On Feminism And Fashion

Omg, I love Maya Singer’s wild, sweeping, manic rant / call-to-arms for Style.com about how fashion is about more than clothes and women who declare fashion to be frivolous are carrying water for the patriarchy. I am currently wearing a cotton dress that I’m pretty sure is a nightgown and an Old Navy denim shirt with a hole in the elbow, but you better believe I am first bumping through that hole.

Consider fashion from another angle — not as a dream factory but as an industry proper. Fashion employs legions of women. I’m guessing, but I imagine that alongside the “caring” industries — teaching, nursing — fashion is one of the most female-dominated businesses around. And women are empowered here: We don’t have many big swinging dicks in fashion, but we’ve got a lot of big swinging handbags. I’ve worked in male-dominated fields, and in comparison, fashion is a delight — at least insofar as women in fashion are, as a matter of course, encouraged and expected to succeed. I suspect that the XXs on Wall Street or over in Silicon Valley would tell a far different tale.

We could do better, though. There should be more women on the executive floors of the big fashion conglomerates, and a more diverse array of women at the entry level, which would mean raising pay. The emphasis on unpaid or barely paid labor in fashion shuts a lot of talented people out — and though that’s not a problem specific to women, as a female-dominated industry, the pay issue affects women disproportionately.

Also mentioned: Ulysses tattoo (the author’s), garment workers unionized at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, hunger strikes by women in Bangladesh, Camille Paglia, Madonna, universal pre-K, NARS lipstick shade “Belle Du Jour,” and fantasy football.

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