Pop-Culture | Posted by Hannah D on 09/16/2013

How Fashion IS A Feminist Issue

Fashion is so much more than just clothing and trends: it’s a feminist issue. The industry makes £20.9 billion for the British economy each year, and creates 816,000 jobs in the UK alone: however, the majority of women in the fashion industry are employed in the industry’s lowest paying jobs. And yet despite the fact that so many women are involved in fashion, it’s impossible to overlook the fact that the majority of the most successful people in fashion are male. For example, most of the top womenswear designers are male (Karl Lagerfeld, Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani, for example) as well as many of the best known fashion photographers (including Terry Richardson, Steven Meisel, Peter Lindbergh, Jeurgen Teller and Nick Knight). But beyond the composition of the industry itself, there’s its cultural impact to consider: fashion is known for objectifying women and emphasizing an unrealistic beauty standard. For these reasons and more, it’s easy to conclude that the fashion industry is misogynistic — and these aspects of the industry certainly are.

But it’s possible to make fashion feminist in a positive way. I come from a generation and society where arguably for the first time in a long time many young women are not wearing clothes to make a political statement — and we should be. A great example of how women my age have started to do this was during the Slut Walks, in which young women marched in short skirts and clothing considered “slutty” or “asking for it” to reclaim the idea that women should be able to wear whatever they want without fearing rape. Considering how we dress and dressing strategically is just one way we can continue to question sexism. Women should also critically examine their relationship with clothing, especially where their clothes come from since many of the people in charge of selecting what a lot of young women will wear are the male heads of fashion corporations. Deliberately choosing to wear clothing produced by a woman — whether designer or on a smaller scale or clothes you made yourself — is a feminist act.

It’s for these reasons and more that I also believe we need a truly feminist fashion magazine. Fashion magazines are a great medium for feminism because they have the potential to reach a wide audience who may not have considered how feminism can impact their life and passion. Such a magazine could redefine the very meaning of fashion by including features on powerful and diverse female designers and fashion designed to make all women look great and feel their best.

Although there will always be critics who dismiss the idea of fashion as compatible with supporting feminism, and who will no doubt bring up the size zero debate, I firmly believe that young women are smart enough to differentiate between what aspects of the industry are misogynistic and which are opportunities for feminist activism. Women should be able to choose female-designed clothing and read a feminist fashion magazine that comes from a place of empowerment and celebration of all women’s beauty, as well as fight the sexism that pervades other aspects of the industry.

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  • Noa @ at 4:40 pm, September 16th, 2013

    I’d read this magazine for sure! I love fashion design as an art form, and I know lots of girls who wanted to be fashion designers when they were younger- I was even one of them for a while- and maybe part of why we lost interest in that dream is the fact that the most successful people in the field are all men. I don’t know if it could ever be a print magazine but it could be an awesome blog- you should start it!

  • Kelly @ at 3:06 pm, September 17th, 2013

    The idea of a feminist fashion mag makes me so excited you can’t believe ^^

    What women wear is a problem that shouldn’t really exist. How do I dress? What am I supposed to look like? These are issues that myself and I’m sure many other women struggle with, and the idea that the answers to these questions are commonly dictated by males is so frustrating to say the least. A woman’s entire perception of her self has been pre defined in a way that makes looking in a mirror so some days.

    Great post. Thank you.

  • Sara @ at 2:27 pm, September 25th, 2013

    Or maybe we could stop pretending that “fashion” is important at all. Just saying.

  • Emma @ at 1:03 pm, September 26th, 2013

    thank you thank you thank you! I’ve actually gotten hate from feminists for being interested in the fashion industry, and it’s ridiculous– you CAN like something without being blind to its flaws. A feminist fashion magazine would be a great start and I would totally read it. Actually, have you guys heard of the blog Rookie? It’s sort of what you were talking about–it’s about fashion and feminism at once. Anyway, I think this article is a really good start to a conversation we need to be having.

  • Feminist Fashion Lovers | sosc111: Studies in Popular Culture @ at 8:30 am, February 19th, 2014

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  • Jennie @ at 11:22 pm, May 14th, 2016

    Hello, and thank you for your interesting article on the important issue of fashion and Feminism. I’m a Feminist, and am totally not interested in “what’s in fashion at the moment,” but I love a woman’s interesting and unique personal style. Fashion is a huge money maker because it puts pressure on women to buy what’s considered en vogue for the times. It could be a tacky 2,000 dollar Louis Vuitton bag, or an 1500 dollar Gucci sweater. Many conformist women will pay top dollar of their hard earned money to keep up with the latest styles, and it can get expensive. And you are right, the fashion industry is controlled by MEN, so essentially, they are telling us women what to wear. That doesn’t sit well with me. And the models (especially the run way ones) are usually forced to look like skeletons if they want work. Sure, there are plus sized models now, but the highest paying ones are very skinny. Again men are trying to tell us how we should look, and what is considered “beautiful.” My solution is to say screw what society wants, and find your own personal and unique way of expressing yourself. That’s what I do, and it feels liberating and “empowering!”

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