I love clothes, and I love fashion. I just do. I claim I inherited my love of clothes from my mother. And look at me—almost no curves, long legs. I look singularly unimpressive naked. What else is there to do except dress me up like a Skipper doll (Barbie is too curvy)? In last month's InStyle, there was a section on how to dress for your body type. About the only "problem" I have to deal with is my shoulder width.
Don't hate me, my female friends. I'll take your curves any day.
Is there such a thing as a feminist fashionista? Isn't that an oxymoron?
There was a post with comments on just that subject a while ago in Feministing.com. The conclusion? Inconclusive.
A few things struck me. Lori Adelman, who wrote the post, had this to say, which a couple of commenters cited: "I like the idea of loving myself enough to take care of myself, groom myself, and present my best face to the world every day." That resonates with me. As long as we live in a climate that requires us to wear clothes, the way we present ourselves to the world is an expression of who we are and how we feel about ourselves. That's one big reason that I like to look as good as possible, whether I'm dressed up or down. I'm saying, This is me. I'm more than this, but this is how I chooose to present myself. I put some thought into my appearance.
There really isn't any way around being evaluated for appearance. That's going to happen whether I wear a designer gown or a T-shirt and sweats. There's nothing inherently wrong with declaring, with your appearance, that you don't care about conventional beauty standards. That's a valid statement. But that's also the point. No matter what you wear, it's a statement. In my case, I choose to make a different statement, because that's who I am.
The ambivalence, however, is never far away. Lori wrote this as well: "It’s about letting myself derive pleasure from things that are aesthetically appealing, while rejecting the culture of superficiality that often characterizes communities that value said aesthetics." I love beauty. I realize the trap it can be. But it's hard to find the balance.
There isn't necessarily "feminist fashion." Perhaps it's a matter of the two being orthogonal, so that it's not feminist to be a fashionista, but it's not anti-feminist either. To me, that's important. I don't want to undercut my values by my love of fashion. So I try to find my own balance.
I drool over stuff in fashion mags, but I'm careful and conscientious when I buy. I'm trying to buy fewer pieces of better quality. It's hard, because I love new things as much as anyone. But I know I can't just buy and toss away. I'm always trying to buy clothes from local designers, made in Canada of sustainable materials. They tend to cost more, but they'll also last longer than something trendy from H&M. Yes, I still do succumb to the lure of trends, but less than I used to.
It's human, and not un-feminist, to love art and beauty. I can't draw, but I seem to work pretty well with my own personal canvas. I enjoy it. I find it fulfilling. I try not to get obsessed with it. In the end, I don't want people to see only what I'm wearing, but I do want them to see that I'm making my own statement.
Like Lori, I'm still working on this. I'm still questioning. I'm trying to be a feminist fashionista, or a feminist who loves fashion, or a fashion lover who is nonetheless feminist. Do you think it's possible?