Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fashion versus feminism.

My internet connection has slowed down to a drawl at the moment, so I figured I'd do a couple of text posts I've been thinking about but putting off. Time for a spot of editorialising, no?

I feel a tad embarrassed to speak of this blog, though really I think it's a splendid thing. But it does seem like there's some inherent contradiction in being a feminist fashionista -- especially a vaguely socialistic, queer woman of colour feminist.

And mostly that's fine and fair. I have good reason to feel silly making Polyvore sets using $900 4-inch heels, with all the clothes photographed on 6ft size 6 mannequins, but it's not like I have model proportions and Louboutins in real life. Sure, there's plenty that's fucked about fashion -- promoting unhealthy beauty norms and unsustainable consumption, glorifying luxury and excess, relying on exploitative labour practices. But then apart from the beauty norms, isn't that just capitalism in general? Maybe it's a bit more obvious in fashion that there is a whole industry dedicated to creating demand, and changing it on seasonal whims, for profit, but it just works differently and on a slightly stretched out time-scale for other consumer goods. Besides, you can appreciate design without desiring accumulation -- again, I don't actually want Louboutins, any more than I want to seduce Mormon missionaries -- it just seems like a kind of attractive idea.

So what's so bad about fashion? Is it better if I say "style" instead? Maybe fashion is bad for women -- I'm pretty sure at least that most fashion magazines are bad for women. But maybe so is the denigration of fashion in relation to other design, as if buildings are necessarily more interesting and innovative than clothes. Isn't that just some old masculinist, classist prejudice like the divisions between art and craft, design and production?

(United Nude are interesting in this respect, with shoes inspired by the mobius strip and Eames lounge chair -- ashamedly I am much more comfortable telling people who aren't into fashion about these designs than equally stunning shoes by Fluevog or Irregular Choice.)

So, in defence of fashion: It's hot useable art for the masses. On a regular day the most creative thing I do is put an outfit together, and it's rarely as satisfying as penning a poem but usually better than reading the paper. And only the most obstinate intellectual snob could not find this delightful and exciting (and isn't Gareth Pugh the most aptly named designer you've ever heard of?).

1 comment:

a cat of impossible colour said...

Yeah, I struggle with this contradiction too. Don't have a sensible conclusion, though :P