am i the only one who finds it frustrating to consistently see young women’s fashion blogs - who proudly center the content around being “feminist” - yet continue to be completely uncritical when it comes to consumer ethics and/or sponsored content? like, literally hundreds of outfit photos over the years but absolutely zero content about questions around how their clothing is made, why they like what they like, why they buy what they buy…
how is it not absolutely key to any claims of being a critical thinking feminist to think/ask about what conditions the people making your 25$ knockoff sweater sold (most likely illegally) online were in? when there are still deadly fires in factories in dhaka, bangladesh, kill over a hundred people and injure countless more all in the hopes of making cheap fashion as quickly as possible for western-based brands. how is this not a major concern for anyone who considers themselves a fashion-loving feminist? 80% of the workers in the garment industry in that country are women! how are we not asking questions about the impact fast fashion has? insightful conversations about access/fast fashion/class notwithstanding…
is it because they are not asking those questions, or they are too intimidated to look beneath the surface? it is privilege?
do fashion blogs foster judgement/jealousy because you can easily find out how much someone spends on their appearance, while also being able to hear them complain about being broke?
if online fashion communities once thrived on livejournal, where discussions and comments were central (woah in the pre-facebook “like” days) what does it mean to have that now exist somewhat on tumblr? is having over a thousand notes on your tumblr fashion friendly outfit worth the same as having 50 comments on one of your thrift_whore or newestwrinke posts?
how much of our outfit photos are truly for ourselves, how much is contrived for an audience? i’m not talking about the actual outfit here - i’m talking about the act of taking the time to take a full-length outfit photo and choose to share it publicly online.
am i becoming the crotchety-ass old woman i always knew i would become?
part of my empowerment through fashion and clothing has been largely due to my discovery of vintage clothing. i’d never felt at home in new clothing, never felt like it truly expressed what i wanted to. like most teenage girls, i spent a lot of time - and wasted a lot of money - trying to figure out what i liked to wear and what i wanted to look like. when i finally started foraging through the local thrift stores with friends at around fifteen, i felt at home. i started living in old man’s pants, ratty wool cardigans and little kids t-shirts (much to my mother’s dismay, but that’s another story).
the class dynamics operating here are interesting; my friend zach would borrow his parent’s van, we’d all chip in for gas money and head down the 401 to “the big city” of belleville to go to a few thrift stores there, since there were slim pickings in our smaller towns. when most of the other kids our age were going to the mall, the only reason we ever stopped there was to use the photobooth. we would inevitably end up at the now-defunct goodwill and forage through the racks to find the most hilarious things possible; obscure 1970s union t-shirts, old vacuum cleaners, 1960s mod coats… inside jokes would emerge around the clothes we’d come home with, the books we’d never actually read from cover to cover, the argyle socks and ill-fitting plaid pants.
it was a truly empowering experience for someone like myself, whose fashion choices had always been limited by how much money i had in the bank. at thrift store, i could find amazing dresses you couldn’t find anywhere else for a mere 5 dollars, as opposed to the beautiful new dresses in the stores in the mall across the street i wanted which cost nearly a hundred… i could play dress-up. i could be someone else. it’s something i really love about vintage; i quickly learned i could fool people into thinking i’m someone i’m not, and shock them in certain ways."
— quoting myself in “the politics of vintage” (december 2009)
So there are several feminist publications out there right now — I even contribute to some of them! But none of them are very specifically queer and feminist and talk about fashion, specifically, and not in that ‘groundbreaking’ way that discusses how fashion can be feminist. I know it can be, there are lots of people I know who know it can be, and it informs how we approach feminism and vice versa. I want to bring that discussion to the table. I want to share the stories about how fashion informs feminism and feminism informs fashion and how they help each other out. I want the discussion to move past how problematic the industry can be (because newsflash, we all know it can be, and how it is, and how it needs to change) and talk about how much fucking fun it is. Because how I present myself is fucking subversive. Because how I treat my body is a political statement. Because I am queer and feminist and yeah I like fashion, and it doesn’t make me a lesser queer or a lesser feminist for doing so.
There is no current publication that speaks about fashion from a feminist point of view that doesn’t consider the industry to be an inherently destructive structure. I think it needs to happen, and I think I can make it happen, even if what I create is really small, and maybe won’t be a huge series. I think I can do it and I think you all can do it too, and we can do it together.
I already have seed funding so this isn’t even a call for donations — I don’t need them at the moment. I just need your stories. Your contributions. Your artwork, your photographs, you — not your money. Do you identify as queer? Do you like fashion? How does it help you and give you power? How does art give you agency as a person? As a feminist? As a queer sea monster?
If you don’t feel like you’re represented in other mediums, if you want to talk about fashion from a feminist perspective, if you want to talk about wearing stockings as a dude, I don’t care what you talk about, throw your ideas at me, I want to hear them, I want to publish them. This zine will include art, poetry, interviews, photoshoots (if you live in or around NYC we can work on this together!!), articles, anything that can fit. Spill your guts and let’s make this shit happen. Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s work shit out.
Signal boost please! Luv u ok bye.
HOW AM I JUST SEEING THIS NOW.
What we are wearing is political and has really high stakes! The conditions of production of the actual materials we wear are life and death, and the consequences we all face for how we use clothing, grooming and style to craft our appearances are life and death. I’m thinking about racist laws that have attempted to ban sagging pants in some jurisdictions or use certain colors of clothing as methods to identify and criminalize youth of color for purported gang membership. I’m also thinking of the long history of sumptuary laws, and the horrific regulation of gender-related clothing and grooming items that trans prisoners are constantly fighting. Fashion is definitely a political question.
It’s interesting because fashion and style is a site of liberatory feelings at times—moments of pleasure, mutual recognition, belonging, escape, and rebellion. But there is also the broader context of extreme violence and coercion in which we dress ourselves. There is the constant danger of feeling wrong, being punished, and being stared at. These two elements are often happening simultaneously. I think about this when I engage with people who I know are making choices about their appearances that are both highly endangering and also feel urgently important or wonderfully expressive. It is amazing how much so many people risk to wear their look. Certainly, many trans people exemplify this, risking extreme violence walking around offending gender norms and being beautiful."
- Dean Spade in an interview with Queer Couture
this entire article is blowing my mind. it is so much of what my work is about, and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to read more and more articles like this one, to see that work is being done by others in impressive passionate ways.