A feminist’s take on fashion

Brighton Fowler

It has recently come to my attention that there is a controversy a-brewing over the “Fashion” column in the Lawrentian. Scathing letters to the editor have been written, strong opinions are being expressed on both sides, and I would just like to weigh in with some friendly feminist suggestions.
First of all, I think it would be great if the style column actually discussed fashion. Not like, wear cover-up-and-mascara-to-Downer-after-a-rough-night-at-the-VR kind of fashion, but more like the have-you-seen-Marc-Jacobs’-new-line? kind of fashion. It could open people’s minds to what’s going on style-wise off-campus, which I agree, could be a huge improvement.
On the other hand, I don’t think it’s very egalitarian to be focusing solely on women’s “style.” Yeah, I realize you do throw in some tips for the boys, but let’s be honest ladies, the sweatpants double-standard is pretty pervasive.
Another thing, some people don’t really have the time or the energy or the vanity to care a whole lot about what they look like. Let’s just remember for a second that we go to school in Appleton, Wisconsin. That’s right, WISCONSIN. Wisconsin isn’t exactly a “fashion forward” state. We can take pride in many things — good cheese, good beer, good people — but fashion? Have you been to the Fox Valley Mall lately?
Actually, according to my research for this column, fashion in Wisconsin came to a grinding halt with the arrival of the stirrup pant in 1982. Some people have never even heard of Vogue, and I’m okay with that.
Also, if someone doesn’t like you or respect you because of what you are wearing, then that is their problem. Fashion advice shouldn’t be used to perpetuate stereotypes about women. Women and men should be free to dress and think and act how they want — despite gender stereotypes that prescribe normative masculine and feminine dress and behavior. Let’s think about fashion at Lawrence like a big freshman studies class. Some have the read the book, most haven’t, but everyone has to participate — and everyone has a “good point!” to make. The feminist champion Judith Butler — she’s a no-nonsense slacks kind of girl — claims that gender is performative, so, according to her, we have an opportunity to transgress gender boundaries in how we act and dress. We can breakdown stereotypes about women and men and what they are “supposed” to wear if we are willing to take that risk.
I am fully aware that the fashion column is meant to be dialogic and kind of funny. But I also realize that some people on this campus aren’t always getting the “joke.” In fact, my muse for this column, Rachel Russell, never got the joke, and she hasn’t been seen wearing sweat pants in the library yet.
To anyone who read last week’s fashion update, I ask this question: will I actually feel better if I’m “looking good” after a night of partying? I mean, I hope that this is supposed to be funny, but I think a little more sleep and some hash browns might actually help me more than agonizing over the state of my complexion, adding more time and effort to the already stressful next day. I’m sick and tired, my head feels like its going to split into two, and I have a 10 page paper due Monday — who cares what I’m wearing?! I’m sorry ladies, but I don’t think these are problems that a little mascara is going to fix.
Way back in the dark ages at Lawrence — or as recently as the 1960’s — women were required to “dress” for dinner at Downer. I think we can all agree to fill our trays together sans a girdle and kitten heels, so why are we still holding ourselves to this double standard?
My point is this: whether you like the style column or you don’t, whether think its advice is classy or sexist, whether you have your “arsenal” ready or you are wearing heels with sweatpants right now, you should still understand that this patronizing advice kind of pisses me off, and being pissed off is kind of what being a feminist is all about. Right?

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