Feminism and the Fashion Industry

I’m a fashion journalist. This is not, I’m guessing, exactly a great opening statement for a blog on a feminist website… Sorry.

The good news, though, is that I’m a teenage feminist fashion journalist and blogger at a genuinely morally good publication – and that my biggest inspiration in life is a (“grown-up”!) feminist fashion journalist at an equally morally good publication.

So, why am I telling you this?

Because I think that the industry I work in deserves to be cut some slack. I’m guessing that most young feminists look on it as a bit of a moral nightmare, because of the sexual and physical exploitation of models, and because of its blatant size-ism, and because it’s generally considered to be “a bit shallow."

And yes, all of that is true.

But there is a good side to the fashion industry, there really is.

For starters, not everyone in the fashion industry is out to get the “regular girls” (by which I mean the girls who don’t fit into dresses seen on catwalks). Some magazine (admittedly mostly the online ones) such as Lipstick Royalty (the one I write for) and N.E.E.T. feature normal people, as well as young, up-coming writers, designers, photographers, and models, many of whom are making their mission in life to change the industry as we know it. And then there’s this:

“It seems similarly anti-female to suggest that in order to be a true feminist, one is not allowed to have any vanity… Patriarchal society or not, everyone likes to look good…

Here, one suspects, lies the nub of the anti-fashion prejudice. Good God, women doing something – just for themselves? Spending their own money? Women making themselves feel good just for themselves…? Dear God, cover your eyes, think of the children!”

That’s an extract from the section on “Vanity, the joys thereof” in ‘The Meaning of Sunglasses’, a fashion book by the aforementioned “grown up” feminist fashion journalist, Hadley Freeman, of the Guardian and British Vogue… and I think she’s right. One of the in-built prejudices we have about the fashion industry is that it’s exploitive of women, and that it forces women to conform to standards that men find attractive…

But, generally speaking, almost every major player in fashion is female, from the editors to the bloggers, and to a lesser extent, the designers, too. And, I don’t know about you, but I wear what I wear for me. I don’t care what any male in my life might think. It’s his problem if he thinks I should spend less time in jeans and t-shirts, and more time showing him my legs. I’m not going to – and I tell this to my Grandad on a semi-regular basis (much as it pains me).

I think that we should happily embrace this industry; it’s essentially ours, anyway, and, well, I don’t know about you, but I think that a large dose of feminist opinion into it might be able to alleviate all of the major problems I mentioned, Size Zero, and the sexual exploitation of models especially.

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Amy CT
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