CAN FASHION FOSTER FREEDOM?

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For many years fashion has been a hot topic of feminist debate. Some argue that fashion is an enemy of feminism – an agent for reinforcing patriarchy, glorifying an unfair culture in which women are valued and devalued based on their outward, rather than inner, worth. Others say that matters of appearance are seemingly superficial, a social standard perpetuating social pressure, constraint and consumerism. For this reason, some feminists believe that fashion, in a sense, can rob us of our freedom when culture begins to place more importance upon ‘that which she wears’ rather than ‘that who she is‘.

You may not think too deeply into the clothes on your back or the shoes on your feet (and I’m not saying that you should) but whether we like it or not, our daily fashion choices have a way of communicating a message and speaking a universal language to the world around us. Ultimately, fashion can be used to express things about ourselves that are more meaningful than just a t-shirt or a leather jacket.

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“For some women, our cultural preoccupation with appearance is a source of wasted effort and expense, a threat to physical and psychological well-being. For others, it’s a source of pleasure and agency, and a showcase for cultural identity. The question for the women’s movement is whether it is possible to find some common ground, and to develop a concept that is a source of pleasure rather than shame, and that enhances rather than dictates self-worth”

Deborah Rhode, Appearance as a Feminist Issue, 2016.

Despite being notoriously renowned for its superficiality, beyond the shallow surface there is more to the industry than what meets the eye. With roots deeply planted in culture and history, fashion has a way of embodying an era and reflecting the days in which we live. Our clothing can be a means of representing ourselves and signifying our personal identities, visually manifesting our personalities, interests and tastes.

What I love most about fashion is that from culture to culture it’s dynamic, diverse and intricately unique to the individual. It is neither universal nor changeless. It can be artful, expressive and celebrated in a multiplicity of ways.

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Fashion can be a form of our liberation, allowing space and freedom for self-expression and creativity. It tells stories and whispers messages of history, politics and values.

Have you ever thought about how much freer we would be if we released ourselves from the pressure of fretting over fleeting trends, remembering first and foremost that our clothes (or in fact anything that we own) cannot neither value nor devalue us.

Fashion can be anything that we want it to be and surely, this in itself grants a lot of freedom.

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