How Feminist is you Feminist Wardrobe?

Author: Holly Campbell

It is no secret that Feminism, as a concept and a buzzword, has shot to the forefront of popular culture in the last couple of years. But as ‘Feminism’ seems to be growing in popularity, just how Feminist is it? And how Feminist is Feminist fashion?

Female empowerment has gained prevalence as a subject and rhetoric of advertising since Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign’ in 2004. Since then, ‘Feminism’ seems to be the ‘it-word’ of recent years. In 2014, we saw Beyonce’s ‘FEMINIST’ back drop at the VMA’s, followed by Emma Watson’s HeforShe campaign, Chanel’s Feminist protest catwalk and Amanda Sternberg raising light on the double standards faced by black women.

More recently, we have seen a serge in ‘FEMINIST’ emblazoned across sweaters and t-shirts by 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’; challenging conventions of femininity with plus size women, female leaders,  women with armpit hair, shaved heads and muscles and women of colour. Last fashion week, Dior sent a skinny, young, white model down the SS17 runway wearing a tee with Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s quote ‘We should all be feminists’ printed across it.

As an instantaneous response, this is amazing! The feminist cause is finally receiving the attention it needs to achieve its goals. It is helpful for Feminism to receive attention within popular culture and fashion. Conversations about equality are opened amongst people who may have never otherwise encountered the movement. This attention may recruit new Feminists to take action for equality, it may encourage young women to read a feminist article or book, it may be creating a more accepting culture for Feminism to be discussed. Of course, this can contribute towards Feminism’s goals.

On the other hand however, how Feminist is this ‘Feminist’ fashion? Since 2004, Dove have been using a rhetoric of female empowerment to market their products, with a heavily criticised campaign. Now, Chanel, Dior and H&M are explicitly capitalising on Feminism to sell their clothing. They are earning a profit from their ‘Feminist’ emblazoned clothing as Feminism has become a trend. In one season, out the next. Trend-spotters must foresee upcoming movements 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 these brands for finally reflecting what we want and need i.e. genuine 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 to maintain a profit. Feminism is not a cause for businesses to capitalise on. Truly feminist fashion contributes to the cause, uses ethically sourced materials, with no sweatshops that exploit 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. Do not settle for capitalist brands that are exploiting Feminism for profit. Consume fashion consciously and explore some authentically Feminist brands below.






4 thoughts on “How Feminist is you Feminist Wardrobe?

  1. 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.


    1. 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!


      1. 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 😀


      2. 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!


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