Feminism and Fashion

For the third installment of the Feminist Fashion Bloggers weekly posts celebrating Women’s History Month I’ve been asked to answer a question: How do you express your feminism in the way you dress?

Initially, I didn’t have an answer. Do I express my views through my clothes? Maybe fashion and feminism are two separate things to me, and never the twain shall meet.

To find out, I thought back to my childhood. It’s a bit hazy, so I went to a reliable source: my mom. I thought she would know how I started my love affair with fashion. I gathered up a few pictures she had taken of me as a child and started asking questions.A portrait of the author as a young girl

Turns out, from a very young age (say, 3 or 4), she let me pick out my own clothes. I’d shop my closet and mix and match things any way I wanted. I learned about what worked and what didn’t, and I wasn’t following anyone else’s rules. Maybe I shouldn’t have mixed two different patterns, but I did—and no one got hurt! My mom instilled in me a few ideas, one of which is not to worry about what others think. Another is to do things I want to do, not things other people tell me I should do.

She told me a story about how when shopping for winter boots, I picked out a pair that she found atrocious. She steered me to a more practical pair and gave me reasons for choosing them. I looked her in the eye and sweetly stated, “But Mom, I have my own taste.” That sealed the deal. She thought that—despite being 5 years old—I was right. I wasn’t her. I was me. I had different tastes in fashion—and that’s okay. And, I got the boots!

I remember them well. An auburn faux-fur shaggy pair of boots that looked like Bigfoot’s actual feet. I loved them! Sure I had to comb out the snow every day, but I wouldn’t have traded them for the world. And to be honest, if I found a pair in my size today, I’d buy them.

I believe dressing for myself boosted my confidence and gave me a feeling of independence. I had a creative way to express my individuality. Thinking for myself and knowing what I wanted helped me in many ways. I grew up without succumbing to (too much) peer pressure. I learned to speak up for myself and not worry about what “people might think.”

I was lucky that in high school, I was allowed to cut and color my hair and try crazy clothing combinations. I didn’t dress “for boys.” They could like me or not, but my funky wardrobe and I were a package deal. I never could stomach the “dress sexy for your man” articles I see in magazines.

I have pretty diverse fashion choices. I’ve had long hair and short hair, blond, brown and red hair. I can dress up or down, dress girly or tough, and I can use clothing to express my moods. I’m not sure men “get” my clothing choices. My husband recently confessed that he thought I was color blind for the first few months we dated. I took that as a compliment. An unexpected color combination might not be a turn on, but I think I deserve points for originality. Perhaps my wardrobe—and it’s lack of short-and-tight numbers—has acted as a filter to weed out the more shallow guys I’ve met.

I enjoy clothing in an artistic way. Mixing colors and creating textures and shapes with the space I have to work with describes both how I paint and how I wear clothes. I enjoy being creative and having fun. Art and fashion provide that outlet. I don’t have time to paint every day, but I have to wear something, so I challenge myself and enjoy the process.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I express my feminism in the way I dress by dressing for myself.

~

Check out all the other cool posts at Mrs Bossa’s site. Scroll to the end (after you read her post, of course) and you’ll see a list of links to all the other FFB pages.

8 Comments

Filed under Fashion, Feminism

8 responses to “Feminism and Fashion

  1. Several interesting insights in your post. Kudos to your mother for recognizing your tastes early on and kudos to YOU for speaking up at such a young age. Your story of the boots reminded me of a pair my middle daughter could not be pried out of as a youngster–moon boots that she wore daily, year round. Had your husband asked about your “color-blindness” before marriage?

    • Daily moon boots – I love it!

      Hubby didn’t ask about the “color blindness.” He does love my “quirky style”; he just wasn’t used to it initially. He grew up following rules and not questioning things. He knows better now 😉

  2. It’s great when you have that much freedom to play around with fashion choices as a kid and teenager! I’m only getting there now, in my mid-twenties. Thanks for sharing your story!

  3. I’m of a similar bent when it comes to textures, prints, and colors! I adore pushing things a bit and challenging the norms! xo

  4. I am so intrigued by the idea of you dressing like a colour-blind person – ha! Love it!

    It’s been interesting to read how many of us FFBs were allowed to make their own choices as children. My mum chose everything for me up until I was about 13 – it did, however, teach me to ignore rude comments about her less successful choices…! Reading this has inspired me to do the same with my own children.

  5. I never thought about it until now, but your comments got me thinking: Allowing a child to pick her own clothes would be a great way to have age-appropriate conversations about comfort, style, intentions, affects, peer pressure, etc.

  6. Jean,

    Feminist Fashion Bloggers is ramping up encouragingly with more bloggers joining daily, my wish is for an unabated success for FFB and for which it stands.

    Very cool to see you again this weekend at the gallery, I’m looking forward to viewing the package you report March 29 or 30, 2011. We are grateful for your support of our exhibits and programming.

    Sincerely,

    Paul

  7. Pingback: My First Year Blogging | fashionable over 50

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