Subversion in the Seams: Fashion vs. Feminism

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Fashion is fraught with moral ambiguity: do I buy this and support child slavery? Do I dress green enough? Can I bear to decorate myself with fluffy woodland critters? Or how is my choice of dress undermining female emancipation? You would be hard pushed to find yourself a modern day Greer, championing menstrual blood tasting fun. But the truth is, we know it’s wrong to let ourselves be objectified; we’ll admit it when confronted with the wagging finger of the fossilised bra- burner, like that of a fanatical, celibate aunt. We are not dolls. All that preening and plucking is an irritating compulsion. High heels and oversized bags are physically damaging, and their effects linger far beyond the young insouciance that would prompt you to ignore them, into old age where hunchbacks and zimmer-frames are all that remain as testaments to your fashion sense.

So why do the words “Mulberry” or “Louboutin” set our hearts a’flutter? Well, because we emerge from our aggressive social conditioning more than just slightly fixated on aesthetics. It’s a trait that spills over from past centuries, where draping yourself in the ideals of your time was only a tool to boost desirability on the marriage market; the only respectable achievement in a woman’s life. Thus another social constraint hinders us from unfolding our true potential, and as an incarnation of the women’s oppression makes itself a target for feminist condemnation.

But must it really boil down to a clear cut choice: be a blank emblem for whatever is attractive or reject every beauty standard set forth by male-dominated society to live out the rest of your days in recycled hemp and Birkenstocks? It is an unfair choice, and it is indeed unfair that this is a choice only women seem to be forced into. Our past has left us more adrift and isolated than our male counterparts, who seem to have no trouble producing camaraderie without the taint of competition.  As lone individuals we are more receptive to the role-models and advice the media spew forth. Today, buying that statement shoe isn’t just peacocking anymore but buying into womankind.

And this is why in our time a fashionista has a right to feminism: fashion is no longer just vanity’s idle child. Balmain’s shoulderpads, plain-glass spectacles, fluoro paisley…with liberal minds come the liberal building blocks to express your own personality, whilst also being part of a greater whole. Contemporary clothes are not just trappings to increase our worth at the cattle market but our blank canvas. You can defend your values with your look to achieve calculated effects, which is an empowering thing when done with the right agenda. Feminism has made our comforts, liberation, education and opinions possible - and now we also have the equipment to display them. Use it well. 


Ellie Golder is a trained philosopher and semi-professional vagabondette with a talent for caprice. She has been writing down her rants, raves and traveller’s tales for years. She has contributed to several publications, online and in print. Her main likes include; rare accents, getting lost, whales and pastel colours. Dislikes; sensible shoes.Tell her anything at

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