Painful or Empowering? Thoughts on Fashion





Fashion has always been a part of my life, ever since I can remember. As a kid, I always admired my mother's wardrobe, and with her help, I loved to sow for my Barbies. Being on stage as a mini-ballerina, I enjoyed every pirouette in a tutu. When my kindergarten teacher asked me about my dream job, I said I want to become a fashion designer. In the end, life took me in a completely different direction, nevertheless, I kept my close relationship with beautiful clothing.

I always thought that fashion is an intrinsic part of being a girl or a woman. I was never able to conceive my life without paying attention to what I wear. Many female celebrities claimed to enjoy their womanhood, saying that being able to play with fashion is a pleasure they wouldn’t want to live without, and I completely agreed. How can you live without ruffled skirts and stilettoes? Don’t we all want to feel beautiful?

But in time I understood why many women decide to shun fashion. Throughout history, culture came up with many trends women had to conform to, no matter how painful or disempowering they were. The corset misplaced and misshaped internal organs, foot shaping shoes caused life-long damage to the bone structure, and heavy clothing made it impossible for women to adopt the same activities that men had the freedom to choose. Women were taught that without fashion, without being beautiful, no one will want to marry them, and what else could be the ultimate purpose of a woman’s life than to serve a man by being a beautiful wife and raising his children, right? (insert sarcastic snort here)

Many of these trends are obsolete, but unfortunately the patriarchy hasn’t changed enough. From a very young age girls experience that in order to be noticed, they don’t have to have a personality, they have to look pretty. Women are in a constant struggle to be sexy and feminine enough to feel adequate, but once they achieve their goal, they often feel like objects in men’s voyeuristic pleasure. It’s no surprise that many women choose a different path, and decide to be smart tomboys instead.

However, fashion can also empower by expressing who we are. It can help us bring our deepest thoughts, feelings, and memories to the surface, or it can help us conceal them. Either way, it is a communication tool to be valued. Thus, I invite you to embrace the cognitive dissonance between a hate of patriarchy and a love of everything that is beautiful, and to join me in my journey to undertand style and it's effect on our lives.

Ildiko

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