“Is fashion feminist?” This is one of the most frequently asked questions I hear when someone finds out that I write about fashion. And I have to admit that I find the question tedious – not because it’s not important but because it’s the wrong question. It may be why we’ve never directly answered this question – though all our posts are informed by a critical feminist perspective. A better question to ask is: How is fashion an instrument of gender oppression and how is it a means to feminist liberation? I’ve compiled a short list of mostly popular, mostly online texts that address this question – some, more successfully than others. It should go without saying – but in case it doesn’t – this is hardly an exhaustive list of texts. Note, for example, that I haven’t included any full book-length studies on the topic and only a few scholarly texts. It’s meant to be a quick reference list, a pocket-sized digital guide to beginning a conversation about this topic.
- Valerie Steele’s “The F-Word,” originally published in Lingua Franca (1991) and republished online here.
- Kaja Silverman’s “Fragments of a Fashionable Discourse,” originally published in Tania Modleski’s Studies in Entertainment: Critical Approaches to Mass Culture (Regents of the University of Wisconsin, 1986) and then republished in Shari Benstock and Suzanne Ferriss’ On Fashion (Rutgers University Press 1994).
- Angela McRobbie’s “Bridging the Gap: Feminism, Fashion and Consumption” in Feminist Review (Spring 1997): 73-89.
- Elaine Showalter’s “The Professor Wore Prada” originally published in Vogue (December 1997): 80 (3 pages).
- Showalter’s response to the academic backlash against her Vogue article, “Taming the Rampant Incivility in Academe” in The Chronicle of Higher Education (15 January 1999).
- Showalter’s “Better Things to Do” in Media History 6.2 (2000): 109-110. (Also a response of sorts to the Vogue kerfuffle.)
- Emily Raine’s “The F Word” in Worn: Fashion Journal issue 5 (Fall/Winter 2007): 37-39.
- lipstickeater’s “a brick . . . i mean, a book, in my handbag” (25 April 2009)
- Susie Bubble’s “Haters Gonna Hate” post on Style Bubble (22 January 2010)
- Meg Clarke’s Good Morning Midnight blog post, “Why Fashion is Worth Blogging About.” (17 February 2010)
- Lisa Armstrong’s Times (UK) article, “Fashion is Still a Feminist Issue” (3 March 2010).
- “Do Clothes Make the Woman?” in Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 31.1 (2010): 166-171.
And finally, here are a few posts we’ve written on the subject of fashion and feminism in relation to, among other things, queerness, popular culture discourse, and academia:
- Queer + Fashion (7 May 2009)
- Mind Over Malls or, Does Academia Hate Fashion? (3 August 2009)
- Shopping with Threadbared: A Conversation (11 January 2010)
- The Incensed Beauty Guru and Pop-Feminism (9 March 2010)
Feel free to add on to this list in the comments!