Feminism Meets Fashion: CDFA 2017

A grand step towards the fusion of fashion and feminism was initiated by the Council of Fashion and Designers of America this year!

On June 5th, the CFDA hosted its annual awards ceremony- often referred to as the Oscars of the fashion world. Honored were three women who “epitomize and crystallize the strength of that historic women’s march,” said Chairwoman Diane Von Furstenberg who took to the podium to introduce the award recipients, bringing attention to the importance of shared solidarity among women.

Were they big name designers? Nope. Rather, they were social activist/author Gloria Steinem, President of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, and singer/actress Janelle Monáe.

While all three of these women have been outspoken, relentless representatives for activism, none have ever released their own fashion collection; but the audience welcomed them with roaring applause. This year’s award ceremony recognized the hard work of designers and feminists alike. Honestly, how wonderful is that!?

The three women ascended the stairs hand in hand like a trifecta of female empowerment that would make Wonder Woman proud. Talk about bad ass bitches (Wonder Woman, too, of course). 

Steinem kicked off the speeches with a brief history lesson, teaching her “woke” audience (as she lovingly referred to the attendees) about their South African ancestry and about the world before gender roles reigned supreme. She encouraged everyone to reflect critically upon the societal invention of gender, and to transcend the binary and boundaries we created. Richards followed up with a commentary on Planned Parenthood, and its relevance in the political climate today. Rather than focusing on the multiple attempts to defund the organization, she summed up its mission statement:

Our doors are open to everyone. No matter where you live, no matter your income, no matter your sexual orientation or your gender. And today, more important than ever, no matter your immigration or refugee status, our doors are open.”

Much like the fashion community has opened it’s doors for the creative and “different” for many years.

Monáe wrapped things up with a personal speech, touching on the struggles she faced growing up in America as a working class woman of color. Before leaving the stage, she roused the audience with a series of powerful statements:

Women’s rights are humans rights, LGBTQ rights are human rights, poor folks rights are human rights, immigrant rights are human rights, minority rights are human rights.”

While influential women are speaking out about the issues above, it’s only been a handful of decades since fashion ended up on the brunt end of feminists’ critiques. According to Llewellyn Negrin’s book Appearance and Identity, “Fashion was regarded primarily as an instrument of oppression in which women were turned into passive objects of the male gaze.” Famous feminists like Amelia Bloomer and Susan B. Anthony criticized overly-feminized clothing, believing it to be a representation of materialism and wastefulness. During the 1970’s any mode of dress intended to enhance the wearer’s allure were forsaken in favor of loose t-shirts and jeans. Highly feminized accessories like high heels, corsets,

During the 1970’s any mode of dress intended to enhance the wearer’s allure were forsaken in favor of loose t-shirts and jeans. Highly feminized accessories like high heels, corsets, skirts, and bras were cast aside, vilified in feminist spaces until the 1990’s. In essence, fashion as a concept was given its version of slut-shaming.

With the world in such a chaotic state, it is unclear how fashion and feminism will continue to evolve. However, it is clear that many designers will continue speaking out against social injustice, utilizing both their renown and their time on the runway. As Cecile Richards said during her awards speech:

“Looking good and doing good go hand in hand.”

So, tell us, how do you think we can further bond feminism and fashion?

 

 

2 Comments
  1. Wonder Woman indeed.. That scene in the movie where Diana is trying to find clothing in the human world sums up the challenges faced by women everywhere — it’s so hard to find an outfit in which you can fight and carry your sword. She ended up having to sacrifice appearance for functionality.

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