Fashion… In the Eye of the Beholder?

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. One thing about fashion that I absolutely love is all the varied looks a person can put together, how diverse people are and how fantastic it is to walk down the street and see humans from all walks of life wearing something different. Fashion pushes the limits. You will see things on the runway that you will rarely EVER see worn out in everyday life. You can mix and match items from different time periods, and create something innovative that looks fresh and appealing. You can stand out from the crowd and not blend in with the trends in the magazines (though it’s totally cool if you want to wear those too!).

However, the fashion industry is booming and it waits for no (wo)man. It’s relentless. Trends flash by in the blink of an eye and before you know it, that item you just bought isn’t ‘in style’ any more. I’ve also begun to consider fashion from a feminist perspective. AKA, feedback from others on what an individual is wearing. We struggle with many feminist issues in society, including but not limited to sexism, body-shaming, and slut-shaming. Each of these issues is a gigantic weight of a problem in itself, and it’s really easy to pass judgement on others without even realizing it – especially when it comes to their clothing choices.

Natural looking young man

School Dress Codes

These have always bothered me, and not in a “I’m a rebellious teenager let me wear what I want!!” kind of way. I don’t understand why skirts/shorts/dresses had to be of a certain length to be considered appropriate, or the tank top strap width of 2 fingers wide was a rule. I don’t understand why all hell broke loose over visible bra straps, especially when all or most preteen/teenage girls ARE wearing bras – primarily for the physical support they offer. Overall, it just seems like female students are being punished solely for having female bodies. These clothes are viewed as “inappropriate for school”. I have to ask, why though? The reasons given for those rules are confusing to me. Because it’s distracting? Because they’re too ‘young’ to show that much skin? If anything is a distraction around here, it’s the fact that females are being asked to cover themselves (yes, even in very warm weather) in order to prevent distractions. I’d like to know who they are supposedly distracting – classmates, teachers? For one, teachers shouldn’t be looking at students’ bodies, and especially not hard enough to be ‘distracted’ by normal body parts like thighs, stomachs, and shoulders. The same rule applies for classmates, when these apparently offensive body parts are only viewed as offensive if they are connected to a female body. I consider this extremely sexist, especially as there are no gender-specified dress code rules for male students.

humiliate

Body-/Slut-Shaming 

This is something many of us do (or have done previously), probably without even considering the impact it can have on someone else. When comments are made about a larger woman such as “She should wear clothes that fit” or “She’s too heavy to get away with something that short/tight/revealing”, we are essentially saying that another human being is too visually unappealing to wear the clothing she likes. I’m sure that she looked in the mirror before she left the house that day, and felt happy and confident with her reflection. Ergo, we have absolutely no right to comment on what someone “should” or “should not” be wearing in regards to their body type. No right at all. The same applies for comments about skinny women, such as “I can see her bones, that’s gross”. Especially if the weather is warm, people are going to dress to reflect that – negative comments about their weight, regardless of what size they are, have no place here. I’m hoping this can become widely accepted within the fashion industry. The same types of awful comments are made about those whom choose to show lots of skin, warm weather or not. “She looks like a slut.” “If I were her parents, there’s no way I’d let her out of the house in that outfit.” “Aren’t your boobs supposed to stay inside your shirt?”  Why are we so determined to shame women for showing their body? We all have the same body parts, and it’s a personal choice whether or not you want to expose them. It doesn’t make it right to insult women for making that choice, although it may be different from yours. Nobody claims there is anything sexual about male shoulders, male stomach, or male legs – yet they’re ‘too’ sexual to be viewable on a woman? Not to mention, breasts are basically just fat and their primary purpose is to breast-feed after childbirth. There’s nothing too sexy about that. Yet a low-cut top that shows cleavage is a ‘slutty shirt’. This is the way society views clothing, this is how we have been trained to think. We need to put an end to shaming of all kinds, and very much so in the fashion industry where most of us have a critical eye for clothes.

boobs

girluhmboobswherever

You tell her, Laci!

“Bad” Outfits

We’ve all seen them – the lists in magazines, on television, and social media discussing ‘Hot or Not’, ‘Who Wore It Best’, and ‘x amount of Worst Outfits Worn to This Public Event’. Most recently, there’s been a lot of hype regarding the Swarovski-studded gown Rihanna wore to the 2014 CFDA Awards. Many are calling it disgusting and offensive due to the see-through nature of the garment, which again leads me back to the body sexualizing in the above paragraph. I personally think she looked incredible, and was too entranced by the glistening design to even notice much else. So why do we have these lists? Does it make us feel like we have to balance out our favourite celebrity outfits by naming the ones with the “worst” fashion choices? Or do we simply feel like we need reasons to tear beautiful people down? This idea of pitting outfits against each other seems silly. Our comments aren’t just directed at celebrities, however. How many times have you or a friend pointed out someone’s outfit only to call it hideous? Or to say that they look like they got dressed in the dark? All too often, we let our own personal fashion choices dictate what we think is appealing, which in turn affects how we view others’ apparel. I maintain that if you feel good in your outfit, that if you feel confident, comfortable, and happy, then that is what you should be wearing. No one should make you feel inferior, especially when it comes to something as simple (yet as expressive) as clothing.

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