• Monica Malone

Feminist Fashion - Resisting the Patriarchy in Style

I have always loved dressing up. I can tell countless stories of different clothes I've worn over the years and very strange little details about them. Colors, textures, where I got an item, who gifted it to me, why I made it the way i did, or if it was inspired by something I saw - each item in my closet has a significant story and/or emotional attachment to it. It makes it VERY hard to clean out my closet when I need to (thankfully I don't do it that often). From a very young age, I knew that I needed my outside to match how I felt inside. Much to my mother's dismay, this led to some very interesting fashion choices. I loved and still love experimenting with different looks and changing what I wear based on how I feel. I believe most everyone does the same to varying degrees. The thought of, "you look good, you feel good" is the same as "If I put on work out clothes, maybe i'll actually work out." The fact is, it matters what you wear, just for your own comfort - it matters. I might care more than others what I but on my body, but don't mistake that for vanity - I just have found that for me to be able to function and reach my full potential, my outside has to match my inside.

Fashion, for me, is mostly for self expression. I love expressing myself through my style and I love seeing other people do the same. It brings me so much joy to see someone rocking a very specific look. Though it can still separate people by social status, fashion has more or less evolved into another art form. It now allows people to dress however they like, to help make them feel more confident, or the most like their true selves, or just plain comfortable. No more corsets for us ladies! With people beginning to understand clearer what the gender social construct is and how that binary has hurt us for such a long time, it is becoming more acceptable for people of all genders to wear clothes socially assigned to any gender. In western society, Women have been wearing pants since the 19th century and it is slowly becoming more acceptable for men to wear dresses and skirts. Gender neutral fashion has gained traction in the world - aka clothes that are not particular to any one body type and does not note if one is female or male. Fashion is becoming more feminist. This is just the beginning of opening up a whole new world in the fashion industry, and it will hopefully help pave the way not only for more inclusivity - but more creativity as well.

Fashion is a part of our everyday world. Whether we pay attention to it or not, there is no denying that what we put on our bodies is simultaneously influenced and inspired by society, religion, social norms, and more. From those god-awful MAGA hats, to designer clothes, pussy hats, thrifted finds, or handmade items - what you wear says a lot about who you are. Express yourself through your style, but pay attention to what message you are sending. It is a form of self-expression, yes, but it is more political than we realize. It seems today that our best form of universal self-expression is currently rooted into our beliefs as individuals.

Fashion blogger Jo Jo Azad has a great post about how fashion is already political and why it is a feminist topic. It is devalued in society because it is seen as inherently female, and we all know that in the patriarchy, female = bad. There is more weight on women in the everyday world to look presentable. Not just in their clothes, but they are expected to wear a full face of makeup as well. With positive social movements pushing us to find and accept our true selves, things are starting to change. It's becoming more acceptable for women to go without makeup and things, but that pressure and the patriarchy are still there. The good news, is that makeup can also be a political statement. Unladylike had a great recent podcast about the importance of wearing make-up the way you want to in, "How To Wear Too Much Makeup." We (currently) still live in a free country, and thank goddess that freedom allows us to make choices about our makeup routines, fashion choices, and political beliefs.

So much has been said on the topic of political fashion, and it is something to pay attention to - especially if you are a woman. Women's bodies should not be political battlegrounds, and yet they are. Until my body is fully mine to control, I will resist in anyway I can. The best way to make sure I do that everyday is with what I chose to wear on my body. Feminism is so ingrained in me that using fashion as a political statement is the same as using it for self-expression. I am a feminist. I am an artist. I am so many things, just look at my style and you will see what I mean.

My personal style is... whatever I want it to be. But here are some of the ways I utilize my sense of fashion and my creativity to help resist the patriarchy as well as express myself!

Making My Own Clothes

I started sewing in the third grade. I started making my own clothes a few years later when middle school hit. I'm self taught and very lazy. I don't always do everything the proper way, but I love it just the same. I've only made clothes for myself because I don't have a mannequin, and I know my technique is not up to standard. It helps me feel like myself though. I am a creator, and being able to create something (or alter a garment into something else) helps showcase my creativity.

It is a lot of work to make just one piece of clothing. There is a reason it is called "slow fashion" and I have gained a wider knowledge and appreciation of all the effort that goes into sewing. I mean truly sewing, not the fun, fast way I do it. I used to love designing clothes too, but none of my designs ever made it into reality. I will say that I am really good at mimicking things I see, or altering a pattern to make it just a little different, and that gives me all the "designing" I need.

Being able to make my own clothes gives me creative freedom over my self expression. I can make something vintage inspired, of my own imagination, and as revealing or as modest as I want. Having control over something as simple as my wardrobe gives me power to know that I am in control of me, my body, and my actions. In a world designed to make women feel small, I work hard to fight against that. I want to not be afraid to take of space or show my true self.

Thrifting and Vintage Shopping (and sometimes altering)

Knowing where your clothes are coming from is so important. Cheap, fast fashion is what is popular now. Most every large clothing company uses sweatshops, underpaid workers that are usually women, and poor working conditions. The fast fashion industry feeds off how much consumers buy and consumers want the latest, trendiest items. The problem with that is that the clothing is usually made very poorly and doesn't last too long. No worries, there is more where that came from.

It's unfortunately too profitable to stop, but at what cost? There are lots of gently used clothing and items that are still in good condition and resale shops everywhere. Many people will wear an item only a few times before donating it. Thrifting is the KEY. The key to helping the fashion industry, the planet, and by shopping at used clothing stores it's just a little *fuck youuuuuu* to consumerism. PLUS there are so many thrift stores that donate a number of the proceeds to good causes! One of my favs here in ATL is Lost n' Found Youth Thrift that helps homeless LGBTQ+ youth find help.

Vintage finds are also always in style. We all know the 50s rockabilly look is my #aesthetic. I love it because it was an incredible time for fashion, but a horrible time for women (lol like all of time, amirite?) I like contradicting. Being as feminist as I am, dressing in vintage inspired fashion gives me power to pay homage to the women who came before me, and reminds me that I am here, now. And I will continue to fight what they fought for.

Check around, find some thrift stores or resale shops! If you take enough time, you'll find some treasure someone else thought was trash.

Jewelry and Hair Accessories

I fucking LOVE wearing flowers in my hair.

In high school we had a strict dress code. We couldn't wear hats, but nothing in the student handbook said I couldn't wear things IN my hair. Then my love of flower crowns was born. They were fun to make and they added color to my plain brown hair. Now I love my hair, whatever color it may be, and wearing my flower crowns makes me feel like my true self. I've always thought tiaras should be everyday casual wear, but I will settle for flower crowns and other accessories I can add to my hair;

Scarves, clips, headbands, and even sometimes necklaces when I need just a little something extra.

Jewelry is probably my first love of fashion, and will probably always remain my favorite. I love unique things, and jewelry can be some of the most unique accessories one can find. It is my armor, it is my calling card, it just makes me feel true. It can be used as a weapon, as protection, or to hide things. Jewelry can show status or money, ancestry, or heritage. It is more than just something shiny, and we all know I love the shiny - I am Bonita's daughter after all.

Usually seen as just another feminine past time, it brings me joy to wear jewelry that is out of the ordinary. Jewelry that is handmade, vintage, big and bold, shiny and made of all types of metal, plastic, and resin, helps me express who I am. When I'm dripping in jewelry, I am full of power that is not only fashionable, but feminist. I am feminist, therefore, I am. My fashion, self-expression, and all.

Fashion is not, and never will be, for everyone. To many, it's just clothes, just another neccesity of living. As nice as it would be to just focus on living our own lives, this is not the time to ignore what is happening around us. We live in a country blessed with the freedom to be able to make change. We have the power. It seems so desolate now, but we have the power. When I'm feeling unable to enact the change I want, or when society tells women we have to dress a certain way, I turn to my wardrobe. I find so much joy in being able to express myself the way I want. I long for everyone to find that joy and to find themselves and to not be afraid to show it. Everyday I wake up, I find what speaks to me in that moment and I put on my armor. I am then restored to my full power, and I am ready to fight. I am ready to resist. For those that are scared, or are unsure of how to even begin to inact a positive change, just know that in this day and age, sometimes expressing your true self is its own act of political resistance.

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