Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Want Too Feel Empowered Buy A Suit

image Thank goodness for the progressive fashion industry.  Women would just be wandering around aimlessly without any direction or inner fortitude, if we did not have fashion designers to empower us through clothing styles. According to the Sydney Morning Herald the runways of Paris are featuring man style dress for women.  Women are finding strength by wearing tomboy chic - boyfriend blazers, wide-legged trousers, peg-leg pants, power suits, stiff white shirts, suspenders, fedoras and stetsons.

What they would like us to forget about or the sweatshops that are in operation to make this beautiful suit.  They would like us to forget about the women that are virtual slave labourers to produce many of the garments that we wear. 

Why is it that women are meant to find empowerment through consumption?  It is not at all accidental that consumption keeps our capitalist market running.  It keeps us slaves and beholden to the ruling bourgeoisie.  Shopping is not freedom, especially when it is at the behest of those that already exploit large sections of the global population. 

The fashion industry would have you believe each season that the serviceable clothing which you own is no longer fit to wear.  Only someone ridiculously backward would be seen in last years fashions even though it has no holes in it, and looks practically brand new.  They create a purposeful obsolescence to enrich themselves. 

Not only do we collectively own a ridiculous amount of clothing, but we continually replace it with little or no regard to the cost of the environment.  If you have two legs why do you "need" 20 pairs of pants.  We have one torso, why do we "need "20 shirts?  The answer is we don't, but we have been so conditioned to consume that we give little thought to the excess of our consumption. 

Should someone decided not to partake in our western display of opulence we socially stigmatize them.  How many times have you heard the whisper, can you believe what she was wearing?  Weekly we have shows on television like what not to wear emphasizing the fact that our self worth can be measured by our clothing.  Suddenly with the right jacket, or the right pair of jeans a woman is transformed into a worthy and loveable being. 

It is time for women to start to think about why we continue to internalize the message of acceptability though appearance.  It further suggests that 'woman' is always in need of improvement.  We need not perform for anyone, we simply need to accept and love ourselves as we are. The seasonal parade of fashionable consumption is not liberating, and it encourages us to participate in the exploitation of poor women.



mzbitca said...

This post reminds me of the section in Backlash where Faludi talks about advetisers turning women's liberation into buying things and shopping a lot and how damaging that is to everyone but the advertisers. It is amazing how many people mark their value by "things."
My husband and I had this conversation yesterday about how, although we are barely hitting middle class we have it so much better than other people and we need to remind ourselves that daily so that we don't let the thoughts of greed and overconsumption in.

Danyell said...

Are you sure that this designer uses sweatshops? Only because many expensive designer labels do not- they are usually hand made by skilled tailors, which is part of why they are more costly. I know so many companies do use sweatshops, but I just want to be sure we are angry for all the right reasons.

I don't find anything wrong with the specific notion of wearing "mens" clothes empowering, simply because women used to not be permitted to wear certain clothing- like pants. But bugs me that is folks like me wear stuff like this all the time and get called derogatory names, but if a designer remolds it, then it's the picture of femininity. That is, until REGULAR femininity comes back next season.

Fads are completely stupid. It's all run by whatever the textile industry pushes that season anyway. It blows my mind that some people replace their entire wardrobe 4 times a year. Meanwhile I boast about the pair of Levi's I've had since age 15 that are only now starting to fall apart.

a. brown said...

I wear my jeans for at least one week at a time. That's what jeans were made for. And I also hold quarterly clothing swaps for my friends so they can trade and give away clothes (4 times a year, so decadent!) We donate about 400 lbs of good clothes to the women's shelter every year.

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

I agree with you Renee on woman rethinking about "why we continue to internalize the message of acceptability though appearance." I had a friend once say that I need to get rid of my glasses and wear makeup. I said no, I do not believe that my beauty is found through your definition of beauty. My definition of beauty is inner beauty. I don't care what you look like on the outside, you have inner beauty then I find we can be real people and get along well. I do not wear glasses and I do not have the current fortune to afford contacts so I cannot wear glasses.

Outer beauty is largely conditioned by society. I don't adhere to this and I have fought all my life against this. As if a woman is defined by her physical beauty, I disagree with that. You don't have to pile on makeup, do you hair, and wear the most flashiest outfits to be beautiful. And if you do that is cool too. Its just not what I do. Living simply, thinking about Mother Earth first and being me are the best way for me.

thewhatifgirl said...

I think this is another case of "out of sight, out of mind". If we don't see the sweatshop workers and the hell they go through so that we can buy yet another shirt that we'll wear twice before discarding, we don't have to think about them.

It's just another privilege, isn't it? I feel like this is one that really isn't that hard to effect change in - just stop buying new clothes when there are perfectly good "old" clothes that could be awesome with little or no alteration - and yet I wonder, too, what these women would do without that income? I find myself wondering all the time, is there some way that we could make their working conditions and pay better, rather than boycotting them out of it?

Anonymous said...

It's funny you link to the SMH (which despite all appearances is one of the biggest and oldest newspapers in Australia) when right now its front-page article is this.

eternal-llama said...


Is this the article you meant to link to? Perhaps it's just me, but that link doesn't work. I'd like to know what Renee thinks about that article as well. I didn't care for the way the writer slagged feminists for being jealous of Sarah Palin.

But anyway, thank you Renee for writing this. What I'd like to know is if you aren't into fashion or makeup and you have been stigmatized socially, how do you deal with it? It's fine to talk about loving yourself, but how do you manage that when so much seems to be working against it? I'm one of those women who isn't fond of makeup although I'll wear it on occasion. And I don't like spending a lot of money on clothes. Sometimes I get frightened though because I wonder if that's the only way I'll be accepted and loved. I also hate that if a woman is not into fashion and makeup, she's seen as "not taking care of herself." Why is that purely external. I don't buy beauty or celebrity magazines, for example, because of their preoccupation with thinness. I stopped wearing makeup because I wanted to learn to love who I was and be confident without it so in other words I was taking care of myself, but it had more to do with my physical and emotional well being. I didn't want my self-esteem to depend on the approval of others, especially men, so I made a conscious decision not to engage in those behaviours. Why isn't this perceived as taking care of oneself? Because my happiness/self-worth isn't being defined through what I buy I suppose.

But you are right to remind us that there are other issues at stake, not just our own self-esteem which seems to be linked with consumption, but that our privilege comes at the expense of others.

Renee said...


I went through a stage in my early 20's were I did wear makeup and nail polish, but I never felt comfortable. I was trying to fit in with the other women that I worked with. It never felt right for me. Later when I learned the social costs of makeup and the fashion industry and could not justify continuing the charade.

I am just like everyone else, I have the same insecurities. My boobs have headed southward since having kids and even with a pound of butter I could not squeeze into my pre mommy jeans.

I just decided one day, for better or worse that I had to love myself for who I am. There are those that think that I have let myself go and never tire of pointing that out but I have come to realize that it is a reflection of their own inner struggles and not truly a reflection upon me.

I know that I am a beautiful (even prettier than you D), intelligent, engaging, passionate woman. This may be a lot for people to handle as 'woman' is not constructed this way by society, but I am committed to living my life on my own terms. If I have any regrets when I am done with this life, I want them to be of my own creation and not because I did something to make someone else feel better.

Anonymous said...

I wore makeup in HS but my family was religious and I was not allowed to wear it at home or any nail polish. My mother aswell. I always had to hide, and I think because of this I never had an affinity for these products. Plus, I dont know how to use them properly. It IS an art to get it right!

Since turning 20, Im realizing the pressure women face to look fashionable. Very fashionable. Im genderqueer and I love the principles of mens fashion - functional, clean and relatively simple ( or maybe, gay men's fashion)? This is going to be a problem for me, I will have to operate in that system.

For now, I just want to learn how to apply foundation and give my face an even colored look. I don't like rainbow colors on my face, and I have no desire to show up at work looking "busted" ( as years of glasses and intense acne have created).

Plus, men dont get the fun of dress up and makeup! LOL