With Laura Figueiredo Marques
Fashion and Feminism are two words that don’t usually go well together. Why? Because, traditionally, and even though both these realities are inherently associated with the feminine world, their core ideologies are like water and oil.
While feminism strongly encourages self-love and acceptance, fashion seems to exist with the sole purpose of reminding us everyday that we are not perfect and that we do not fit the unrealistic beauty standards we see on TV, on billboards, in magazines and all over the internet.
“But don’t worry” – shouts the Fashion Industry, giving us uninvited advice – “it is our job to create and commercialise products and services aimed to correct your flaws and bring you happiness!”
In an attempt to find at least a tiny grey area that could somehow conciliate these concepts, and since I am not “the only feminist in the village”, I decided to brainstorm with someone who could bring some new perspectives to the table. My choice was easy, I knew exactly who could help me. My friend Laura was not the man, but the girl for the job: a strong, independent, outspoken feminist with a passion for couture and makeup.
“Let me confess something about myself: I am someone who identifies with the feminist ideology, trying to live up to it everyday, but who is also a true fashion enthusiast, following the new tendencies on social media.”Laura
We decided to have lunch by the river, and 4 hours and some delicious Italian pasta later, we came up with answers to what we believe are the right questions on the topic.
What are the negative aspects of the fashion industry?
In our point of view, the most problematical aspect is the unrealistic beauty standards it sells. Female models on catwalks and fashion magazines (sometimes objectified to the point of being identified only by age and body proportions) are mostly caucasian, tall, slim and young. This makes for a lack of representation not only of their target audience, but of the entire female population, and even worse, of this industry’s consumers. These pinpointed characteristics that leave in the shadows the enormous spectrum of women out there, can make them believe that they are not tall enough, slim enough or even of a “valid” skin tone! In other words, an art so beautiful as fashion can too often make us feel as if we are not “beautiful enough”.
- The Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report, which interviewed 10.500 females across 13 countries, found that women’s confidence in their bodies is on a steady decline, and that beauty and appearance anxiety is a global issue.
- Girls going through puberty are particularly susceptible to developing psychological problems such as depression, body dysmorphia (an excessive concern over either a very minor or completely imagined “flaw” in one’s physical appearance) and eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia. Let’s be honest: we all have at least one case of a close school friend (if you haven’t been through this yourselves) who has suffered from such a condition, and those are numbers that shouldn’t be allowed, let alone normalized as they are.
- Among these beauty standards is the idealisation of a certain skin tone. Unfortunately, skin lightening creams are still a reality in the lives of a significant proportion of black women worldwide, whilst self-tanning products are seeked by a vast group of whiter women. Women are made to believe that “the lighter your skin is, the prettier you’ll be”, but are at the same time being told that being too light makes them ghost-like and unappealing. So they’re left to think that whatever their colour is, they should change it. And this is a toxic message.
Another problem we face today is this extreme need to “fit in” and to be accepted by the society. And who takes profit from this human weakness? That’s right, the fashion industry. The existence of trends, that are updated every season or year, is good for business. If you dress according to the new tendencies you are “in”, if not, you are labelled an outsider. In a desperate need to be accepted, many people ignore their own opinions in order to follow the crowd.
Funny enough, the same outsiders that are many times segregated are the ones that inspire future trends. How? Easy. They are the ones that don’t dress like everybody else around them, the ones that don’t let external influences tell them what to wear, but instead let their creativity come up with unique outfits. Once spotted, they then serve as inspiration for the upcoming season’s collection in fashion stores. Which becomes a trend. In conclusion, “outsiders” are indeed fashion trendsetters, without ever being given any credit for it. Oh well, life is unfair sometimes.
What about its positive features?
On the bright side, fashion can be used as one’s natural beauty enhancer, stressing our best details and enabling us to play down any characteristic we want. Red lips become more prominent, and eye-bags disappear. Fashion can also be subdued to one’s creativity in order to express our unique identity through clothes and makeup (as Laura does most of the time).
In an ideal world, everyone would be able to look in the mirror and accept their body as it is, without comparing it to neither friends nor runway models. Fashion would be given less importance, and it would simply be used as a tool, like a brush in the hands of a painter.
Hoping this reaches at least the feminist next corner,
p.s. – I cannot thank Laura enough for the time and effort she put into this conjoint work of ours. I could never have come up with such a strong text if it wasn’t for her brains and her bold opinions. Thank you, Laura, for inspiring me with beautiful makeup looks and empowered ideas everyday.
p.p.s. – Illustrations by the amazing Cat Rao, check out her sketchbook at https://catraopajamas.com/