Christian Dior, SS17, saw a parade of “we should all be feminists” t-shirts strut down the catwalk; the quote, which originates from Chimamanda Adichie’s essay of the same title, has become renowned. Dior’s message was the loudest of all designers this season, with the new Creative Director Maria Grazia Chiuri making it clear that her positon as the first woman at the company’s helm in its 70-year existence is, indisputably, significant. That Dior’s aesthetic of overt femininity hasn’t gone anywhere, but the terms that it’s designed on have. From high-end houses, to high-street stores and grassroots organisations, everywhere is creating similar slogan tees. It seems like girl power messages have become a staple this season, but how far reaching and entangled are feminism and fashion? We explore…
When one thinks about the relationship between strong women and fashion, the obvious starting place is the Suffragettes. In the 1900s the Suffragette movement rallied and protested against gender inequality, all with a very clear sartorial statement- their colours of green, white and purple commanded attention. They’d pin ribbons, rosettes and badges onto their clothes, not unlike the current trend of girl power themed patches that adorn jackets everywhere in 2017.
Where else does the mind drift when this subject is discussed? The Spice Girls, of course. They flew the flag for sisterhood, unity, independence and inspired a generation of girls to dream big. In short, they were the poster girls for the 90s version of a girl gang. The Spice Girls didn’t have a stylist, which made their looks attainable and utterly fearless. They all had distinct looks, which showed teenage girls that there’s varying ways to express womanhood through personal style, not just one ‘accepted’ way.
Fashion has always been a reflection of the times. When you scratch beyond the surface of marketing, PR and Instagram filters, fashion can show itself as a true cultural commentator. It’s one of the few industries where women are at the forefront, meaning it’s an invaluable tool for those championing the girl power movement. From the iconic Coco Chanel who transformed the suit into a style that empowered women, to Diane Von Furstenberg who created a wrap dress that became a symbol of liberation in the ‘70s, to modern-day brand’s that can’t get enough of Femvertising- fashion is seeped with a rich history of girl power.
Many argue that fashion’s recent interest in taking a political stand against gender inequality is disingenuous. Because how can an industry that perpetuates beauty standards support the shattering of them? Well, times are a changing, and so is fashion. A passion for style and a championing of girl power isn’t contradictory; they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Take for example, Rachel Berks’ sweatshirts that read “The Future Is Female” which have dominated social media feeds. 25% of the proceeds for these go to Planned Parenthood, proving that looking good and doing good is the new norm. More than just the physicality’s of fashion, it’s the community and global girl gangs that are so inspiring. It’s the open conversations, worldwide trends, shared common ground and sisterhood that exists within fashion that makes it potent.
To end we’ll leave you with two poignant quotes. Virginia Woof once said that clothes “have more important offices than to merely keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view on us”.
Or, in the words of the Spice Girls “God help the mister, yeah God help the mister, that comes between me and my sisters”.
Top Street-Smart Trends from New York Fashion Week 2020