Feminism in Fashion

New York Fashion Week is upon us once again. As a self-proclaimed fashion fanatic, I very much look forward to the two weeks of the year (one in September and one in February) when models get to strut down the runway in designers’ latest threads, with fashion and celebrity royalty watching from the sidelines.

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I am not unaware of the backlash the fashion industry frequently receives, and for good reason I must add. We have been seeing stick-thin women with often altered looks in magazines and other forms of media for ages now, and it creates a negative influence and unrealistic expectations for girls and women of any age. Not to mention how lavish and expensive the clothing is itself. Despite these criticisms, there is a lot of positive feminism to take away from the industry.

If feminism is equality for all, then fashion is its number one supporter. There is notably no lack of a female presence in the business, but fashion is definitely not “just for girls.” Guys can love fashion, too! Many designers feature lines for men, from Chanel and Calvin Klein to Acne and Topshop. Marc Jacobs is known for his ads featuring cross-dressing models. In May of this year, 23 year-old Serbian model Andrej Pejic became the first transgender to be profiled in American Vogue.

The most notable and outright cry for feminism in the fashion industry came from Karl Lagerfeld at last year’s Chanel fashion show at Paris Fashion Week. After his show he staged a faux-protest on the runway, led by models such as Gisele Bündchen and Cara Delevigne. The parade of models held signs that read “History is Her Story” and “Ladies First,” among others. Lagerfeld received much criticism about whether a fashion show is an appropriate setting to advocate for feminism, but he stood by his creative choice.

Feminism comes in many forms and that’s why fashion is such a great representation of it. The stereotypes that are associated with feminism do not leave room for femininity, but that’s why they are just that—stereotypes. The presumption that feminism means showing more masculinity is absurd. Whether a designer’s clothing is soft and girly or more androgynous, there is something to represent and support all women. Fashion breaks gender norms and pre-conceived notions of how both women and men should dress. It allows for more individuality and less limitation. Being able to choose what you wear, even if it goes against prescribed cultural beliefs, is very liberating.

Fashion is encouraging women to dress for themselves, not for others. It helps us explore and discover our identity. The best part about fashion is that it gives you the freedom to be who you want to be. There are no restrictions to how you can dress, because the more you show your creativity and your true self, the more respected you become.

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