In the weeks that followed the initial announcement of this travel ban, I watched with horror as family and friends, many of whom were South Asian-American U. Fellow Brown travelers offered each other tips like these: I recalled a yoga studio I belonged to in the Midwest, owned and operated by a liberal White woman, which was decorated with pictures of malnourished Indian women begging in Mumbai. These various experiences, particularly the encounters with my colleague and my former roommate, point to what Greg Howard has diagnosed as the redefining of racisma mechanism by which White people can claim they are free of prejudice by performing progressive, multicultural politics in public, while continuing to harbor and even voice deeply disturbing prejudices and resentments in private.
And indeed, after these words appeared in Vogue, more shame was heaped on her. That most ordinary and intimate of acts, getting dressed, has very real political and economic consequences.
If feminists ignore fashion, we are ceding our power to influence it. Fortunately, history has shown that feminists can, instead, harness fashion and use it for our own political purposes.
When the rhetoric of equality fell on deaf ears, suffragists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries made quite literal fashion statements. Green, white and violet jewelry was a favored suffragist accessory, but not because of any aesthetic imperative: The first letters of each color— G, W, V—was shorthand for give women votes.
So-called career women practiced power dressing, wearing tailored skirt suits with huge shoulder pads, approximating the style and silhouette of the professional male executive.
Professional women of color thus consciously and unconsciously fashion themselves in ways that diminish their racial difference. When similar garments are worn by white women, they signify global cosmopolitanism, a multicultural coolness. Sally Roesch Wagner uncovered an earlier moment of appropriation in her book Sisters in Spirit, recounting the little-known history of the bloomer: Even as the Internet has intensified the desire to be fashion-forward, it has also given outsiders unprecedented influence on the industry.
Ina fashion blog by an year-old Midwestern girl named Tavi Gevinson went viral. Within two years, her reviews of new clothing lines were being closely followed by fashion movers and shakers, and famously aloof designers and editors invited Gevinson to their offices, runway shows and parties.
Today, fashion blogs that celebrate an array of non-normatively raced, gendered, sexed and sized bodies have emerged to challenge the dominant messages of gender, beauty and style.
And bloggers are using their clout to speak out against offensive fashion and beauty products.
In the age of interactive social media, consumers have at least one ear of the fashion establishment; we should continue to speak up. Wearing fashion does not have to mean that we allow it to wear us down. Illustrations by Angie Wangall rights reserved.
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