As always, feminism has always been a conversation starter and major topic of discussion in different facets of society.
There’s a famous adage that goes like this, “There is no force stronger than a woman determined to rise.’’ The words are so on point and very powerful. It became a saving mantra for many women across the globe fighting against misogyny. Thus, women started many battle cries for equality and opportunity. Feminism was born, and its history began.
One century later, feminism has its new facets. It becomes the new inspiration for fashion statements. Feminism even changed our pop culture.
Acts as simple as taking the gloves off as a form of political gesture can be made in a very literal sense. Whether Mods creates a hysteria with their bare legs or Gibson Girls caused a stir by stepping outside without wearing their gloves on, fashion becomes the platform to challenge and change the limitations of gender.
The Motivations of Fashion Industry
Unisex styles nowadays are another equality benchmark, but it’s barely progressive in the past.
More and more social entrepreneurs and companies are now beginning to comprehend that empowering and lifting up women are necessary and important to build a more equitable industry.
There are countless efforts to establish a fashion industry that gives greater support for women and practice less tolerance for wasting materials. However, Lis Suarez Visbal, founder of FEM International, views them as different sides of the same coin. Visbal said that helping women workers realize their economic opportunities is important.
Visual establish FEM International, a nonprofit organization, to educate and train women as social entrepreneurs in fashion. She also created ETHIK eco-design hub as a development center to help women survive and reach the market when their businesses are ready.
Fashion and Feminism
Fashion transcends into a feminist tool as decades pass by, turning silk shirts and dresses into means of incitement to generate more space for women at the table.
Putting on a sparkling mini dress or shrugging on a blazer nowadays might not seem like a big deal, but unbeknownst to many, there’s painful past affixed to each of these wardrobe staples.
Clothing and accessories typically tote at women from sales racks and sidewalk display windows, but women before fought tooth and nail to obtain the right to wear them. They stood firmly on the ground to support their beliefs, criticisms or not.
The Empowering History
The history of fashion and feminism is a bittersweet one. Fashion, for a long time, has been a weapon of feminism to break free from oppression, break racial discrimination, and make political statements.
During the 1960s and 1970s, black American women wore denim overalls instead of dresses to fight equality at work.
Another remarkable movement is when women across the globe made pink as the universal color for breast awareness month and campaign. As typography in fashion keeps growing and gaining popularity, it becomes a popular platform in conveying personal and political messages across the globe.
Indeed, promoting women’s suffrage through fashion movement is earning a strong support. Now, you can see black women wearing t-shirts and other women’s clothing with messages such as ‘I’m a natural,’ ‘I love my kinky hair,’ and ‘I love my black,’ just to name a few.
Chimamanda Adichie, a famous Nigerian novelist, once said in an interview that her hairstyle is a political statement against the belief that beauty is homogeneous. While Marc Jacobs, a world-renowned American fashion designer create tote bags with ‘Free Tibet’ message. These bags become a hit among women who shared the same sentiments.
Vivienne Westwood, a British fashion designer, showcased her support for Wikileaks, a non-government organization that publishes trustworthy pieces of information about government, through wearing ‘I am Julian Assange’ shirt in one of her fashion shows.
Even famous international pop stars like Katy Perry and Beyonce’ demonstrate their political stance through wearing ‘Obama’ dresses to support Barack Obama for his re-election. Lady Gaga channels her support for women too when she wore a satirical meat dress in awards show to dispel the idea that women’s bodies are carnal meat.
Personal Identities and Social Roles
Whether it is in rural or urban areas, fashion is one of the class symbols in the society. There’s a so-called pretentious fashion and financially friendly fashion, but never the cheap one.
Socialization is arguably the aspect of women’s identities that fashion influences the most. When women get a sense of belonging and identity in a particular social group, which mainly relies on class, politics or race, they increase self-image and status by uplifting the image of the group where they belong.
According to the social identity theory (Brewer, 1991), personal identity is the lowest level of self-categorisation. It is how we differentiate ourselves from other people in the same social circle.
Personal identities focus on our value systems, beliefs, goals, and our fashion, all which comes in different forms. With this identity, women have the liberty to wear what they want because it makes them feel confident, happy, less self-conscious, and free from social constraints and expectations.
In this case, women’s aspects of personal identity are visible to the kind of fashion that they are sporting. Furthermore, fashion also lends women a powerful platform towards self-acceptance, self-confidence, and self-esteem.
Empowering the Maker
It all starts here – clothing manufacturers. You can learn a lot about the clothes you are wearing from the background of the manufacturer. Know if they’re making it a top priority, if they support women by providing jobs for them, work with craftswomen, access to mentors, give safe working conditions and ongoing training to improve women’s skills.
Empowerment in the economic sector makes women independent and less vulnerable, improves literacy rate, and positively changes the overall quality of life.
It’s just unfortunate that a lot of women still don’t get the ideal opportunity and good lifestyle that they deserve due to lack of monetary resources and supports. It is especially rampant in developing countries.
To help aid this crisis, you can send your help and support the brands who continue to elevate the platforms of women’s rights across the globe. It’s hitting two birds with one stone! You get to wear a fashionable item while supporting the brand’s cause.
Empower the Designer
Another way of showing your support for feminism is supporting the designers who support women’s rights and gender equality. It matters that you know the people behind the clothes and the brand that you support.
We should stop turning a blind eye to the conditions of people who are suffering labor injustices, like working with insufficient salaries. The Unforgettable Rana Plaza in Bangladesh catastrophe way back in 2013 is a testament that unethical practices could happen anywhere.
Support the designers who give value to their workers as much as they give value to the clothes that they create. It is a sign of respecting human rights, and human rights mean gender equality, and gender equality, in turn, means feminism.
Now the question is what do you stand for? What is your system of values? What is your purpose? As a person who supports gender equality, feminism, women’s rights, whatever you like to call it, you should know how to answer this question. It is an effective way of keeping the feminist inside you alive for a long time.
The choices and advocacies that you support through fashion movements will feel better if you know that it can substantially change someone else’s life.
There’s a lot of ways on how you can empower yourself and other people, but fashion is the easiest and most visible way to relay those advocacies. Make yourself visible. Put your causes into actions. Speak about it. Be relevant. After all, feminism is more than just a lip service.
Fashion does not stop short on glossy magazines and advertorials. If used well, it can also be a suitable platform to introduce women to policy issues, science, entrepreneurship and other essential skills for modern female pioneers. It is more than just a daily necessity, and probably more than any other acts that we do every day.
We convey our identity to the world through the clothes we wear. It can be to support subversive and radical ways. But, before commending the fashion industry for promoting and monopolizing women’s rights, it’s important to understand its practices, motivations, and limitations.