I haven’t been in fashion for very long. When I started down the women’s fashion road, the feminist in me was like, whoa – mainstream fashion has a very distorted view of women beginning with the sickly, undernourished figures they design for and present their clothing on, to the idea that a woman craves putting tons of energy and money into her appearance. I flip through the pages of the mainstream fashion magazines and don’t see myself or my lady comrades anywhere in its pages. We just don’t think that methodology of eye shadow application is wildly interesting, or crave the latest ridiculous platform and tight fitting skirt that tries to reimagine how to restrict our movements. Or how about a ridiculous purse that immobilizes your hands and doesn’t hold anything? And I don’t see the beauty and power of the female form anywhere in its pages except for maybe in the form of a tiny bit of text on a plus size designer as if a woman who wears a size 10 or more is an exotic animal.
Instead there is page after page where we put a slim, prepubescent figure on a pedestal as though all woman should aspire to look that way, even after living well beyond adolescents. That is the only “authentic beauty” – women who never developed hips or breasts. Just didn’t happen. If this is you, I am not judging you, it just speaks volumes about the fashion industry that this is the only acceptable body type in mainstream fashion. What’s the deal? Does mainstream fashion hate the female form in all its power and glory? Anybody have an idea as to what’s going on here? Is it that if we accept the beauty and power of women in our bodies–hips, breasts and all–we might decide not to purchase anything at all and the whole industry would self-implode?
So I found a magazine article from early last year from Vogue that I had somehow missed (I probably started dozing off after a feature on a new take on the updo) and the title was “The Great Disruption” with a caption that said that “the fashion world begins to look, feel and think more like the real world” and I got all excited. ‘Here it is!’ I thought. The work I’ve been waiting for: The “revolutionary” designers who actually cherish the female form. Um, nope. Not even close. Instead, embracing all forms has skipped over the adult female form entirely and launched a campaign to include transgender people. But not transgender people of all forms – no just transgender people that look like prepubescent adolescent girls and boys. And then I thought- this shit is getting weird. The take away message I got from it is: We don’t care what gender you are as long as you feel equally motivated to change the way you look using our products. That whatever your natural beauty is, it must be coated in expensive pots of this and color sticks of that. Whatever figure you have – strive to strip it of all shape and curve using our fancy juices and dieting techniques. And then we will accept all of you for your unnatural beauty.
I know we can do better. And once we start, there is no stopping us. Once we start telling women that their form, just as it is, is beautiful, there will be no stopping us. Once they put on a design that was designed for the love of a woman’s form they will never want to wear a garment that didn’t consider their form relevant. And once we get the ball rolling there will be all sorts of designers designing clothing that reveres a woman’s form. It will be a feminist fashion revolution!
And I know you are probably thinking we have major problems to worry about – climate change, an insane person leading the country, unprecedented inequality. Yes I know. I too read the news. But I do think that women need to start taking themselves and their role in the world seriously. And one avenue is to reject what we’ve been told about the way we should look and interact in society. We are not arm candy. We are not exotic animals. We are not living breathing furnishings to be admired at parties. We are the heart and soul of the room. We are the geniuses. We are the leaders, the innovators, the movers and shakers. Sure admire our blouse or a creative piece of jewelry. But that is not the what. We are the what.