31 January 2012

if the clothes fit

Someone asked me if I consider myself a fashion blogger or makeup blogger or what. At first I was offended (I get defensive easily LET IT BE KNOWN) but then I thought about it. It's a perfectly reasonable question to ask, considering the state of this blog. I'm not as interested in "fashion" as I once was, let's start there. As in, I don't spend hours trolling thru style.com archives anymore, taking notes on each and every collection in a Google Doc when I'm supposed to be paying attention in class. It's not as though I'm ignoring fashion, but rather, my focus in the industry is very finely tuned -- now more than ever. I know what I want out of fashion and I'm focusing all my personal style and creativity on attaining what I want out of the industry -- nothing more, nothing less. I think that is what makes fashion empowering to me, as a feminist. I use fashion as a tool of power/personal identity as much as I am used by fashion as an influencer thru my voice in social media. When people ask me about how I can possibly be feminist and be into fashion I feel like the answer should be obvious: it lets me do what I want. The end.  Minh-Ha T. Pham says it pretty wonderfully in this Ms. article:

If feminists ignore fashion, we are ceding our power to influence it.
 I mean, I get why people don't 'get' the fashion industry, I get that the representations of it can make it seem like a totally shallow, soul sucking industry. It can be. The parodies and satire are funny because they are sadly, woefully, true, in a lot of cases. Fashion isn't deep unless you give it depth. Once you put power and thought behind it, put meaning, it becomes something else: agency. Now, this agency can sometimes be at odds with privilege. It can be hard to like fashion when the only versions of fashion we see in popular culture are the ones modeled by skinny young white girls whose bodies don't resemble ours, who're wearing $500 tshirts and $798 skirts and $1000 worth of jewelry on each wrist. Make no mistake: I'm not hating on the people who can afford these things. Because rich people who see themselves in the popular representations, they might be using fashion as a means of identity, too -- it might just be easier for them to do it. There is nothing wrong with being rich, it's what you do with the money that counts. People read designer clothes and see what they want to see, you know? People see expensive clothes and think, "That person has it easy. That person is probably not like me." And it's easy to hate someone for it. I've done it before and I'll probably do it again in the future, I'm not perfect.  But you also have to take into consideration that fashion can't be equivocated to designer clothes -- it's bigger than that and it's smaller than that. Essentializing it into a scene for rich white girls is selling it short. You're dismissing the power it can give you, and that power is one of the most pervasive and widely used forms of communication you can have as a person. I mean, yeah. I think it's really stupid and fucked up that fashion designers don't make space for larger sizes -- I think it's unforgivable, really. And I think there needs to be a change. There is a lot wrong with the industry, but I think at heart fashion can be good, too.

 I think it's weird that people hate on fashion and in the same breath encourage people to "be themselves" and be unqiue. Girls are told we should "maintain ourselves" and in the same breath it's apparently uncool to be girly because being girly means we're dramatic and troublemakers and guys have 'so much less drama' and blah blah blah. All the mixed messages can really fuck with a girl. And I think a lot of the resentment towards fashion can be grounded in self-hate & the special snowflake complex.There's another blogger that said it pretty succinctly:

Jenny Holzer, Source
“Fashion is one of the very few forms of expression in which women have more freedom than men. And I don’t think it’s an accident that it’s typically seen as shallow, trivial, and vain. It is the height of irony that women are valued for our looks, encouraged to make ourselves beautiful and ornamental… and are then derided as shallow and vain for doing so. 

I love fashion. I hate fashion. I can't really live without fashion, because I can't escape clothes. I can claim defeat and pull on sweatpants and keds or jeans and a hoodie, but it's like slipping into someone else's skin, it doesn't feel like me. Fashion gets me into my own space, it's like I can breathe properly. I know that fashion can make people feel really bad about themselves but I think if you subvert it and use it and make it work for you and not the other way around it can be more than you'd ever expect......use the power it has and you get stronger because of it. I wrote a post about agency and fashion a little while ago, if you remember. The words are as relevant as ever:

I always return to the sentiment that my favorite clothes are my armor and my friends. They will never fail me. . . Clothes give me agency where talking often fails. . . I can be a feminist and also love fashion because I believe that your style and how you approach the industry and dissect and create the media can give you agency, give you a voice, give you strength. Passion in any form, like getting dressed (even if that is a simple form), just says that I am here and that I exist and I am not ashamed.


Lydia said...

Beautiful. I love fashion, and I read magazines and keep abreast of what designers are doing. I watch fashion documentaries and read fashion blogs, but the vast majority of my participation on the fashion world is just getting dressed in the morning. I shop almost exclusively at thrift stores, mostly because I am poor and can't buy new clothes, but also because I can find more unique things, and it forces me to put a lot of thought into how I piece things together, versus buying a "look" off a mannequin. Fashion totally contributes to my sense of self and identity, and it's something I love, and there's nothing shallow about that.

georgie said...

really really interesting blog post. what i find interesting about fashion and identity isn't really the actual clothes but the consumption of said clothes. by consuming we create identity-- 'i shop therefore i am'. love the quote about women being told to be pretty, then told they are shallow. its all very interesting, i dress in things that i like and fuck the trends!

mouse said...

definitely something to think about.

Ria said...

I'm obsessed with this post. You always bring it and I never regret actually reading your entries.

Allison said...

I really like this! I can definitely identify with having mixed emotions about fashion as an industry. It's nice to see such eloquent and well-supported writing about why fashion and feminism aren't exclusive.

Hazel said...

I think when people hear "fashion" they think of the industry. Yes, the industry is pretty fucked up in a lot of ways and can be frivolous. But a big part of fashion is the component of STYLE. Usually I tell people I'm into style and clothing, not fashion because fashion carries too many incorrect and judgmental assumptions (sort of like another F word *cough* feminist *cough*). Fashion is seen by many to be a representation of (Anna Wintour, sweatshops, anorexic models) so people say, "how can you like fashion?!" At the end of the day, I love style. I love expression through clothing. It's hard because fashion isn't about that YET it is about that at the same time.

hanna said...

so honest and true. there's def a huge difference between style and fashion, and fashion can often help discover one's style. i love this post!

Anonymous said...

Great post! I love seeing intelligent articles about fashion. It is so true that fashion is often associated with being shallow but in reality there are so many smart people that are speaking up about the industry now. That makes me so happy because I've been having this love/hate relationship with fashion for a few years now, sometimes I'll have phases of wishing I *ghasp* didn't care about fashion because it can make itself seem so generic with all these ads and same things in malls that outfit the majority, but I always return to fashion. It is like an old friend that is always there to make me smile, to comfort me and to cheer me up back to myself in the end.

julia aka garconniere said...

i started my blog when i was a bit younger, and a bit angrier, because i felt like these conversations weren't happening. lately, there's been such a large influx of them it has filled me with so much joy, and hope. here's my post from way back when, which is totally outdated now: http://alagarconniere.blogspot.com/2009/10/why-we-need-feminist-fashion-blogs.html

mostly i wanted to comment because i totally hear you on the dislike of the term "fashion blogger." i mean, there are so many babes i totally admire and respect like nicolette and hannah who are, yes, "fashion bloggers," but it just has never felt right for me. part of that, i think, is because it sounds frivolous. writer has more weight, but doesn't mean much different. back in 2010 i did an interview about my self-portraits, and my friend described me as a "fashion culture critic" which is more apt, in my mind.

anyway, a lot to say here, but i think you said it best yourself. i love that you paired your thoughts with two of my favourite artists :)

did you see hipster musings post back in december? i think you'd really like it if you haven't already read it. http://hipstermusings.blogspot.com/2011/12/hello-i-love-you-or-why-fashion.html

Miriam Woodburn said...

1 completely unrelated comment coming your way:
I've been following your blog for ages now and I've read Rookie ever since it first went online... But I didnt realise the 'Arabelle' on here was the same 'Arabelle' on Rookie until I saw your David Bowie make up tutorial! Keep up the good work!!! :)

Arabelle said...

yeah julia i saw it, isabel and i are friends :)

Magnet said...

i kind of agree with Hazel, I think I am more interested in 'style' than... the idea of FASHION. I'm more interested in the way people use clothing to represent an idea... a small, selected portion of their personalities to the world. Fashion... hmm. Well, trends, that glossy magazine idea of 'perfection' that universal minimal 'chic' look, doesn't really interest me. Great post.

Pauline said...

Genius post. This is completely how I feel about fashion, yet I'm not sure I could have said it as well as you did. Your view of fashion and the fashion industry is inspiring and definitely true. People should realize that fashion is not a form of shallowness from girls but much more a form of empowerment and assertiveness (in a good way!). Again, wonderful post. I loved reading your post!

Jenny said...

What Hazel said.

You Don't Know Jacquies! said...

you see I tried to explain the I shop there for I am thing to my parents.. they just didn't get it.. Oh well! Great post!

AErauw said...

This is such an amazing post. You really get in to what you're talking about, just like in your video post. It really is something interesting to think about...


coat stand said...

Beautiful. I love fashion, and I read magazines and keep abreast of what designers are doing

M.Usman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Muhammad Zahid Iqbal said...

I can claim defeat and pull on sweatpants and keds or jeans and a hoodie, but it's like slipping into someone else's skin, it doesn't feel like me. Fashion gets me into my own space, it's like I can breathe properly. beauty therapy l massage therapist salary

what is career transition said...

That makes me so happy because I've been having this love/hate relationship with fashion for a few years now, sometimes I'll have phases of wishing I *ghasp* didn't care about fashion because it can make itself seem so generic with all these ads and same things in malls that outfit the majority, but I always return to fashion.

Marcella said...

You've got interesting points. It's part of being a woman. We are unique in our own ways, especially with opposite gender.

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Shawna Pyle said...

Couldn't agree more with you, most of the times, what we wear basically defines who we are. I mean, we've coined terminologies like hippies, girly and rockers because we all classify them with the way they dress up themselves with particular sense of fashion, right?

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