To be honest, generic I could probably just copy and paste Miranda Priestly’s iconic cerulean sweater monologue from The Devil Wears Prada and be done with this article. She articulates a simple truth – No one is exempt from the fashion industry.
So am i shallow for following fashion? I have always been intrigued by fashion and, visit web despite the odd faux pas, I like to think that I’m often on trend. But I’m also interested in the wider influence of fashion. This summer I spent endless hours admiring the Vogue 100: a Century of Style exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery. It traced the evolution of British Vogue from its inception in 1916 to the present day and illustrated how influential and intrinsic the fashion magazine has been in shaping our understanding of the world. The exhibition featured the work of groundbreaking fashion photographers, era-defining designers and a library of 101 issues of Vogue. As such, Vogue is simultaneously an inspiration for future trends and a historical source, chronicling the changes in our cultural and political landscape over the past 100 years.
Putting prejudices aside for a moment, Vogue is undoubtedly an important historical document. Through fashion we can trace everything: from the women’s suffrage movement with the advent of an androgynous style in the 1920s, to the sexual revolution of the 1960s and scandalously short skirts, through to the political optimism and bright colours of the 1990s. Fashion has been at the forefront of defining each decade.
But is this projecting an importance onto fashion that doesn’t really exist? The fashion industry may have the ability to embody each era, but as Alice Rawsthorn, director of the Design Museum highlights, ‘fashion rarely expresses more than the headlines of history.’ So is fashion nothing more than surface appearance? A skin-deep and superficial industry that adds nothing to society.
I think that’s unfair. Art is never accused of being shallow and, after all, fashion is art in its own right. Alexander McQueen blurred the lines between fashion and art forever with his Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A. At it’s core, the collection was a celebration of beauty. But it also invited us to explore complex concepts – and isn’t that what art is all about? The best artists defy convention, and McQueen did just that. He became renowned for upending orthodox, normative standards of beauty and fashion and fearlessly challenging our boundaries of what we consider to be clothing.
He was heavily influenced by Romanticism and like all great artists of the Romantic movement he masterfully portrayed the simultaneous beauty and savagery of the natural world. He incorporated natural forms and raw materials into his work with a technical artistry that would put JMW Turner himself to shame. His work wouldn’t look out of place in the National Gallery in-between Vermeer and Cézanne.
Written by Alice Avis
‘Here’s a question I have, salve ’ my friend Bola asked me the other day, ‘why are there no adverts showing black women’s hair products on TV?’
I went to answer her but found I was at a loss for words. There was actually no answer beyond ‘deeply imbedded institutional racism’ but I suspect she already knew that one.
It played on my mind for ages. I’m baffled – surely there is perfectly good money just waiting to be spent on beauty products especially made for women of colour. Advertisers exploit everyone else, why not black women?
I’ve read about ‘erasure’ or ‘invisibility’ of minority groups many times before. I guess this is just one more example. I come from a minority group too – I’m a transgender woman – and we don’t get too much positive attention in the media either. We mostly get wheeled onto news programmes to argue for our right to exist.
While it might not seem like a massive deal that Bola isn’t being flogged hair products during Coronation Street, it hints at something much worse. It means the needs of minority groups are also going ignored. For advertisers and the media, Bola seemingly doesn’t exist.
If you’re into online chats about feminism, and what makes a ‘good feminist’ you’ll already be aware of ‘white feminism’. This term refers to the cupcake, instagram-friendly, #girlsquad brand of women’s rights – which often seems to be more about frolicking on the beach than seeking better equality and rights for women. More seriously, ‘white feminism’ has become a catch-all term for unevenly flagging and promoting concerns mostly affecting white women.
I think we should expand that however. Of course it’s not as easy as one set of rights for black women and one set for white women. That would entail huge, inaccurate assumptions on both sides. What about a very wealthy black woman? Her needs are different to a white woman living in poverty. Some women are gay or bi. Some are trans. Some are Muslim or Jewish. Some are disabled. Some are black and LGBTQ. You see what I’m saying.
So by ‘white feminism’ I really think I mean ‘white, financially secure, straight, not-trans feminism’. Let me be very clear: I think the rights of that group are phenomenally important. All women should have the right to education, safety, legal and reproductive rights and healthcare. All women should have a voice. The problem is – the white, straight, cisgender (not-trans), able-bodied voices seem to get listened to more readily. If you hear one type of voice repeatedly it becomes the ‘normal’ voice, the ‘correct’ voice.
Trans women have specific concerns but few voices permitted on mainstream platforms. I’m very lucky to have a column in Glamour Magazine, I’m very fortunate I’ve been heard. I won’t speak on behalf of all trans women – but I know I feel very vulnerable in terms of safety; I fear if I was assaulted the police would make fun of me; I worry that I would struggle to find a job if I could no longer afford to live as a freelancer; I stress about how my long-term medication might be jeopardised if the NHS were to stop funding it. Actually looking over that list, I think those are fears that would be shared by a great many women.
I know some trans women took umbrage at the focus of ‘Pussy’ slogans (such as LAPP’s famous hoodie) during the worldwide Women’s Marches. Some felt focusing attention on female genitalia excluded the needs of trans women – whose healthcare is very, very much at threat now that so-called Obamacare is being rolled back in America. For me, when someone brags about grabbing someone by the pussy, you have to respond to that. Every woman – regardless of their body – has the right to live free from fear of assault. By reclaiming the term, anyone who has ever been violated or touched against their will is saying ‘NO WAY’. Personally, as someone who has been assaulted in the past, I felt included in that protest.
It’s really about needs. I think feminism should be about working together to ensure the needs of all women are met, starting with those in greatest need first. I asked if I could write for LAPP because it’s so wonderful to have a new loudspeaker to amplify the voices of so many different types of woman. Like writer Flavia Dzodan said in 2011: ‘My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.’
Written by Juno Dawson
Juno Dawson writes for glamourmag.co.uk. Her new novel, Margot & Me is out now in all good bookshops.