Fashion on the frontline of feminism

ZAGREB, CROATIA - MARCH 14: Fashion model wears clothes made by Ivana Barac on "PERWOLL FASHION.HR" show on March 14, 2013 in Zagreb, Croatia.

Get it’s Kathleen Loxton takes a critical look from the front row, and investigates how fashion and feminism are the perfect match.

Coco Chanel once said, “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” Today this continues to ring true. There has indeed been something in the air, in the street and spreading like wildfire over social media. It has something to do with the very way we live and what is happening around us. You only have to look at the work of designers from Tom Ford to Nicola Glass for Kate Spade, to see it. What has stepped onto the catwalks in preparation for the cooler months ahead was indeed the embodiment of the words spoken by Chanel all those years ago. However, what do they have to say about the ideas, the evolution on the street, the very essence of the way we live and what is happening in the world? In the age of Time’s Up and #womensupportingwomen, how does fashion fit in with modern feminism?

Take into consideration the apparel that will soon be filtered from runway to mall. The fit, patterns, and era references are all a palpable example of how fashion is so much more than something we simply throw on. A jumpsuit, for instance, nowadays more Wonder Woman than demure damsel in distress just waiting to be saved. Think too about the chic tailored suits, reminiscent of the ‘manly’ style nabbed by Chanel herself, who was partial to wearing whatever she pleased (even if it was relegated to menswear). Not to mention Viktor & Rolf’s slogan couture gowns, with phrases such as, “I’m not shy, I just don’t like you,” “Sorry I’m late, I didn’t want to come,” and “NO,” that have taken the internet by storm. They are practically a throwback to the height of the punk revolution, where both men and women wore slogan shirts that shocked the more reserved public – making it clear women equally have the right to make their voices heard.

This also transposes into the beauty trends of Autumn/Winter 2019, and with an eclectic mix of looks parading down the catwalk there is something wildly freeing about the selection. In the makeup department there were rust coloured lips (present at shows including Kate Spade), sultry smoky eyes (courtesy of Tom Ford), and glitter (Rodarte guiding the way with this sparkling look). Hair is not to be forgotten either, with an abundance of tight curls (featured by Rodarte – described as equal parts glamazon and nymph) and, in contrast, rainbow braids (the choice of Nicole Miller), as well as turbans and floral head pieces (creating an almost crown-like effect on models at Kate Spade and Rodarte’s shows).

So, what does this all have to do with the way we live and our ideas? It’s interesting to remember that in the Roman Empire, red lipstick depicted social rank; men wore it too. And as for the hair? It is almost a homage to the ladies who blazed the way in hairstyle freedom, the likes of Chanel herself braving the scissors when there was a strong sense of how women’s hair should be. Today it is a statement of personal style and the choice of modern women, bold and unfaltering – ready to make a mark.

Lastly, but certainly by no means least: shoes. We may look at the humble heel and assume that they were always made for women, but this is far from reality. When the Persian heeled footwear for riding and cavalry battle caught  on in Western Europe around the 17th century, the aristocrats increased the height of their shoes so as to stand above the lower classes. Today, heels can be seen as a form of empowerment for women (thanks, in part, to Carrie Bradshaw and her Manolos) but, equally, if heels aren’t for you, there is also the option of practical boots and even stealing your father’s style with ‘dad sneakers’, seen in Ulla Johnson and Collina Strada’s shows respectively during 2019’s Fall New York Fashion Week. And as for those platforms worn by Persian warriors? They were modernised at Tadashi Shoji’s 2019 Fall New York Fashion Week show too.

Fashion is indeed in the sky and the street. It does indeed inform the way we live and what is happening. So, next time you open your wardrobe, be conscious of the empowerment your clothes can provide and step out in the right way: the way that makes you feel best!

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