? Do you think about it day in and day out, knowing that that particular shoe is making a world of difference in your life? Probably not, but people may think more highly of you, so why not be a little short on rent this month to buy the Jimmy Choo?
Said Vogue editor Anna Wintour in her February 2008 editor’s letter wrote:
“The notion that a contemporary woman must look mannish in order to be taken seriously as a seeker of power is frankly dismaying. How has our country come to this?…This is America, not Saudi Arabia.”
This can be construed as a very feminist point of view. One could also fault Wintour for pushing those unrealistic ideals as well as expecting us normal folks to measure up to her – when she has a $250,000 clothing allowance as part of her perk salary at Vogue. Which yes, most of us are extremely jealous of.
See, even “not caring” too much about fashion,I fall victim to it. I can’t tell you the last time I wore heels that weren’t boots or any piece of clothing that made me uncomfortable just because it looked good. I don’t have any designer labels (unless they were given to me by my fashion-forward friends as charity) but I would still kill to have that $250,000 perk to go buy this amazing Marchesa dress I saw. It’s a sickness, right?
So, can a feminist love fashion? Absolutely! Does it make her any less feminist? Well, no. Not at all, actually. We like what we like because it tickles a part of our brain, and nursing and nurturing our own interests and growing them in a way that makes us happy is extremely feminist – especially if we’re doing it for ourselves and no one else.