Don’t Feel Guilty About Loving Fashion Week
1:45 pm, February 11th | by Meredith Lepore
It is New York Fashion Week right now, which means there is more attention than usual being paid to really expensive clothes, makeup, what celebrities are wearing to go sit in a tent, unwearable shoes, who sits where and underweight models. These trappings of the fashion industry are constantly criticized, parodied, and deemed shallow. Fashion is often held up as being harmful to feminism, but that’s not necessarily true. Guardian writer Jill Filipovic makes the very smart point that women appreciating beautiful clothes, wanting to look good and spending money on themselves aren’t killing feminism. Let’s not write off the entire fashion industry as shallow.
Women can’t win when it comes to fashion. We’re told that it’s bad to care too much, but then we are criticized if we don’t care about it enough. A label queen toting Chanel can get just as bad a rap as someone who bought the knockoff in Chinatown (or someone who eschews both for an NPR tote bag). In certain industries like finance and law women literally have to earn the right to wear opulent and expensive jewels, shoes, and bags. Kat Griffin, founder of the workplace fashion blog Corporette said:
“For younger women, the biggest problem is that if it’s obviously far more expensive than your pay grade, it implies that you got it from someone else — your father, your boyfriend, your husband — and that you don’t need to work for the money. Until you get established in your career and have a bank of credibility, it just gives the wrong impression.”
But if women dress too cheaply or provocatively they quickly become Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter. According to a new survey from LinkedIn, when it comes to employees dressing inappropriately in the workplace, 62% of women said that this bothered them versus only 29% of men. Even if a woman might be trying to dress more conservatively, the shape of her body may be working against her. Back in October Christie Clark, the premier of British Columbia, was called out for wearing an inappropriately low cut top for a professional event by conservative political strategist David Schreck. According to a recent survey commissioned by Dragons’ Den entrepreneur Peter Jones, women who display “too much” cleavage at work could end up sabotaging their careers. The survey of 3,000 managers found that almost half of bosses had overlooked a woman for promotion if she regularly wore low-cut tops to attract attention.
“Women, for better or worse – although mostly worse – are the class of people who are on physical display. Sure, men are judged by their appearance, but as long as they look clean and are wearing an outfit within the universe of what’s considered socially appropriate for the occasion, they’ll avoid criticism. While being an attractive man is beneficial in the job market, being an attractive woman is beneficial only if you’re in a traditionally female career. Otherwise, even pretty women face job discrimination.”
Filipovic also points out that a video game is no more useful than a handbag, but I would like to point out that my video game can’t carry my sunglasses case and giant wallet (unless video games have changed shape. I don’t think I’ve played a video game since N64 was a big deal).
So don’t write this week off as a complete waste. There are shallow parts to the industry, but there are shallow aspects to everything. Fashion Week is at least a celebration of art and some very talented people. So go buy some gorgeous but uncomfortable shoes and read a giant fashion magazine — we won’t say a word.