Author: Holly Campbell
It’s no secret that feminism, as a concept and buzzword, has shot to the forefront of popular culture in recent years. But as feminism grows in popularity, just how ‘feminist’ is it? And how ‘feminist’ is feminist fashion?
Feminism’s mainstream popularity has grown since 2014 with Beyonce’s ‘FEMINIST’ back drop at the VMA’s, followed by Emma Watson’s HeforShe campaign and Chanel’s Feminist protest catwalk .
More recently, we have seen a serge in feminist fashion with ‘FEMINIST’ emblazoned sweaters and t-shirts by top designers and brands. In September alone, H&M restocked their sell-out ‘Feminist’ tee with a similar sweater and dress. This was accompanied by an advert featuring ‘real women’ that aimed to challenge conventions of femininity with plus size women, female leaders, women with armpit hair, muscles and women of colour. Last New York Fashion Week, Dior sent a skinny, young, pale-skinned model down the SS17 runway wearing a tee with Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s quote ‘We should all be feminists’ printed across it.
Some have praised these moves, arguing that the feminist cause is finally receiving the attention it needs to achieve its goals. It is true that mainstream attention can be helpful for the movement to receive mass positive attention. Its opens conversations about equality amongst people who may have never otherwise encountered them. This is potential for new feminists to take action for equality, to encourage young women to read a feminist article or book and to create a more accepting culture towards equality. Of course, this can contribute towards feminism’s goals.
However, when does popular feminism simply become appropriation? Since 2004, Dove has been using a rhetoric of female empowerment to market their products. Today, Chanel, Dior and H&M are explicitly capitalising on feminism to sell their clothing. They are earning a profit from ‘Feminist’ stamped clothing as the popularity of the movement continues to trend. But, for trends to come, they must go – in one season and out the next. Trend-spotters must foresee upcoming social shifts and incorporate them on to the runway or high-street ready for us to eagerly consume. As consumers and fashionista’s, we no longer relate to the young, skinny, ideal and H&M are aware of this – marketing an advert based on exactly that. Feminism is a trendy buzzword word and brands have reflected that trend.
It is not good enough to praise brands for finally reflecting what women want and need – like genuinely diverse representations of women and a recognition of the issues we face in isolation. Brands are foreseeing a shift in what women want and they are acting on that for profit.
Feminism has become a popular cause for businesses to capitalise on. Truly feminist fashion contributes to the cause, uses ethically sourced materials, with no sweatshops and no exploitation of women. Truly feminist fashion is built on charity or social enterprise models, sustaining financial or physical contributions to feminist causes that give women opportunities and genuinely support women from all backgrounds.
Before buying, ask “How is this feminist?”. Consume fashion consciously and explore some authentically Feminist brands below:
4 thoughts on “How Feminist is Your Feminist Wardrobe?”
Very good points made, but I would like to add nother thought.
I was walking through one of the 4 Edinburgh H&M stores the other day and saw some of the feminist shirts and my instant thought was: What the fuck is feminist about a shirt that comes in XS-L? Absolutely nothing. Only 1 of the 4 stores carries my size at all and if you ever had a look at their plus size range you can easily guess that they don’t really care about “real woman” when they are fat. And I think sizing definetly is also a point that has to be kept in mind, when it comes to thinking about feminist clothing.
Hiya, thanks for the comment.
You are totally right, “what is feminist about this?” Is the perfect question to address ‘Feminist’ fashion and rhetoric today.
There is much debate about H&M and their supposed plus size range. I read that they hosted a small range of plus size in a limited amount of stores in London, it was then removed and can only be found online. I’m not sure how accurate this is, but from experience I have never seen a plus size range in any of their stores. Another reason why their attempt at the feminist trend is utterly hypocritical!
I am origianlly from Germany and moved to Edinburgh last year. It seems in Germany there are still more stores that carry their plus range but here it’s very hard to find them. Most of the time they are just one or two rags, mostly to full to actually scroll though stuff, their sizing is horrible and apart from a few lucky finds it’s boring and too expensive. Which is really sad because I love their “normal” range a lot, but their plus range hardly ever looks anything alike… I could go on and rant about this forever 😀
That’s interesting that they carry more plus size in Germany than in the U.K. I could go on forever too! Their sizing is hideous, especially in Trousers and jeans. I am a size 8-10 in most stores and I have a pair of size 14 Jeans from H&M and they fit like a glove. Whereas I try on a pair of 8s and they cut off my circulation (if I can do them up!). So if that’s how they care for smaller sizes then it’s no surprise that plus size has had no attention!