Tuesday, March 15, 2011
"A lot of people in fashion don't love women. They impose their own ego upon women, whether they're men or self-hating women." - Zac Posen
While perusing through Cosmopolitan, I came across an article about nightgowns. I'm willing to believe most young people wear t-shirts and sweatpants to sleep nowadays, but I read on. Strangely enough, the article wasn't instructing me to purchase anything to make my man go crazy (I don't even have a man, for that matter), but rather what I should burn to please him. Apparently, men don't like women who wear frumpy nightgowns.
I'm a feminist, which has earned me personal criticism, as well as impersonal criticism from nonbelievers who just associate feminism with hairy legs and such. Cosmo is akin to the woman/girl who I almost feel bad for because she seems to hate herself so much, but what right does anyone have to tell another that it's unacceptable to wear whatever she or he pleases?
A nightgown is immensely different from a dress designated for public wear, but the message struck a chord. Why is it assumed readers will listen to this advice? A possible theory: in some cases, fashion is misogynistic. Yes, yes, this may sound extreme, and indeed it feels a little ludicrous to make such a claim. But let's explore this argument.
High heels and tight dresses may be restricting and flashy, so in order to demand respect, a woman might opt for a pants suit and more sensible shoes. This esteemed look is derived from typical menswear, suggesting that feminine shapes are incapable of earning respect. Of course, many women enjoy menswear-inspired styles - to each her own. But to make oneself seem competent, capable? It's unnecessary.
Of course, things are changing, and this may no longer be the case. I'll admit that I'm not really in the market for career-wear, so maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about. However, any spectator can agree with my next point: most runway models have boyish shapes. I wholeheartedly support embracing whatever size or shape one is, but someone is making a decision to employ these models as opposed to women who resemble the designer's clientele.
I don't know that designers are always attempting to capture femininity. What does that mean, anyway? Women can be masculine, and men can be feminine. (Neither of these should have a negative connotation, in any context.) But during a fashion show - in an industry which has received fire for implying that thin is the only beautiful - displaying pure masculinity directed at women seems insulting.
It's important to take any message sent to us with a grain of salt. If a woman wants to wear a smart blazer with tailored pants, that's just as well as a woman wearing a cardigan a silk dress in a New Look silhouette. Or anything else. We can accept or reject advice at our own discretion, but associating one particular style with power is just bullshit.