Peace Chijioke and Esther Chung
Many people today claim that fashion only reinforces harmful beauty standards and shallow social practices. However, throughout history, it is clear that fashion and progress go hand in hand.
Clothes have been, and still are, a platform for women to voice opinions that otherwise may go unheard. The “little black dress”— a fashion staple almost all women own, is one of the earliest examples of this. Although it seems ridiculous that a plain and basic black dress could spur a revolution, the simple and short black dress popularized by Chanel in the 1920’s marked a pivotal point in the history of fashion. Not only did it free women from the suffocation of a corset, it boldly challenged
society’s view of women as subservient to men. In previous years, women were expected to cover up legs and wear tight-fitting, uncomfortable clothing. However, with the creation of the LBD, women were finally liberated from the corset and hobble skirt, as well as conformity to unrealistic standards placed by a male-dominated society.
Although uncommon nowadays, another popular fashion choice that was used to promote feminism was formal business-wear with shoulder padding. This movement has its roots in the the 1930’s when Marlene Dietrich, a German-American actress, was photographed wearing a suit and pants. People all over America were shocked and incredulous that such a famous actress could wear something so scandalous. However, after the initial response, the female suit and pants did not have a comeback until the 1980’s, when women began wearing shoulder pads with suits. The intention of this was for
“career women,” or women who prioritized their careers, to approximate the broader, stronger-looking silhouette of a typical businessman. By wearing these shoulder pads and suits, it called to attention the treatment of women in professional settings, and raised the question of why women have to dress like men to be treated seriously.
Even today, clothing is at the forefront of progressive movements. In an interview with Humans of New York, an Iranian woman expressed changing fashion in Iraq by saying, ¨things are getting freer… the scarves are getting looser. The sleeves are getting shorter. The laughter is getting louder.¨ She went on to say how mischievous the young country— with over half of the population under thirty—
had become. ¨If you want an Iranian child to do something— tell them not to do it… the people who are making the rules are getting older. And just like the Iranian parent, they are getting exhausted.¨ The new generation will redefine Iran for decades to come, rattle its institutions, and non coincidentally their growing impact can be seen in the clothing they wear.
When asked about why they made the style choices they did, several students at Cosby had similar answers. Junior, Chizaram Ndubueze, stated she choose her bright, flowy pants because they were comfortable. Another Junior, Camille Okonkwo, said she wore her suede skirt because being ahead of the high school trend made her feel confident. Emily Sutton, a sophomore, stated her short hair was inspired by the summer heat. The choices they made were all based on what made them comfortable. Whether the comfort came from loose
clothing or confidence inspiring pieces, what they choose to wear are all expressions of how they want to feel.
What we wear may be decided by our changing communities, whether it be shifts in idealisms or a literal change in temperature. We could wear clothing inspired by styles developed from century old garments or personal comfort. Whatever the circumstance may be, the ways in which we choose to present ourselves are often far more than just skin deep.