NS October 15th, 2009
I don’t care about fashion. Never have, never will. To be honest, I’ve always found the idea of caring about labels and the latest styles a little alien. I just don’t see the attraction. Spending all that time researching what’s new, spending all of that money obtaining it, only for it to be replaced by some other trend mere months later…it just seems pointless and endless and strange.
The throwaway culture it creates and the part fashion plays in fueling rampant and thoughtless consumerism is only one of my concerns, though. I’m also concerned with not only how the fashion industry portrays models and sets up an impossible beauty standards for ‘regular’ women, but also with the entire idea behind clothing and how we look at it as being a way to express and define ourselves.
Fashion was created by (for the most part) rich, white men who had very specific, rigid ideas of what women should look and act like. Since the first pencil was put to sketch pad to create a drawing for the Autumn/Winter collection, we have been adhering to what a select group of people very preoccupied with aesthetics and symmetry think is beautiful and inspiring and, ergo, fashionable. The women who will wear the clothes are of little concern or consequence. Our needs or desires pale in comparison with these men’s artistic vision. We are but grease marks in shades of charcoal on the drafting board to them. What do we know?
Let’s think about the history of and impetus behind fashion a little more. What do these designers base their ideas on, where do they get their inspiration and what or who told them that they needed to use very thin, boyish bodies for these designs to ‘work’? If it’s mainly men doing the designing, how do they know what will fit and flatter women, and be practical for their varying shapes and stages of life? The short answer is that they don’t. The long answer involves a favourite word ’round these parts, one that begins with a big, fat capital P. Any guesses?
But none of that really matters because what’s done is done. We can’t go back and change how men have viewed and controlled women, felt entitled to their bodies, since the beginning of time. Hell, if we can’t even convince many women that they’re not living in a post-feminist world where they are fully respected and on equal footing with men in the areas that matter, then what hope do we have of changing what the rich, white dudes think?
They have a vested interest in keeping us tightly bound up, corseted to our eyebrows and tottering on the highest of heels, even if it causes us discomfort and ill health. They have a vested interest in keeping us smooth, hairless, perfectly made-up and shiny, even if it wastes much of our time and money. They have a vested interest in keeping us slim and pretty and willing to do anything to make or keep ourselves that way. They have a vested interest in our self-hatred and our self-consciousness because it keeps us busy and our minds off of our 1 in 6 chance of being sexually assaulted, or our 1 in 3 chance of being cut open in childbirth in the U.S. (1 in 4 chance in the UK), or our 83 pence to every man’s pound earned.
Vered at MomGrind wrote a post yesterday in which she expressed disbelief and disgust at Karl Lagerfeld’s comment that women who complain about thin models are “fat mummies” who “sit in front of the television eating crisps.” She encouraged us to not put any stock in what he says and shrug it off as the ridiculous and pitiful statement it is. And she’s right, of course, we shouldn’t give two shits what a wealthy, septuagenarian man thinks of us, or what we wear or say or do. Because who cares, right? I certainly don’t.
But a lot of women do. A lot of women follow fashion like a sport and think shopping is next to godliness and that these designers are the fucking Messiah. So they will indeed care what he says.
Vered also linked to a post I wrote on the Roman Polanski rape debacle and apty tied that into how our society seems so prepared to forgive or dismiss rich, white men’s eccentricities and even their crimes because we consider their ‘genius’ more valuable than the people they damage. I left this comment on her post:
The fashion world and Hollywood need to be tied together with heavy stones and thrown into the ocean, as far as I’m concerned. I really don’t understand why so many women make themselves slaves to what these industries say we should do. A dress or a magazine or a movie aren’t motivation enough for me to destroy my self-worth.
Fashion is a large part of what I find so vacuous and intellectually bankrupt about our consumerist culture. Who the shit cares if a handbag was made by orphans in Bangladesh, right? So long as it’s got some rich white dude’s name stitched on the front in 24 karat gold, everyone can see that you’ve got money and need someone you’ve never met to tell you what to wear. Apparently this is a sign of status and progress. Ha-hardy-har! The patriarchy has successfully deflected our attention away from all of the violence and discrimination against women with shiny objects and busied us with eating disorders and clawing one another’s eyes out in our quest to epitomize their fantasies. Well done, rich white dudes, I’ve got to hand it to you, you’ve done a stellar job.
I think I’ll go be sick now, but not because I want to fit into that little black dress. Most likely I’ve just eaten too many crisps.
Because you know what, Karl Lagerfeld? I am what you would almost certainly call a ‘fat mummy’ and I eat crisps, happily, whenever the hell I want. I don’t stick my fingers down my throat afterwards so I can fit into whatever the hell bizarro-world clothes creation you’ve come up with lately, and you know that real women with a healthy dose of self-confidence don’t either. We can shrug off what you say with a laugh and a slap of our blubberous thighs and go back to our meaningful lives, ones with relationships to nourish and children to raise and jobs to perform and memories to create. You can’t get to us and it infuriates you, no doubt. We are a segment of the market you haven’t been able to crack, though lord knows you’ve tried. We aren’t many in number, granted. You’ve already gotten to most of our sisters, filled their heads with your ideas of beauty and perfection and cost them the ability to enjoy life and their bodies and the clothes on their backs on their own terms, for their own purposes and for their own bodies.
So it’s not for me, but for them, when I say Fuck you, fashion industry. Fuck you and the clothes horse you rode in on. Fuck your size zero models and use of Photoshop to make women’s hips appear slimmer than their heads. Fuck you for firing models for gaining five pounds and no longer fitting the skeletal mold you have created. But most of all, fuck you for getting inside the heads and hearts of millions of women the world over, infecting them with your “vision.”
I don’t need clothes or hats or shoes to express myself, or give me confidence or define who I am. If someone wants to pigeonhole me based on my attire that is their problem, not mine. All I need to be me, to be a woman, are the courage of my convictions and the words to tell you where to go when you try to stuff me into your pretty little boxes in the name of a deluded form of masochism called Fashion.
I don’t wear pencil skirts, I hold pens. I don’t need the pictures in Vogue, I have words; words sharper than the hipbones jutting out of the girls parading down the catwalk wearing the latest article of clothing from your self-hatred-breeding machine.
I don’t need fashion, I have a voice. And I’m not afraid to use it.
Image found at nuacco.com