Fashionable Feminists and Feminist Fashionistas

I’ve noticed that there are so many stereotypes about feminists and also about people who are into fashion, or “fashion people”. In many ways, I’m out to show that feminists can be into physical looks, and that fashion folks aren’t only into fashion.

As a feminist who loves fashion, I am continually annoyed by assumptions both groups make about the other. Feminists are ugly, awkward, unfashionable, and cynical, while fashion people are shallow, materialistic, stupid, and pretentious.

Fashion may be seen as a more “unimportant” thing compared to the fight for liberation of women, which is undeniably and extremely needed. Yet, fashion and feminism are not unrelated at all. When women’s choice for what they wear is limited by the law or a religion, we see that clothes obviously mean something. To think that a woman wearing a suit was outrageous even in the late 1960s is crazy–socialite Nan Kempner was denied entrance into a restaurant for wearing her Yves Saint Laurent Le Smoking suit, until she took the pants off and wore the shirt as a tunic–and proves that a strict gender presentation always oppresses women.
And, present day, when we see that France has banned the burqa, we must understand that it isn’t for the liberation of women, and it is just as helpful for women as it is to force them to wear it. In both situations, women are not the ones making the choice of what to wear on their own bodies. And when the burqa ban had not been passed yet, French designers like Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and Marithé + François Girbaud sent down burqa-inspired looks down the runway, using their craft as an outlet to speak on social issues.

Marithé + François Girbaud

When one watches the film The September Issue, which goes behind the scenes and shows us the making of the year’s biggest issue of American Vogue, the audience sees that in fashion, women are in charge. Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington call the reigns, and Anna herself is one of the most powerful people in the fashion industry and in the country. Fashion, ultimately, gives women the choice to wear what they want.

Fashion people and feminists would gain a lot by having open conversations with each other and appreciate what the other has to offer.. neither one of us live in a bubble. In general, fashion people need to realize that women still have strides to go in terms of liberation and equality; and feminists need to realize that there is nothing wrong with caring about one’s physical appearance. I feel that being extremely one-sided in either manner is boring and shows a mark of pretentiousness; we can make fashion feminist, and we can make feminism fashionable. After all, these terms are up to us to define.

V xx

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