Category Archives: vintage

1950s lingerie

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Get ready for things to get very… pink and blue. It is the baby-boom era after all, and we’ve got to start imposing those gender roles on babies before they’re even born! I’ve got a lot of great slips and vintage lingerie, but I’m not about to post a million pictures of myself wearing it on the internet. Because… nipples. I have basically lived in these outfits for the last month of my pregnancy! And best of all? I had them all in my closet before I even knew I was pregnant.

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This Pink Lady number is the best. A matching lace-trim coat to go with a sleeveless tent-style slip underneath. I feel very Betty Draper circa Season 1 of Mad Men when I wear this. I also have pretty much the identical set in… you guessed it… cotton candy pink.

 

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This white one has beautiful embroidered red roses on the neckline.

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Last but not least, the one I wear out of the house like nobody’s business. Yes, in this picture I have just woken up but if I brush my hair I look like a Serious Grown Up who wears vintage maternity lingerie wherever she wants.

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spring

On to the next best things: the 1960s and 70s.

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1930s/40s Maternity Wear

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Wearing a 1940s black crepe dress in January (at 20 weeks pregnant)

Look at how happy I was! Most of the 1930s or 1940s clothing I ended up wearing was during the first and second trimesters of my pregnancy. I was lucky enough that some of my vintage dresses fit me for quite a long time; mostly those that weren’t fitted at the hips. The items that got by far the most wear were looser slips, like this 1930s bias-cut one I love so much. So comfortable, the next best thing to being naked. I would wear an even older piece of vintage lingerie over top to be a little warmer in the winter months. These photos don’t show either item off in the best way, but gives you an idea… and shows you my guest room/walk-in closet which has now evolved into baby’s room!

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Photo by Amélie Laurence Fortin

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Now, for something I’d wear outside the comfort of my home. I was really surprised to find how comfortable this outfit was, up until maybe month five of my pregnancy. The dress was something I thrifted ages ago, just a simple black 1940s dress. The jacket was designed by Hildegard Geisler, someone who I have found absolutely nothing about in my online searches. If you look at the picture of the tag, you see the amazing texture of it. The quality of the garment! I love it. I’m not sure what year it is from, it could be from 50s, but I’m lumping it in here.

Next up: this coral top is way “cuter” than what I normally go for, but come on! Look at the collar! The buttons! Sadly, this one got a little ruined in the wash but I got a lot of good wear out of it. In these pictures I’m wearing it with pyjama pants, but I wore it with a black skirt in the earlier months, and maternity pants later. This is one that still fits, even now at 41 weeks pregnant… because pleats! Betty Hartford, thanks for designing this gorgeous top ages ago.

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Lastly, we have this dreamy dreamy dressing gown. I only found it around month 7 of my pregnancy, and it’s not necessarily exclusively “maternity.” It does make me feel really glamourous, which I definitely needed some days. Maybe a bit Veronica Lake? Femme fatale goes goody-two-shoes?

I must admit, other than the nightgown, I’m not super into the 1930s/40s maternity wear… because it was all about concealing. This post at Just skirts and dresses goes into more detail about what the dominant discourse was around how pregnant women were encouraged to dress. Witness to Fashion also outlines the impact wartime fabric rations had on the way mothers-to-be dressed, which is fascinating.

I also recoil at the idea of maternity girdles… Today, it is strange to think of how much pressure there was to avoid making others uncomfortable by being “visibly with child.” Personally, I wanted to show off my belly as soon as I had one, so the idea of emulating the style of this era wasn’t terribly appealing to me. As you’ll see in the coming posts, I think the 1970s works for me best!

I leave you with this terribly condescending fashion advice from 1944:

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Garçonnière is Pregnant

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7 months pregnant on the Plains of Abraham. Photo by Amélie Laurence Fortin

I’m pregnant. In fact, as I write this, I am very pregnant. 41 weeks to be precise. To say that I am looking forward to meeting this baby is an understatement, and I am suppressing every exclamation mark, every all caps, every desire to underline and bold these words. I haven’t written about it much online, but given that baby is proving to be pretty happy in utero and in no rush to come out, I have a bit more time on my hands than I expected. This means an unexpected (perhaps temporary) revival of this dormant blog with some outfit photos.

I feel like I’ve forgotten how to “blog,” or rather, how people blog has changed so much in the two+ years I’ve stopped posting here, so I’m channelling the early ‘oughts and going back to how we used to share outfit photos in the early Internet days – think newestwrinkle or thriftwhore on livejournal, or dailywear on Flickr.

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Before we get to the eye-candy, some caveats. I have been reticent to write about this for many reasons, namely because I have been overwhelmed by the massive amounts of judgemental, condescending information out there targeted at pregnant people and every element of their pregnancy. What to eat, what not to eat, how to feel, what is normal, and of course what to wear and how one should look. In my experience, the multiplicity of experiences that the women I know who have been pregnant is hardly reflected at all online, even if it has changed a bit with blogs and message boards.

Do not consider this a “what to wear while pregnant” guide by any stretch of the imagination. Wear whatever the fuck you want while pregnant! That’s about all the advice I have to offer.

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A tag that reads “Service prénatal Colette Québec”

There are a lot of things I’ve really loved about getting dressed while pregnant: namely, it gave me a reason to revive my thrifting, which had all but come to a halt. It’s the first time my body has dramatically changed in shape or size in over a decade, and I love the thrill of the “hunt.” Plus, thrifting for maternity clothes meant I also started checking the racks of baby clothes… and I have found some phenomenal little vintage baby outfits, quilts, and toys while looking for clothes for myself.

That said, I shouldn’t have been surprised to leave so many stores and websites… angry. Angry at the high cost of modern mainstream maternity wear, angry at the lack of ethically or locally-made options, and angry at the fact that I often fit into the largest size available. Every person’s body changes differently while pregnant, which is why I have been baffled by chain stores like Thyme Maternity whose salespeople claim certain pieces will last you your “entire pregnancy.” I’m also angered that the few pieces of modern maternity wear I did buy was overpriced, made in shitty conditions, and not made to last at all. Not to mention sizing – I’ve been wearing their XL pants for my last trimester, and I’m a 12. XL is their largest size. Where does that leave anyone bigger than me? What a joke. And do not get this dress-wearing tall person started on maternity tights.

A smiling pregnant woman looks at the camera as her sleepy partner hugs her and places his hand on her belly.

But let’s get to the good stuff! I’ve broken down my outfits into eras, all an approximation based on what I could gander from tags and styles and the little bit of information out there. 

I promise this doesn’t mean à l’allure garçonnière is necessarily becoming a Mom Blog! If you want to follow more of my pregnancy-related and baby-related content, I’ve been sharing a lot on Instagram and a bit on Pinterest.

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ottawa’s vintage clothing fair

many people ask me where my love and knowledge of vintage clothes began. for a while, i found it difficult to pinpoint. as long as i can remember, i’ve always been drawn to fashions from bygone eras, poring over the descriptions of decadent garments from the past in my favourite books, or oggling the outfits in old advertisements i found in tattered magazines or black and white films. it wasn’t until i began thrifting on my own as a teenager in small town ontario that i realized vintage clothes belonged in my closet, on my body – not just in storybooks and period pieces. but my knowledge of them? that has a very different starting point; not in books, but in very much in the flesh.

i first found out about ottawa’s vintage clothing fair from a little flyer in an antique shop in peterborough, back in 2005. i had seen a smattering of vintage clothes here and there in antique shops, or had stumbled across the rare find in thrift stores, but had never been to a vintage clothing store, let alone an entire bazaar or fair. i had some cursory knowledge thanks to helpful folks in livejournal communities, namely vintage_look and thriftwhore, where i learned things like how zippers or buttons could tell you what decade your find was most likely from, along with what was valuable and what was a dime a dozen.

but the stories behind the clothes, what decades they are from, the real nitty-gritty? those are the kind of things you learn about from meeting and talking to vintage sellers. and once a year, a great gang of canadian vintage sellers bring their best wares to the ottawa vintage clothing fair, ready for all the grubby hands and curious questions.

photo of the ottawa vintage clothing fair in 2005

now that my closet is pretty much full and my bank account still tight, the appeal of the vintage clothing fair for me now isn’t so much the shopping experience: it’s the people, the stories, and how much you can learn about vintage clothing. as much as i enjoy browsing gorgeous garments on etsy, it’s not quite the same as touching 1930s velvet, as seeing the vibrant colours of the prints, asking the seller the story behind the item.

not to mention the venue! this year i hear it has changed, but in years past it has been at the chateau laurier. absolutely gorgeous.

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julia at the vintage clothing fair in 2007

this will be my fifth time attending the vintage clothing fair now, and i still vividly remember the stories behind most of the items i’ve purchased there over the years. here are most of them:

vintage clothing in julia's closet

a purse and a set of earrings i nabbed at the vintage clothing fair back in 2006.

a purse and a set of earrings i nabbed at the vintage clothing fair back in 2006.

this dress no longer fits me, but i think it is one of my all-time favourite finds. i think i paid something like 40 or 50 dollars for it, since it wasn’t in the best of condition. the last time i could squeeze into it was shortly after i had been very ill and lost a lot of weight, and luckily holly norris took these beautiful photographs of me in it then.


one of my favourite fall dresses!


the story behind this strange skirt is what really makes it.

the woman who sold it to me told me it belonged to her aunt. (background: usually, when you buy vintage, it is kind of standard to ask if it came from a smoke-free or pet-free home, but you usually don’t get this much detail) she went on to tell me her aunt was a devout jehovah’s witness, who never smoked, drank, or married. this seemed like a bit of a “wink wink nudge she died a virgin” type situation. all of these factors did not make the garment pristine, however. it has little stains around the waist, but that makes me love it even more (and made it affordable; it was originally priced at $40, then marked down to $30, then i snagged it for $15) and the story makes it all the more precious to me. it makes me want to be particularly debaucherous every time i wear it.

most of the other items i’ve purchased were earrings or small pieces of jewelry, some of which i’ve unfortunately lost, like this precious brooch:

another thing i thought about last time i went with annemarie back in 2010 was how the online market for vintage clothing in the last few years (or as i often refer to them, the “post mad men” years) had become slightly oversaturated, especially with lax rules about what constitutes “vintage” over at etsy. it’s not rare to see pieces from the 80s and 90s online listed as vintage, but you don’t really see that at the fair. it is not rare to come across top hats from the 20th century, or halloween costumes from the 30s! and even though that’s not what i go there to buy, it is fascinating to see such quality vintage goods all in one lovely place.

tips if you attend a fair like this one? i’ve told a lot of friends to go, so i’ve given these tips out before:

  • arrive on time, and with cash. there is an ATM on site but who likes to pay those overcharge fees anyway? i tend to be very strict with my budget, and only take out as much cash as i can spend. that way you can’t splurge on a 300$ gown you don’t need and will wear once just because you saw it and it fits you and it is beautiful.
  • dress for the occasion. now this doesn’t mean getting decked out to the nines, trying to impress fellow bargain hunters with your gorgeous duds. if you’re going here to buy things, you will be trying them on. so dress appropriately! wear something that’s easy to slip in and out of. i almost always wear a slip, so i can know how much wiggle room i have.
  • ask questions. as i said, i learned almost everything i know about vintage from asking sellers question after question. it can be short and sweet, just asking what decade a dress is from and how they know that, or you can go into detail.
  • be patient. give yourself a lot of time. in my experience there have always been large crowds, whether you show up at 10 in the morning or 3 in the afternoon. take your time, don’t let people push you, and be polite with others.
  • be gentle with the goods. most sellers will ask you to leave a piece of id behind when you head to the change room, but what they really want from you is to be gentle with their items. try on dresses by putting them over your head, not stepping into them. assess whether the garment has stretch to it or not before jerking at the seams. don’t force it. there are literally thousands of other items for you to try on, you’re sure to find at least something that suits you.
  • don’t take photos of yourself in the change room. or do. whatever. if you’re anything like me, however, these photos will lead to you kicking yourself five years later as to why you didn’t buy that gorgeous dress.

now you’ve got almost a week to prep – november 18th – off you go, and be sure to show me your fantastic finds after you’ve conquered the crowds! see you there.

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SUMMER OUTFITS: june

to say this summer went by quickly would be the understatement of the century. you see, i’m still recovering from my post-student days, where things would slow down in the summer rather than speed up. yes, i’ve been working full-time most summers (with one exception) for nearly a decade now, but never as intensely as this year. in june, it really didn’t look like it would be that way… but hey! a summer election campaign and your colleagues taking their summer vacations will give you a lot more to do!

i know, i know, everyone finds the summer goes by too fast. i just wanted to give you a bit of context for these very belated outfit posts. spending far more time at the office did not mean i toned down my warddrobe or forgot to take outfit photos! it simply meant it wasn’t until now that i found the time to share them with you.

let’s begin with june.

as i mentionned earlier, i started the summer with a haircut and a trip overseas. before hopping on a plane, i checked out the

i had the chance to have a sneak peek back in may, but was so excited to see it when it officially opened in june. in the end i visited the museum three times this summer to try and take it all in, and am very glad i did. you can listen to my radio report on it if you missed it.

wearing: thrifted dress from value village, 10$
sandals: hush puppies on sale

the summer also means high-time for yard sales, flea markets and church basement bargains. while riding my bike one sunday i came across a particularly awesome yard sale and picked up this stunning 1960s wiggle dress for a whopping 6 dollars. it is a wee bit snug for me (but aren’t all wiggle dresses?) but i simply could not resist for that price. one of my smaller-hipped vintage-loving friends might be able to give it a good home if i don’t end up wearing it enough.

dress: vintage, thrifted shoes: thrifted ages ago photobooth bag from meags fitzgerald

dress: vintage, thrifted
shoes: thrifted ages ago
photobooth bag from meags fitzgerald

simon and i in his favourite colours: black and white

simon and i in his favourite colours: black and white

even though we live together, simon and i try to make date nights a priority. not just hanging out, but getting decked out to the nines for no particular reason at all and enjoying the sights and sounds of our gorgeous city. i didn’t get the best photos of my outfit, but believe me we turned heads that night.

dress, vintage 1960s from courage my love in toronto. 1960s handbag thrifted.

so there’s june: i’ll be sharing photos from july and august shortly. thanks for looking!

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currently: the uncompromising eartha kitt

eartha kitt with kittens

eartha kitt with kittens by gordon parks, 1952

a hotly anticipated new batman movie just came out, and everyone is still going on over whether or not anne hathaway was the right casting choice to revisit the role of catwoman. it happens any time a film touches a cult character, especially one that has spanned many decades and mediums… personally, i have yet to see the latest incarnation of catwoman in this film so i can’t judge.

Eartha Kitt as Catwoman c. 1960’s

Eartha Kitt as Catwoman c. 1960’s

in the meantime, however, many people have taken advantage of this batman pop culture moment to reflect on the various women who have been catwomen over the years, such as julie newmar. another one of the very first actresses to be cast as catwoman is the inimmitable eartha kitt. while she only took on the role for three episodes during the batman television series, her performance captivated audiences and remains iconic to this day.

every once in a while, i see a fantastic photo of eartha kitt pop up on tumblr. lately, it’s been a become more of a steady stream… here are just a few of my favourites that really showcase her style in the 1950s and 60s. i hate to be the kind of person who only posts photos of when an actress when she was young, but what can i say, i’m a sucker for 1950s fashion! there are some great ones from later eras you can find yourself, but i simply had to share my favourites.

Eartha Kitt, Amsterdam, Netherlands, c. 1962. by Ben van Meerendonk.

Eartha Kitt, 1952 by Gordon Parks

Eartha Kitt, June 1952, photographed by Gordon Parks for LIFE magazine

Eartha Kitt in New York City, June 1952, photographed by Gordon Parks for LIFE magazine

this entire photoshoot of her by the incredible photographer gordon parks is unbelievably charming!

Eartha Kitt, June 1952, photographed by Gordon Parks

Eartha Kitt, June 1952, photographed by Gordon Parks

Eartha Kitt dances during Dizzy Gillespie’s set at the Newport Jazz Festival (1954)

Eartha Kitt dances during Dizzy Gillespie’s set at the Newport Jazz Festival (1954)

eartha kitt photographed by carl van vechten, 1952

photographed by carl van vechten, 1952

uncredited/date portrait of eartha kitt (1950s?)

Eartha Kitt in Hamburg, 1950. Photo by Susanne Schapowalow.

but you know hear at à l’allure garconnière, i’m not about style over substance – eartha kitt had both in spades.  while i admire what eartha kitt wore, her words and acts speak volumes. she was a fiercely independent strong woman who spoke out against injustice. keep in mind she was all of these things at a time when being an outspoken black woman didn’t help already quite limited career opportunities.

In 1968, during the administration of US President Lyndon B. Johnson, Kitt encountered a substantial professional setback after she made anti-war statements during a White House luncheon. Kitt was invited to the White House luncheon and was asked by Lady Bird Johnson about the Vietnam War. She replied: “You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. No wonder the kids rebel and take pot.”

During a question and answer session, Kitt stated:

“The children of America are not rebelling for no reason. They are not hippies for no reason at all. We don’t have what we have on Sunset Blvd. for no reason. They are rebelling against something. There are so many things burning the people of this country, particularly mothers. They feel they are going to raise sons — and I know what it’s like, and you have children of your own, Mrs. Johnson — we raise children and send them to war.”

Her remarks reportedly caused Mrs. Johnson to burst into tears and led to a derailment in Kitt’s career. The public reaction to Kitt’s statements was extreme, both pro and con. She  became publicly ostracized in the US.

she was also one of the earliest public figures to speak out against apartheid in South Africa. in researching her life online, i’ve also learned she faced discrimination for being light-skinned and mixed-race. her mother was african-american and cherokee, and her father was white. there is also a great biography of her over at classic vintage with a twist if you’re interested in finding out more.

Eartha Kitt for the Hill District Renewal Program, May 1966.

Eartha Kitt for the Hill District Renewal Program, May 1966. Photographed by Charles “Teenie” Harris

photographs can’t even begin to capture the energy and vivacity she had. take the time to watch this amazing video of her:

i hope you learned something new about an amazing woman!

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knowledge, power and “feminist” fashion blogs

gloria swanson, photographed by edward steichen in 1924

Gloria Swanson photographed by Edward Steichen for Vanity Fair, 1924

these days i’ve been spending a lot of times with books. fiction, non-fiction, zines, and gorgeous picture books. re-reading ones that have been on my shelf for years, and starting ones i’ve been meaning to get to for longer than i’d like to admit. this weekend while visiting my friend marika‘s place, i poured over the copy of Objectif Mode, 1850 a nos jours she had taken out of the library. myself, ainslie, cat and simon turned the pages together, pointing out our favourites. the chapter for the 1920s began with a cropped version of one of my favourite photographs. i gasped, and said, “swanson! steichen! how glorious.” it didn’t have a caption on that page, so my friends were kind of surprised.

“how do you know that?” cat asked.

i laughed it off, mumbled something or other about how it’s just a random bit of knowledge tucked away in my brain somewhere… but how? and why?

i know it because i love it, is the short version.

i know it because i’ll always remember this image. because there’s something about early photography that pairs decadence, decay, the jazz age, art, fashion that will always be compelling to me.

i know it because i’ve seen many other photographers try to emulate what it is about this photograph that draws you in so much. is it steichen’s talent as a photographer? is it swanson’s gaze? is it both?

Gertrud Arndt, « Maskenselbstbildnis Nr. 16 », 1930

Gertrud Arndt, « Maskenselbstbildnis Nr. 16 », 1930

i also know these things because i am smart. because i am not just a passive consumer of photography, art, and fashion – i’m a fan. i take the time to inform myself, to remember details.

after finishing the book, i must admit i felt slightly disappointed. curious choices for images to define over a century of style. in the end, what i personally disliked about it was that it did not present the picture of fashion that i know and love. it presented the typical vision of fashion as one occupied by those who can afford to indulge in high-end couture, with more photos of runway models and movie stars than your average joe. a model can wear a dress, that is their job at the end of the day, but i’ve always been more interested in why someone might choose to wear certain garments, and how they wear them.

this reminded me yet again why i often feel alienated by the “fashion” world.

this leads to other things i’ve been asking myself about these days: what makes a fashion blog feminist. perhaps it’s because someone pointed out to me that when you google “feminist fashion blog,” my blog is on the first page of results. perhaps it’s because i’ve come across more than a few fashion blogs that describe themselves as feminist, yet i see very little/no explicit political content or discussion. or worse, a very second-wave version of what it means to be feminist.

a tweet posted on may 9th by julia that reads "if i could just have a feature that would let me read about fashion online without having to trudge through body hate bullshit, that'd be great."

one of the more specific reasons this question has been on my mind is because of last week’s extravagant fashion event. i wanted to see what people wore to the met ball last week. briefly: the met ball is when the top of the top get decked out to the nines in incredibly lavish clothing. here’s a more detailed description from the Atlantic‘s may 2007 article “Why Fashion Deserves its Place in Art Museums:”

Once inside, the 700 guests—actors and models, designers and socialites—will dine and dance and preview the museum’s newest exhibition. The occasion is the “party of the year,” the Met’s Costume Institute Benefit Gala. Co-chaired annually by Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, the party is not just a chance to wear and admire beautiful clothes; it’s a lavish and efficient fund-raising machine. Tickets start at $6,500 per person, with tables for 10 running as high as $100,000. Last year’s gala raised $4.5 million for the museum’s fashion department.

obviously, it’s one of my few typical “Fashion Elite” moments of awe. i generally click through a handful of fashion week shit, but it’s generally kinda low on my radar. the met ball, on the other hand? pure fantasy through and through, and i shamelessly love gawking at it. this year in particular featured an exhibition that is right up my alley: Schiaparelli & Prada (and wrote a bit about back in march). in my hunt for more photos of the dresses people wore, i visited sites i tend to avoid… and was reminded of why. i found myself rolling my eyes at the comments, and asking myself, really?

the comments on jezebel‘s “good/bad/ugly” met gala review are more about how skinny a model is, how much someone looks like a “drag queen” (as if that’s a bad thing?), and how slutty a woman’s dress is than about, say, whether or not it was an appropriate choice for a gala that lauds designer known for collaborations with surrealist artists, or how the theme of the gala this year was explicitly focused around conversations about feminist women.

the overall tone i got from the four or five websites i visited was one fraught with body policing (variations of the she’s too thin to show that much skin/she’s too fat to wear that dress/that colour/that style, usually coded in words like “flattering”) and left me headdesking. why so much vitriol when there were so many other potential things of substance to discuss? who chose to wear schiaparelli’s signature shocking pink? what worked, the over the top designs or the more demure ones? the hommages: well-done or too hokey?

i took to twitter and of course discovered i’m not alone in wanting to consume fashion (at least visually) without having to confront body hate and mean-spirited comments everywhere i turn. jenny zhang was briefly the fashion commentator at jezebel, and talked about her own struggles with facilitating that environment, as someone who identifies as feminist:

For a while, I was writing red carpet commentary for Jezebel, and I always felt too mean or not mean enough or not quippy enough or not discerning enough or too judgmental. It’s hard to write meaningfully about fashion! At least it is for me.

and i hear her. we fall into the trappings of “oh my god, she wore THAT?!” partly because it’s so effortless, but also because it’s so pervasive. it’s everywhere we turn. not only that, it’s ridiculous gendered, almost always heteronormative, often racist (if not completely whitewashed) – and overall unproductive and boring in my eyes. if you missed it, i wrote an article mapping out my feelings around those issues last year.

it’s so easy for me to feel as though i’m the one in the wrong, because i feel as though i’m in the minority. it’s easy to feel as though i should just accept that catty rude comments about people’s bodies are par for the course when it comes to talking about fashion. that i’ll always have to start conversations about my interest in fashion and art by defending that fashion can be art, since most people’s perception of the word “fashion” is a vacuous and mean-spirited one.

for me, framing my blog as a “critical take on fashion culture” is the most direct way i can challenge these notions. people know if they come to my blog they won’t see me writing about fashion in that way.

self-portrait by mccall johnson

i’m trying to remember why i write here. why i’ve been trying to create this space and foster dialogue around feminism and fashion for years. even though there are more and more of us these days, we still have to defend the very basic premise that you can be interested in fashion AND be a feminist. i’m really looking forward for the day we can put those conversations to bed, and move forward.

i should pride myself on my extensive knowledge of fashion and art, not laugh it off.  if i’m less worried that people will interpret my interest and affection for fashion as frivolous or anti-feminist, than maybe i can finally get to that point. let’s trade in shame for pride, stop being belittled and start being empowered. i’m done with the defenses. let’s keep talking about how to challenge oppressive ideologies we see operating in the fashion world we are already a part of.

recommended reading:

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