In the past fashion and feminism were never considered things that could coexist. As a matter of fact, fashion has been considered anti-feminist because of the way that the industry treats women. Designers, models, and other people who were influential in the industry have been criticized for calling themselves feminist and yet on the opposite side female scholars have been criticized for paying attention to fashion because they should be spending their time with something more productive. As most of us know the fashion industry is known for demeaning women with revealing images, body shaming and portraying unrealistic images of women, and lacking diversity in color and size. However, bloggers and other influential members of the fashion industry could be changing all of this.
The fashion industry has been highly criticized for over sexualizing women's bodies with revealing images in ad campaigns and sending women half naked down the runway when we were raised to believe that no self-respecting woman would be caught dead seen like that. But is it really a problem with the fashion industry or what we have been taught? Women should be allowed to wear whatever they so please, and the models aren't being held down and forced into the clothing, they should know what they're getting themselves into. "Some women find empowerment in wearing very little, such as the topless
protestors of FEMEN, while others find empowerment in covering up from
head to toe, in the case of Muslim women donning the hijab," says Diane Taha, founder of the fashion and beauty blog Style Context, who just so happens to also be a feminist. "Regardless
of where you lie on the spectrum, I think it's a testament to how
powerful a medium clothing (or lack thereof) is for expressing oneself." If you feel good dressed in barely there shorts and a crop top then you can wear that, but if you feel better in pants and a long sleeved shirt then that should be okay, too. It isn't hurting anyone if it isn't hurting the girl and we shouldn't be judging her for what is on her back, or not. Though Diane mentions that it's important not to impose your fashion views on others.
Body shaming and the portrayal of women as "perfect" beings is another key issue in the industry for women. As we all know most models are stick thin with perfect hair and perfect skin, but not actually. The pressure is on to lose that weight, get rid of that acne, and just generally be perfect. Although it's been getting better, many brands and shops, such as Abercrombie & Fitch, brand their products distinctly for "beautiful" people. And this beautiful isn't all inclusive. This beautiful is tall and thin with perfect hair and skin. Barbie dolls, in other words. We've been trained to believe that this is what we're supposed to look like even if the standard is unrealistic for the most beautiful women in the world. Even when photographers are uncomfortable with doing so more times than not they are convinced to Photoshop the images to unrealistic lengths. They smooth the skin, elongate the bodies, and add boobs that weren't previously there. They turn images of perfectly beautiful women into something that they aren't and the rest of the women of the world are expected to follow along.
And as we have all figured out, I'm sure, the fashion industry is white washed out the wazoo. It's not very common to see a super model of color, though black models are starting to spread there are still definitely more white girls and barely anything of anyone else. On top of that racist stereotypes really affect the way that women dress and fix themselves up. For example, an Asian woman may not feel comfortable looking "too Asian" and may curl her hair or try to make her eyes look bigger because they have pin straight hair and smaller eyes. Stereotypes like that really just hurt how the person comes across. It makes it difficult for women to express themselves, including their background which is a huge part of a person.
It is our job as consumers, bloggers, and people actively involved in the fashion industry to stand up to these issues and to let the world know that fashion is an art meant to express ourselves through clothes. Clothing can be just as powerful in expressing something as words or traditional painting. Women should be defined by their complex personalities and not the way that they look, everyone should be defined by their personality! We need to express that the fashion industry should be all inclusive and that models can be short or fat or stick thin or tall. And we need to let it be known that we can believe in women and fashion. Fashion and feminism aren't mutually exclusive things. "It's important to make a distinction between fashion and the fashion
industry," says Diane regarding the rep that fashion has gotten for being anti-feminist, "The former is an art form and mode of communication, while the
latter is an institution with its own self-interests." This speaks volumes for fashion today. We can't judge the art of fashion by what some people do in the mainstream fashion industry, because there are bloggers, brands, charities and websites that promote inclusiveness in fashion. J Magazine, for example, is a fashion magazine that had it's first issue revolve around neofeminism. Blogs like Jezebel, Man Repeller, and Style Rookie (for young women) definitely put down some stepping stones for us to make a difference.
Though there is a lack of feminism in the mainstream fashion industry, it is slowly creeping it's way in and with our help we can definitely speed the process up. Bloggers from around the world are letting it be known that they aren't going to let mainstream beauty ideals change who they are as women, posting photographs of their personal style regardless of what the rules are, and expressing their own personal views of what fashion really is and how beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The power is in our hands because we are real women with real bodies that we should be proud of, and we can use fashion as a feminist statement. We can make a change by promoting inclusiveness and feminism in fashion in our own ways. How could you help out on your own? Make a response to this post and entitle it "Re: Fashion and Feminism," make your own post about feminism in the fashion industry, be thoughtful when making a post and don't body shame models, bloggers, or anyone else, complain about the issues in mainstream fashion endlessly because believe it or not we do have power, and anything else that you can think of!
I would like to thank everyone who sent their interview responses back to me, but a special thank you to Diane who had especially thoughtful responses and sent them back in time to be edited into the final draft. You can follow Diane on her blog here and on Twitter right here. If you would be interested in a Feminist Fashionista Twitter chat, let me know in the comments, so I can get a head count. If you have any ideas to promote feminism in fashion go ahead and leave a comment below. Also, if you are a woman of color and would like to be involved in my next post like this (in August) on Racism in Fashion leave your blog URL and a way to contact you so we can talk.