What does it mean to you to be a woman? As told by Corrine Look.

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I’ve sat down to try and answer this question on multiple occasions, come up with different answers, a poem, a mind-map, some anecdotes from my puberty years, but the fact is that I can’t come up with an answer because I simply don’t know. I’ve written about awkward teenage encounters as I tried to navigate girlhood, trapped between an armpit-haired, force for change of a mother, and the Charlie-sprayed, push-up bra’d girl clique in school. While this time was crucial in the formation of my identity, it was the first time I began to associate womanhood with restriction. For me, the fact that I am a woman feels completely arbitrary, it is not who I am, it just happens to be how I have been positioned in this world. So, to try and explain how it feels has inevitably led me down multiple paths that’s seem to be circling nothing, because there is no feeling for me.

 

One of my favourite moments of any poem are the lines spoken by the unnamed (surprise surprise) woman in Eliot’s ‘The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock’:

If one, settling a pillow by her head

               Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;

               That is not it, at all.”

Those simple lines hold so much for me because it is as if she speaks back to the portraits, the poems, the books, the definitions of woman and the definitions of man and dismisses them with those words. And this is precisely what I am trying to express, because any sense of how it feels to be a woman that I have tried to come up with always falls short of exactly what I mean. And so I have come to the conclusion that I quite simply don’t know because, while I am happy to be gendered as such, I am not a woman, I am far more than that could ever possibly encapsulate. To be posited as a woman in my miniscule space in this world feels like a constant expression of ‘that is not what I meant at all, that is not it at all.’ I am not shrinkable to any definition of gender that has been placed on me. I simply am.

Corrine is a lover, writer and organiser of all things poetry. Follow her on instagram @corrinelook to stay up to date or if you want to get involved.

I Wear Spanx. Do you?

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Darlings! This time around I want to talk about body image from a slightly different angle. This is, at the very least, a controversial topic and for me personally it is a difficult one to take on. Body image has been a constant conversation in my life, probably since the age of ten, which is when I first thought I needed to go on a diet. Thus I am very tired of having said conversation with myself, but having it with others might spark change at the very least, and that is worth it. Let me summarise my experience for you a bit, so that we are all on the same page. I grew up in Colombia, and felt out of place throughout my entire adolescence because I was not a size small. At that point I wasn't even the size large I am at the moment, I was a size medium (you can imagine how harsh beauty standards can get here). I have always loved pop culture and fashion but didn't have much luck in feeling represented there. I admired actresses like Emma Watson, Jennifer Lawrence and Keira Knightley… you get the picture, very Eurocentric beauty standards. That's what I strived towards, still do at times, but now I can catch myself before I go down the rabbit whole. As a consequence I dealt with a couple of eating disorders, which is a story for another time, and had some issues feeling comfortable in my own skin. As you can see, even in this condensed rendition, it has been a long and exhausting journey, one that I am still trying to figure out. However, let us get back to the task at hand, shape wear. 

 

@palomija

@palomija

I came up with the idea for this article one day as I was scrolling through my Instagram feed. I was startled by this sickening image of model/goddess/all round inspiration Paloma Elsesser @palomija in which she was only wearing shape wear and IT LOOKED AMAZING. In case you have no clue who Paloma is, google her immediately because she is killing it in every shoot and teaching the industry a thing or two about diversity and why it’s so amazing and necessary. In her post, Paloma talks about how this concept came to be and explains her personal relationship with shape wear, which is a constant in her life. When I saw this picture, it struck something in me. The matter of shape-wear felt like something incredibly personal and even taboo, especially in my culture, where you literally must hide by any means necessary that you are wearing a faja. Consequently, I started to question my own relationship with shape wear and why it was so strongly defined by shame. So here I am screaming it to the entire world that yes, when and outfit requires it, I WEAR SHAPE WEAR (Spanx to be exact, but this is not sponsored, it could be though ;) @spanx, call me).

 

I don’t exactly know how I first became aware of the existence of shape wear, fajas if you will (shoutout to the Spanish speakers). All I knew was that they were meant for adults and occasionally you would hear a promotional ad about them in the radio. I also have this very vivid memory from primary school, when some of the kids got a kick out of hugging the teachers and feeling if they were wearing any shape-wear or not. Which is a) very problematic to me in so many levels, and b) it created this whole culture of shame around it. Apparently women are supposed to be perfect by all accounts; and if their bodies are not perfect, don't you worry there are a bunch of products for you to buy. Which you then are made to feel ashamed about buying. It’s astonishing how deeply embedded in our minds these conceptions are. Most women spend a considerable amount of time trying to reach “perfection”, whatever that means, thus feeling the need to purchase said products, and yet feeling like a fraud for “faking” something that is not natural to them. Basically, that is what Spanx were to me growing up, some way of pretending to be something you were not, but wanted to or were supposed to be. People weren't openly talking about their shape-wear and it's only been a recent development in pop culture and the media. Sometimes it makes a comedic appearance in films like How To Be Single, or its use is plainly acknowledged in shows like KUWTK or the MFM podcast. However shape-wear has been a staple of women's undergarments for decades. Some may say they were part of the oppressive patriarchal society of the fifties (looking at you girdles and corsets). But when you think of “female” undergarments you don’t necessarily think shape-wear, yet so many of us wear it. So why is it still such a controversial theme to bring up, why is it still shocking to find out that a celebrity wears it, how come it still works as comedic relief? Well let us discuss.

 

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I would like to address the controversial aspect that is tied to shape-wear, thus the opinion that condemns it as an oppressive garment, designed to please the male gaze and to uphold unrealistic and unhealthy beauty standards. This echoes the discourse that has surrounded bras for a very long time. To that I respond: I don’t wear Spanx or any type of shape wear because I feel that society is asking me to, or because I want to appear more appealing to certain people. I wear Spanx if my outfit benefits from it, if the lines of the dress seem to flow better when I am wearing it. It has become part of my under armour with time, and although it might be uncomfortable, it is also hugging and reassuring, like a good bra. We shouldn't feel judged for wearing Spanx, in the same way that nobody should feel ashamed for wearing something they choose and feel comfortable in. However, we have to acknowledge the complicated and often pernicious history of female undergarments. Because even if I am at a place where I feel comfortable making the decision about whether or not to wear something, the conversation around Spanx and underwear in general, is very much pervaded by toxicity. There remains the idea that wearing shape-wear illustrates a desire to please someone other than yourself. I think is time we changed that, don’t you?

 

Now, regarding my other questions. I think that shape-wear offers comedic relief in the media because of all the shame surrounding the topic. It alternatively works as a self-deprecating skit or a demonstration of overt and unprecedented self awareness. A scene from the film How to be single comes to mind, in the scene one of the characters is reading a story to a group of children at a bookstore where she volunteers. The story is a fairytale which ends, as they tend to do, with the prince saving the princess and them living happily ever after. The character, Lucy, goes on a rant to the children about the grim reality of dating and how exhausting it is to adhere to beauty standards. She then proceeds to show her Spanx and start cutting them in an act of rebellion. It is all very relatable and terribly amusing. And fair enough, such mentions of shape-wear can spark a conversation, but they don’t take the sense of shame away from it. Whether this is shame from feeling that you need to wear it or if it’s from choosing to wear it and feeling like a fraud of some sort (hey Bridget Jones). Once this starts to change and the element of shame is taken away, people can start to have a healthier relationship not only with shape-wear but with their body image, which is ultimately what fuels this whole argument from all sides. Really what it boils down to is to try to be conscious of the societal bias imbedded around the topic and to own whatever decision you make regarding the usage of fajas, but most importantly, not to judge anyone about their decision regarding this. There is simply no point in being a hater and worst, part of the problem. I am trying to spark a conversation and I will keep doing so every chance that I get. I am done hiding and more importantly I am tired of feeling like a fraud, so what if I wear Spanx? I am at a place where I am comfortable with my body with or without them and I won’t let anyone make me feel any differently, and hopefully you wont either darlings. So let’s demystify it, share with us your thoughts on shape-wear, do you choose to wear Spanx? Do you not? What has your journey been like? We would love to know.

MP

 

An Irreverent Ode to the Sensiblity of Camp

I am either rather late or rather early to the Camp wagon: a few months have passed since this years’ Met Gala theme was announced, and there are still a few months to go till we see fashion’s cream of the crop climbing those hallowed stairs as they fiddle and fawn over the elaborate creations they have donned. However, I recently read Susan Sontag’s seminal Notes on Camp and – since Camp aesthetics are really having a moment - I have taken it upon myself to ponder the topic’s resonance and relevance today.

Thierry Mugler, by Marianna Loukou

Thierry Mugler, by Marianna Loukou

 

  For those of you who have a vague idea of what Camp means but need some clarification, this is where this article and I come in (And yes, Camp must be capitalised, Sontag said so). Many before me have explored the concept, and none better than Sontag’s handy dandy 58 point guide which defined the creative movement and sensibility. 

 

  As a concept or movement, Camp is intimately bound up with aesthetics, yet it is more of a sensibility than an articulated theme or prescribed style. The term is derived from the french se camper, meaning to posture or pose in an exaggerated way. The statement which I think gets to the crux of the matter is that “the essence of Camp is the love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration”. This essence can manifest itself as an artistic practice, performance, attitude or style, but most importantly it is a way of viewing the world.  A “comic vision” that allows you to make light of the serious, and appreciate outré and guache aspects that might normally be deemed distasteful or “too much”.  It articulates a way of viewing the world, or performing for it, to the point where notions of “good taste” go straight out the window. Camp is an indefinite area of playful excess, willful frivolity, naïve pretentiousness and excess. Fluctuating between high gloss vulgarity and playful subversion, Camp can be indefinite yet thrilling, subtle yet eye watering. As a sensibility, it is democratic in its pleasures. It sponsors an effervescent subversion and mixing of so called high and low art, and a destabilization of absolutism in terms aesthetics in areas such as fashion, beauty and artistic production. It is an invitation to a different kind of apprehension or consumption, which ultimately escapes seriousness. Camp is above all a mode of appreciation and enjoyment, not  of judgement, though it can operate under the guise of cynicism. Sontag also makes a distinction between “naïve” and “deliberate” Camp. Naïve Camp is unaware that it’s tasteless, whereas deliberate Camp can be seen as intentionally performative and subversive.

Pink Narcissus, by Marianna Loukou

Pink Narcissus, by Marianna Loukou

 

 Camp acts a humourous antidote to bombastic shows of self importance and melodramatic absurdities executed in absolute seriousness, in the same way that, say, surrealism as an art movement was an escapist antidote to the encroaching malice of reason. As Sontag affectionately asserts, Camp “finds success in certain passionate failures”. This is probably one of the reasons behind why it has gained contemporary cultural currency. Though this can probably be said about any generation or time period, it feels like there’s a lot of serious shit going on at the moment, what with the particularly fraught current political landscape and the environmental crisis that we find ourselves in the midst of, to mention a few. In this way, Camp functions as a destabilisation of oppressive or absolutist power. It’s a useful tool of resistance, which might seem benign due to its deployment of humour, but is vital in providing a pathway for free speech and vocal dissent. That being said, Camp aesthetics have also left a more lighthearted mark in terms of pop-cultural iterations, perhaps transcending the element of subculture which Sontag references in her Notes

 

 I had originally intended this to be a rather serious reworking of Sontag’s text, but I find I can’t approach the subject with any semblance of seriousness or structure. And here is where I fall into Sontag’s prophecy, in that Camp must be discussed informally, in a series of notes and not in essay form: “It’s embarrassing to be solemn and treatise like about Camp”. I tell myself that I am being particularly witty and intentional as I present you with my own series of “jottings” (some of which I’ve chosen to elaborate on and some of which I think simply speak for themselves), which is as follows: 

 

Moncler x Pierpaolo Piccioli, by Marianna Loukou

Moncler x Pierpaolo Piccioli, by Marianna Loukou

1.     Sontag states that to perceive Camp is “to understand Being-as-Playing-a-Role”. Naturally notions of gender performativity or, more directly, pushing against perceivable or essentialist boundaries of gender or sex feed into this, and drag is one of those art-forms that succeeds in playfully pushing these boundaries. There’s probably nothing Campier than RuPaul’s Drag Race.

2.     John Waters films. Think Pink Flamingos, Cry-baby and Hairspray.

3.     Monty Python

4.     You say “artifice”, I say artificial intelligence. I think Camp surfaces in playful dalliances into a technological future we are still unsure of, such as the creation of Kylie Jenner’s makeup for the cover of Dazed Magazine by an AI technology called BeautyGAN. And to this I add:

5.     Balenciaga’s virtual models – created by visual artist Yilmaz Sen - who stretch fashion to new lengths and literally bend over backwards to showcase the brand’s Spring 2019 capsule.

 6.     Seeing the world through yellow tinted glasses: exaggerated sartorial nostalgia. Retrospective fashion is not necessarily Camp in itself, but Instagram is saturated with images that epitomise Camp style’s “extremely sentimental” relation to the past. Look no further than your feed to see elaborate and exaggerated odes to 70s, 80s, 90s and early 2000s fashion.

7.     Nothing extemporises Camp’s tendency towards self irony better than Virgil Abloh’s quotation marked creations, such as the dress emblazoned with the phrase “Little Black Dress” and the boots marked “For Walking”.

8.     Elsa Schiaparelli’s surrealist creations. Think the Lobster Dress. 

9.     Jeremy Scott’s Moschino 

10.  In an age where the cultivation of image or performance is becoming ever more “serious”, Camp serves to illustrate the humour in our now continuously exaggerated self-projection. The performative drive towards self marketing – i.e. the projection of our “better self” through social media – saturates our lives in an innocuous way, leading to an instinctive stratification of being into various marketable categories and identities: archetypes if you will. To me this connects especially to Instagram culture and “identities” such as the Insta-Baddie. While I don’t think there is usually any intention or thought towards Camp behind the choice of such aesthetics, I tend to view them as somewhat humourous at their core. This I suppose is an instance of Camp being in the eye beholder.

11.  Giallo films. A  peculiar Italian sub genre of thriller that had its heyday in the 70s. Hyper-Stylised crimes, gore and lurid violence with erotic undertones, lush, colourful, and trashy. 

12.  The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The film recounts/is an allegory of the death of rock and roll and the birth of glam rock in a positively phantasmagorical/orgasmic fanfare, sequence of events, songs and logic. It only follows that categories music such as glam rock, new romanticism etc. also fall under the metaphorical umbrella of Camp

13.  The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert 

14.  Pulp Fiction

15.  Showgirls. A film that’s “so bad its good”, a cult catastrophe that has over time morphed into a cult classic.

16.  Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

17.  Lady Gaga

Pink Narcissus, by Marianna Loukou

Pink Narcissus, by Marianna Loukou

18.  Cher, literally the Queen of Camp.

19.  Dusty Springfield

20.  Scream Queens

21.  Pink Narcissus 

22.  Sex and the City has definitely become more Camp with passing of the years.

23.  Chanel’s Egyptian inspired runway for SS19.

 24.  Bette Middler

 25.  Shakespeare

26.  The Valley of the Dolls. This is a movie which has been described as “It’s so bad, it’s good”. The overacting, the endless repetition of that same song, heroines’ throwing themselves into the sea in moments of distress, the glorious 60s regalia… the list continues, but I belabour my point. 

27.  “Camp is the triumph of the epicene style” and so is David Bowie.

 28.  New Wave 

29.  ‘Marcia Baila’ by Les Rita Mitsouko

30.  A lot of musical theatre.

31.  Doctor Who 

32.  Marc Jacobs SS16

33.  Oscar Wilde

35.  The Margiela Tabi shoe, a split toed boot designed to look like a camel’s toe.

36.  Marlene Dietrich

37.  The Eurovision Song Contest. Need I say more?! And since we’re on the topic of Eurovision: 

38.  ABBA!! 

39.  The Scissor Sisters

40.  Thierry Mugler’s sensuous theatricality, in both his clothes and shows. 

41.  Kate Bush, especially ‘Wuthering Heights’.

 42.  Comme des Garçons A/W18. The collenction was in fact inspired by Sontag’s Notes.

43.  Dolly Parton

Thierry Mugler, by Marianna Loukou

Thierry Mugler, by Marianna Loukou

44.  The Dior Bucket Hat, apparently inspired by Teddy Girls of the 50s. There’s something ludicrous about it, yet suddenly I find myself desperately needing a grossly large, patent leather, tulle covered bucket hat, for no other reason than to make MP’s hair stand on end (she really dislikes bucket hats). 

45.  The Producers

46.  Molly Goddard’s dreamy tulle creations truly evoke Camp’s spirit of extravagance: “Camp is a woman walking around in a dress made of three million feathers”. Seen on none other than the glorious Villanelle in Phoebe Waller Bridge’s Killing Eve (if you haven’t already watch immediately). And in that vein:

 47.  Tomo Koizumi's Fall Show. Gloriously frothy rainbow hued ruffles.  

48.  The Moncler x Pierpaolo Piccioli collaboration: perfectly tongue-in-cheek and perfectly executed by Ezra Miller.

49.  Alien makeup by Sad Salvia at Rick Owens AW19.

50.  Sontag mentions that Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake is Camp. I second that and give you Mathew Bourne’s ballet production of Swan Lake.

51.  Clueless. 

52.  Parodying yourself or a version of yourself. Think Kate Moss in the Absolutely Fabulous movie.

53.  @BUTCHCAMP 

54.  Moonstruck, the movie Cher won an Oscar for. I adore Cher, but the film is truly another one of those instances of “It’s good because it’s awful.”

55.  Gucci, especially the SS18  show which sent out models carrying severed replicas of their own heads and baby dragons. 

56.  Death Becomes Her 

57.  David LaChapelle’s photography

  

  I conclude here for the sake of brevity, but this list could obviously go on. I think perception about what is and is not Camp is quite nuanced and personal. You might agree or disagree about any of these points. If you do, I'd love to hear about it! And if you have anything to add, please feel free to do so! Discussions are wonderful things. 

 

Eliza

 

Neon the IT trend of 2019

It hurts my eyes, take it away

Fashion is cyclical, we are constantly inspired by the past. Consequently, it was only a question of when, rather than if, neon was going to resurect itself one more time, to haunt my dreams. This 80’s trend is said to be a response to the (shall we say tame?) colours of the 70’s. It was a manifestation of the optimism that characterised the era: basicaly everyone was dressing like they wanted to outdo Whitney Huston in her “I Want to Dance With Somebody” video. If you ask me, the neon was to distract from the horrible things that were happening on a political plane. People were just tired of fighting, and watching Sixteen Candles was easier than protesting against horrible foreign policies and dealing with a reality in which bombs went off everywhere in the world, almost daily. Think the war on drugs or aggressive foreign policy encouraged by the U.S. and how that resulted on Latin American massacres (for example, El Mozote Massacre 1981 El Salvador), think the Bombing of Libya 1986, to mention a couple. However, I digress. Let’s go back to neon colours and why they should go.

 

  It became very clear ever since the A/W18 collections hit the runway, that neon was sparking interest amongst high end designers, and S/S19 only confirmed it. Versace, Off-white, Gucci, LV, it was basically everywhere! I was shaking, this was going to be the new trend and it took no time at all for the high street to follow suit and start selling garments in these bright raucous colours. I mean the cause was lost when celebrities started getting into it. Even if you don’t follow every ready-to-wear or couture show, you are bound to have seen the paparazzi shots of Kim Kardashian-West wearing a neon wig, stepping into her neon Lamborghini. Oh! and if you missed that one then you probably saw the neon green dress she wore stepping out of her Mercedes, which was (yes you guessed it) neon green. Then there was this whole thing over Christmas where everyone was out-neoing each other and so… I gave up. It was going to happen whether I wanted it or not, and sure enough the next time I stepped into a ZARA (funny how that new logo resembles their over-crowded lines huh?) or logged into ASOS, there it was. Bright and shiny, front and center, screaming for attention.

 

 So why is it that I hate this trend so much? Fair question. ( Fair warning. I might come off as extremely judgy here, but it can’t be helped, the trend hurts my eyes too much) I think it is too aggressive in an obvious way and to me it has a tacky feel to it. These colours just remind me of highlighter pens, I don’t think fashion when neon is brought up. I believe there is a time and a place for neon colours, at a rave for instance, if you cycle at night so that cars can see you. Maybe perhaps (yes I am reluctant to admit this) it looks fine in the form of trainers, like a cool unexpected pop, but that is as far as I’ll go. Ugh I still cringe when I remember the godawful neon sunglasses that were popular when I was twelve, the ones with no lenses, just like a neon grill, around the time Party Rock Anthem was a thing. Anyone remember that? Yeah, it makes me want to gag. However I do realise that these are very strong opinions and that if I was going to do my job properly I had to give this trend a fair chance. So up I walked to the nearest ZARA and went through my personal fashion hell. Here is some evidence of my suffering. Now, this is what they had and I tried my best to style it in an acceptable way so don’t @ me.

Clearly I am miserable

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I mean, am I crazy? This just doesn’t work.

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And here, the pièce de résistance, following suit after the Kar-Jenners did it, here I am on full neon. I had to get closer to the mirror because the light was reflecting off of the outfit so much you couldn’t really appreciate the brightness of the colour. You still can’t, but this is the best it got. So yes, I look like a fashion tragedy. I look radioactive, like if you hang out around me too much you’ll either die or get superpowers, let’s hope the second.

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To bring this to a conclusion I’ll say the following: fashion is extremely subjective and that’s good, it makes the field quite diverse and experimental. HOWEVER, I hate neon and I won’t be coerced into liking it. I hoped the trend would be short lived, but its been heavily featured over this ongoing fashion month, so it seems that it’s not going anywhere, anytime soon (types angrily into keyboard). So you decide for yourselves, go and give it a shot like I did, and if you like it great, but if you hate it message me, I’ll be starting a support group.

MP

(Blogger, hater of neon)

What does it mean to you to be a woman? As told by Tiare Gatti Mora.

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I will be honest about my first reaction when I was asked this question, and my immediate first thought was that this was a question that I was not the most suited person to answer. I felt that I did not have the tools to work through this question, as I have never really felt the inner need to question my being a woman. As a cisgender, white, and traditionally pretty girl, I am aware of my privileged position, and of how such a position has hindered me from thoroughly interrogating my identity as a woman. On top of this, I feel so deeply imbued with societal expectations of who and what I am supposed to be, that it is incredibly hard for me to genuinely identify what, intrinsically, it is to be a woman. I feel that being called her or she matches my being, I fully identify as female in each and every sense and, while acknowledging the performative quality of gender, I have never felt a clash between my genuine sense of identity, my sex, and the gender assigned to me at birth. Thus, I find it hard to explain my womanhood: it has never really been a question for me. Being a feminist and - obviously - not believing in gender essentialism makes it extremely hard for me to say what, ‘essentially’, makes me a woman.

So I stopped and I thought, thoroughly, about what it means for me to be a woman. Because I could not come up with something that I intrinsically felt, I started thinking about what it factually means to be a woman. For me, it has meant having a feeling of not being whole. It has been feeling forcefully reliant on other people. It has meant that I hated my voice and my laughter because the man I loved did. It has been living for his gaze, always for another gaze that was never my own. It has meant that life has always been a performance. It has meant working on my high, ‘feminine’ pitch, having to check my anger, being called crazy. It has been humiliation and fear, feeling worthless and invisible whenever I did not manage to make a man love me. It has meant playing my sexuality like a card, my body like a prop, my face like an indisputable element of my CV. It has meant silence and endless waiting. It has meant lack of agency. It has meant feeling ugly if I did not shave my legs for a week. It has meant feeling like a goddess when I lay topless on a beach and men stare at me. But none of this has truly meant that much, other than asserting the stage-like-ness of the world and the performativity of my place in it.

Nacer de Nuevo , Remedios Varo

Nacer de Nuevo, Remedios Varo

Thinking about what it means for me to be a woman on a structural level is what let me to identify what it actually means to feel like one. And it is not feeling 24/7 graceful, it is not embodying an illusory binary of being either a virgin or a whore. It is the potential for survival. It is the ability to be reborn. It is not the flexibility of the body, but the flexibility of the heart. Stronger and kinder going hand in hand, I feel deep my capacity to regenerate more than any other trait. My period is a metaphor for this cycle, but not all women have periods. But we are circles, swirling, wavering magic, unending power to be able to survive even when we do not thrive: because we do not need to win every time, because we can get back up after a loss, because we, much like water, win by persisting, by twisting strategically. Yes, being a woman is having a powerful capacity for survival, for rebirth, for hope, both innate and acquired.

Maybe this is where our affinity, as women and femmes, comes from. It possibly springs from looking at each other and thinking ‘I know we have been through battles, and I also know your inner strength’. Being a woman, and having lately come to terms with the power of being one, has allowed me to reinvent myself, to maintain a fresh, ever-growing energy. It has made me feel a sense of collective bond: we are all Lady Lazarus, and looking at my fellow women’s strength is what has made me say: ‘me too’, what has enabled me to discover my own voice and imbue the world with it. We, together, represent the ultimate power of unity. We are stronger because we are strong in our vulnerability. We have the power to be creators of life - our own life - , not always in the traditional sense, but in a much deeper and illuminating one.

Tiare has an amazing blog of her own, check it out at thelittlemermaidsvoice.wordpress.com

Or find her on her insta @tiaregmora

On Being Sexy

Before we begin, a disclaimer. This article is about my own personal experience and I don’t pretend to be speaking for everyone, nor do I wish to undermine any other experience.

 

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When Eliza and I first came up with this collaborative idea, I didn't think that I would have such a hard time pinpointing what sexy meant to me. However, I did and I still don't think I know when is it that I feel the sexiest. That's why it is so difficult for me to come to terms with the notion that society seems to have a very clear idea of what sexy looks like. Even worse, it seems too chose when I look sexiest. So let's talk about it. To begin with, what does sexy even mean? I believe it's about being alluring, appealing and desired. Desired by whom you may ask? I don’t know darling, that’s for you to decide. For me, growing up at least, it was all about being desired by the opposite gender, and perhaps it was also about being envied by my counterparts. To be sexy in my Colombian bubble you had to look the part, being thin was a must and to complete the look you needed long luscious, preferably straight, hair. I was never either of those things, I often think of myself as a wiggly curve in a world where clean cut lines are the norm. Consequently, falling outside this standard, I wasn't brave enough to feel sexy. Sexy, in my mind, was reserved for another kind of girl. That is why it became rather confusing when that word, one that I felt didn't belong to me, became one of the first things that popped into peoples’ minds when describing my physique. This drastic change came about when I was fifteen or so, when the universe and my genetics decided that I was to become a teenager trapped in a woman’s body.

 

From that point on, my boobs became a defining part of my life. I know, I know, how dramatic, but we all have battles with our bodies, and this was just part of mine. They simply couldn't be ignored or hidden, not that they should because they are fab (me in the present), but I must admit that it is confusing and frustrating when unexpectedly your identity changes because of something you have no control over. I was looked at differently and suddenly I had this somewhat redeeming attribute that got me into the sexy girl club. Going into my early twenties (where I am at) it was time to define this word within my own parameters, forgetting the machismo bullshit with which I grew up. To me now, sexy is about the way I feel in this body and the way I carry myself, it's about that girl I see in the mirror and not the way others look at her.  I feel sexiest when I am confident, unapologetic and effortless, and this doesn't always happen when my boobs are out. When they are, I often feel exposed, like a nerve. I become vulnerable to the foreign gaze that, even if I don't want to, still affects me. My body is over-sexualised, and I think both the media and the fashion industry play a big part in this. Per both these industries it appears that my body type cannot be elegant, we are here to be bombshells, to be on Sports Illustrated and lingerie catalogs and never to set foot in a couture catwalk. My body in these industries feels borderline vulgar, and that frustrates me. The fact is that I have to think twice before going out in an outfit that other body types can “get away with”, because in me it may be “a bit much”. It’s 2019 and women’s bodies are still subjects to these ridiculous rules that measure how worthy of respect we are based on the shape of our bodies and how much of it we show. I personally am tired of my body being “too much”, and yet I can't help that feeling that sometimes it is.

 

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Consequently, my relationship with sexiness is defined by a lot of ambiguity. I can't say that I don't feel sexy in beautiful lingerie, perhaps a mesh top, because I do. But it's only uncomplicated in front of the mirror. When I look like that in public, difficult feelings arise since I like being seen but I hate being undressed by someone’s eyes. I try and carry myself with pride but there’s also that lingering taste of shame when I am looked at like I belong in a playboy catalog. That is why I choose to assert my sexiness in a more modest way, in a more “elegant” way. I like to demand attention without feeling that I am asking for it, and because of how my body is constructed, if I wear anything smaller than a tank top well, apparently, I am “desperate for attention and I should have a bit of more shame”. I think this is wrong and I know it's only someone else's opinion which is feed by the societal rules of our time, and it shouldn't bother me but it does. Nobody likes to be objectified. In the same way that Elle Woods (why did it take me so long to realise how good this film is? Thanks, Ariana Grande for making me re watch it) doesn't want to be seen only as another blond with big boobs, I don't want to be seen only as another Latina with big boobs. Thus, I try to fight as hard as I can against these perceptions even though sometimes I feel defeated and defined by them, but this is not about being the perfect warrior.

 

To bring this article to somewhat of a conclusion first I want to ask. Society darling can boobs just be boobs? Can we stop judging boob holders by how much or how little they have, and how they choose to dress them? Thanks, I'd be awesome if I can go out showing a bit of cleavage and not be harassed. Secondly, maybe we should stop trying to define sexiness in a universal way, sexy is personal, and sexy is fluid, sexy is in the eye of the beholder much like beauty, and the eyes that matter here are your own. Let us try and own our sexiness in whichever way we see fit, because we deserve to. So, I would like to invite you to share your journey with sexiness in the comment section, whether you are still figuring it out (like yours truly) or you are already there!  

 

Oh, and one las’t thing you all are super sexy, but only if and when you feel like it ;)

MP

Thoughts on Sexiness and the Male Gaze

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 In my last article, I nonchalantly stated that ‘There’s no such thing as too sexy’. It is, after all, not up to anyone but yourself to judge and define that. I thought nothing of penning this phrase as, for me and at the time, this required no additional thought or argument. However, MP responded differently to this sentiment as she was proofreading the article. She observed that she didn’t exactly feel the same way about the concept of being - and dressing - ‘sexy’, an opinion was based on her own subjective experiences. This essentially was what lead to this collaborative train of thought on “sexiness’. My ruminations lead me to realise that I had neglected to consider that the concept in question can be personally implicated or enmeshed in implicit structures, that I might not have the access to for differing reasons.

 

 I suppose I should preface this train of thought by attempting to define what sexy might mean. A basic step is to consult a dictionary, the much-loved companion of those seeking a simple entry into a complex question. I duly completed this task, which yielded the following explanation: someone or something who is sexually attractive, exciting or arousing. Yet, I found this pathway to be a bit unimaginative, and serving only to pigeonhole a concept that is rightfully nebulous. I thus chose to explore it through a personal lens. In Athens, where I grew up and first encountered specific ideas of attractiveness and desirability as a young adult, being “sexy” seemed to comprise of a few specific physical attributes. Long, straight dark hair, a slim figure with the right curves in the right places, and a specifically languorous and slightly disdainful attitude of insouciance, as if you just couldn’t be bothered with what was happening around you. Around the time of these titillating observances and discoveries, this concept of somehow being sexually appealing to others was directed towards boys. Standards of attractiveness were informed by the intention of pleasing the opposite sex and thus where beholden to the concept we have termed the “male gaze”: an encroaching systemic (yet innocuous) institution of heteronormative ideals.

 

 The body I felt forced to inhabit through these strictures of what was attractive to boys felt alien and uncomfortable to me. And I expressed that in an intensely physical way through extreme shyness. For most of my teenage years I inhabited a curious duplicity, in feeling both tenuously attractive and absolutely ludicrous.  Comparatively, I have always felt sexiest when differing from those heteronormative rules. This was a gradual change, and rather informed by my transitioning sexual identity (I’ve written a bit about this here so I won’t go into too much detail). Needless to say, I’ve confidently reached the conclusion that being sexy doesn’t require a specific formula. It doesn’t mean aligning your body to the gently flowing lines sketched out by societal projections concerning desirability or attractiveness.

 

 Having established my own relationship with the word, I want to return to what MP and I initially discussed: the idea of being “too sexy”. If this phrase is used in relation to clothing, it’s usually deployed to imply excess, to state that it is somehow inappropriate for a specific social occasion: too revealing, too short, too body-hugging. As a result, “too sexy” is used to instigate a compartmentalisation of when and where being sexy is acceptable.

 

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This is something that I haven’t found myself worrying about (aside from gradually teaching myself to disregard ideologies as to what constitutes “sexy” or “inappropriate”), due to my lived physicality: namely, my relatively slim body and small boobs. There’s a bias – particularly in fashion – to favour the idea of being effortlessly and subtly sexy, and thus there has been until quite recently a tendency towards a more svelte figure, which does not significantly call attention to itself. The assignation of “too sexy” seems to act as a condemnation against bodies that take up too much space, which draw too much attention, which spill out of the strictures of clothes. Here’s another way to look at it.  Condemning someone as “too sexy” seems to accuse that their intention behind the way they dress is ‘unfeministic’, pandering to some patriarchal idea of attractiveness. And frankly, we at WTPD have no time for this holier-than-thou attitude.   

 

I’ll offer up a few conclusive thoughts to this stream of consciousness. Sexiness is a very subjective state of being rather than a specific physical & behavioural formula to be followed. It’s a nebulous concept and escapes one when they try to pin it down. And it shouldn’t be any different. And to me, feeling sexy means feeling entitled to the space that you have a right to take up, which you previously felt uncomfortable inhabiting. Finally, I think conversations about the ‘male gaze’, taking liberty in your own sexiness and dressing for yourself have never been more important. Let’s keep them going.

Eliza

What does it mean to you to be a woman? As told by Martha MacDonald.

This entry is part of our ‘Womanhood Series’.

Photography by Tiare Gatti Mora @tiaregmora

Photography by Tiare Gatti Mora @tiaregmora

I could write something sentimental and nostalgic about my initial, clumsy attempts at shaving my legs or the knot in my stomach at the thought of having to put a tampon in for the first time. Self-deprecating answers on a postcard from a girl ambushed by womanhood suddenly bursting at her seams.

But somehow, these remembrances of struggling to maintain a changing body seem too practical, incidental, skin deep. Regardless, these muscle memories tell nothing of the interior of womanhood, its volatility, unpredictability. Nothing of how it feels to be pressed like a flower between the pages of history books and porn magazines.

Before I stumble somewhere close to answering this question, let me be clear that this is not a speaking on behalf of all or any other women. My womanhood was forged in particular fires and these are only the words that glow from one woman’s lips like embers - slow-burning and hot to the touch - but I’ll do my best to pour my womanhood into a vase for you. Let us fill it with flowers.

My woman is mud-masked and just so terribly bad at yoga. Soaked in moonlight. Fresh from the ocean and dripping with stories, this woman is learning slowly how to harness her words. Tying each one of them to her wrists like balloons, this woman is almost lifting off the ground. 

Germinating.

Ruminating. 

Mouthing Janelle Monáe lyrics, sweat patches gather like rock pools as I just try

my

best.


But these things I know: when I wear matte red lipstick it echoes round the room. I’ve got a laugh that fills my whole body. If I’m dancing, you’ll know about it. 


Running on dry shampoo, the lime wedge at the bottom of my glass and the whispers of women that came before and alongside me, I’ll fall over my own feet, because I dare to. I dare to be a woman and also be almost. I won’t draw myself neatly in the left-hand corner of the page. Small and agonising. Because I’m not a detail; I’m the whole fucking thing. I don’t quite fit, I’m too loud or too quiet, I swear too much, I spread myself too thin, but boy I won’t go down without a fight. Clumsily trying to get to where I’m going, this woman will make something work - almost, eventually, probably.


And womanhood is all of that and making it look easy.

Martha writes some beautiful stuff on her blog runningrecklessy.wordpress.com/

Check it it out at @writingrewritingblog

Revising fashion activism in an era of mainstream political correctness

Let’s talk about something. Considering the political climate of these past few years it comes as no surprise - to me at least- that the younger generations would turn to every available outlet to speak out in order to change oppressive discourses. And so, in an age in which political correctness is the norm, being woke has become well… fashionable. Consequently, we have stumbled upon an era in which fashion activism has mutated from its more radical expressions -think of the the 1960’s and 70’s- into a more mainstream, now capitalised phenomenon. Here is where I start to disagree with the whole concept. Let us unpack this a little bit. I do believe that for outdated and repressive practices to change a dialogue must be opened. Difficult conversations need to happen and we must be inquisitive at every turn. I also acknowledge that the new platforms that we as young people have, specifically social media, allow us to instigate this dialogue in whichever way we see fit. One of these ways is, of course, through fashion. So I am not saying that fashion activism has no effect in today’s society. What I am getting at here is that, by capitalising these “activist garments” (more commonly, slogan t-shirts) and introducing them into a society in which likes are basically a new currency, activism becomes a business and thus it looses heart and meaning. 

 

via @alokvmenon

via @alokvmenon

Fashion activism has a long standing history, and in its defiance it has influenced political movements. When done properly it moves masses, it shows support, it instigates change. Think of the mini skirt in the 60’s and what it represented for the sexual revolution and feminist movements. Think of Vivienne Westwood’s punk slogan t-shirts and activist campaigns, such as the Dazed and Confused Vol II #63 July 2008 feature. However, fashion activism is not only found in the huge campaigns, marches and billboards. Let’s  not forget about the everyday fashion activism, which has nothing to do with slogan t-shirts. What  I am referring to as “everyday fashion activism”, are the daily choices that people make to dress in a meaningful way, to challenge the “ideal” way of dressing. This happens when a non-binary person dares to dress and act ouside of the gender lines imposed upon them by society. Everytime a person, like Travis Alabanza (@travisalbanza), makes the conscious choice to wear somehing “outside the box” it show that they choose who they are. That they have agency over their body and, it tells the patriarchal society “go fuck yourself you don’t get to tell me how to dress or how to act, so that you can be comfortable”.This is a dangerous choice to make and yet the brave choose it, because it sparks change. Another example of this, perhaps more famous but just as relevant, was Lady Gaga’s choice to wear an oversized Marc Jacobs suit (Spring 2019 ) to the ELLE women in Hollywood event. Gaga explained her choice to wear the suit during her acceptance speech as follows : “I tried on dress after dress today getting ready for this event, one tight corset after another, one heel after another, a diamond, a feather, thousands of beaded fabrics and the most beautiful silks in the world. To be honest, I felt sick to my stomach. […] This was an oversized men’s suit made for a woman. Not a gown. And then I began to cry. In this suit, I felt like me today. In this suit, I felt the truth of who I am well up in my gut. […]As a sexual assault survivor by someone in the entertainment industry, as a woman who is still not brave enough to say his name, as a woman who lives with chronic pain, as a woman who was conditioned at a very young age to listen to what men told me to do, I decided today I wanted to take the power back. Today I wear the pants”. This is not to say that suits are the only way in which women can convey power, we have a whole other article on that, but in this case her message was best disclosed by the suit. All of this is fashion activism and it is beautiful in its rebellion and its effective way of starting conversations, of disrupting the iron cast rules that perpetuate hate and intolerance. All of this I applaud and all of this I defend.

 

via @marcjacobs

via @marcjacobs

However, I am saddened still, because it would seem that a large part of my generation (not all, of course) has missed the point of it all. For many millennials and generation Z’s activism is merely a matter of likes and follows (which ultimately translates either into money, popularity or self-assurance) and although they might still be getting a bit of a message out there, I worry that it may be an empty one. Why buy the Black Lives Matter t-shirt off of amazon and post a picture if you won’t read about systemic racism, or you appropriate black culture without even knowing. Why post those pictures if you won’t correct that one friend who made a racist joke, if you excuse their behaviour by thinking that they are not actually racist, that it was just a dumb joke, after all you would never be friends with a racist person, right? So why is it, for the likes? To promote a “woke” image of yourself on social media? To me this feels empty, an it would be far more valuable if the joker was corrected, black culture was appreciated in due time and not after it appears on fashion week worn by white models, and well… if people chose to actually educate themselves about this struggle. And if the picture must still be posted, then how about buying the t-shirt from the actual BLM webpage (https://blacklivesmatter.com) and support a movement that is creating change, a movement that is, as they say, fighting the good fight. I do have to acknowledge, nonetheless, that there is still something positive in people wearing these slogan t-shirts and posting pictures as they do it, specially if it’s done in a conscious and educated manner. Having said that, I must highlight the fact that many corporations benefit from woke t-shirts, meanwhile non-profits that support different causes struggle to make themselves known and have people donate. Instead of buying a trans rights are human rights t-shirt from a company that has no links to a charity concerning trans people, support a trans performer or donate to an actual non-profit. Now it’s the time to wonder whether your shirt and your post are genuine, if you actually are trying to make a change or if you are only ready to support when it comes to Instagram, but you stay silent when you have the opportunity to change and or condemn bigoted behaviour.

 

Let’s not make any more empty promises of alliance for the sake of creating a false image of ourselves. A singular “woke” picture is simply not enough. Instead is time to read, listen and do the deeds, be it go out and march, vote or correct a relative on their narrow minded views. I encourage anyone that may read this article to re-evaluate their stand on fashion activism. If they are using it to change their everyday life or if it’s just a matter of trending on the explore page. Check if you are giving your money to the right people and not to those who already have plenty. To end this article I will say one last thing, it's easy to pretend that you are helping. What’s hard to do is to check your privilege, hear those who aren’t being heard and to try and make change happen.

MP

Web sites to check out

https://blacklivesmatter.com

https://transequality.org

http://www.lgbtconsortium.org.uk

https://metoomvmt.org/

https://takebackthenight.org

https://www.mermaidsuk.org.uk

https://www.stonewall.org.uk

https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk

 

People to listen and read

Reni Eddo-Lodge

Nikesh Shukla

Tarana Burke

@alokvmenon

@travisalabanza

@leopardprintelephant

Toni Morrison

Paul Gilroy

Is There a Feminist Way of Dressing?

Debunking Vogue’s polarising designation of Grown Women vs. “Sexy Babies”.

 I recently read an article published on Vogue Magazine’s Facebook page which has dwelled in my mind for a few weeks. The title read as follows: ‘Now More Than Ever, We Should Be Dressing Like Grown Women – Not “Sexy Babies”’. It’s a short article commenting on the transition of high-end collections, featuring accents such as puffed sleeves, into the high street. These high-street derivatives are now worn to a more childlike effect on social media platforms such as Instagram, which the writer takes issue with. Simple enough. However, the author makes underhand statements which I think have wider and more problematic implications other than ushering in a more ‘dynamic’ form of dressing.

 

 Let me get into it. My first issue is with the title itself, which aptly elucidates the polarities in female dress that the rest of the article expresses: Grown Women vs. “Sexy Babies”. It seems to suggest dressing as a “sexy baby” excludes you from being a “grown woman”, or at least being perceived as so. This article seems to operate under the narrative that a suit is donned as a transitional piece when entering adulthood. Thus, donning childlike clothing is described as regressive. This connection is problematic on many levels, especially due the fact that we should never make assumptions about a person’s competence – or “grown-ness” as the author would have it – from their style of dress. Clothing is a personal choice and indulgence, and though it can be used to communicate certain aspects of one’s personality, it by no means determines it. Also, WTF qualifies you to be grown woman? Certainly not dressing in a ‘chic-as-hell pantsuit’ as the writer recommends. An additional problem I have with the premise of the article is that it perpetuates the idea that a woman ascribes to only one component of the binary of grown woman vs. sexy baby through her dress. Whereas, clothing is much more complicated than that and operates across a blurred spectrum rather than being a way to neatly categorise someone.

 

 The article goes on to describe how the dramatic, demurely elegant puffed sleeve of the Celine Spring 2016 runway – ‘sexy, but not overly so’, according to the author - reappears as ‘tight, ultrashort minidresses with softly rounded sleeves, tiny bows, lace-up bodices, and naïve prints like tiny rosebuds and cherries’. Firstly, there is no such thing as overly sexy and it is certainly not up to the author or anyone else to criticise anyone’s choice to dress suggestively. Secondly, I’d like to point out the not so subtle hint of condescension in the emphasis on the diminutive. Following this, some half-hearted allowances are made in the name of contemporary open-mindedness in fashion (‘We aren’t saying you shouldn’t wear what you want because it’s 2018, and that is the entire point of fashion’), followed up by this pithy statement: ‘Being a woman is serious business in 2018.’ And then, my favourite sentence in this rather questionable article, which is what motivated me to write my own response: ‘when you’re fighting for woman’s equality and healthcare reform, no one is going to take you seriously if you’re dressed like “sexy baby” Abby from 30 Rock.’ As absurd as this sounds, this is a widespread misconception that many women face. It’s a phenomenon that raises its ugly head in both personal and professional contexts. The display of our bodies has very often been the subject of extensive criticism. To combat this, we must indiscriminately and with no exceptions, take any woman seriously regardless of how they choose to dress, and work equally as hard to make sure any nay-sayers afford her due courtesy. If a woman writing in a supposedly feminist, pro-equality tone doesn’t take that stance, then why would anyone else follow suit? This is exacerbated by the fact that Vogue casts a long shadow in the fashion industry and a huge number of people ascribe to its teachings. Despite its pseudo-feminist tone, the article ultimately suggests that there is a right way of being what is described as a “grown woman”, and even perhaps a right way of performing womanhood.

 

 This article only serves to further highlight that being a woman is indeed a serious business in 2018 - especially since sexism still reigns rampant and is unrestricted to gender - and to throw starker light on the debilitating expectations we face as women. Frankly, articles like this, especially under an institution such as Vogue, are toxic, and only serve to perpetuate arcane and sexist ideas that women’s intelligence and competence is reflected in how she dresses. It Imposes a hierarchy of womanhood, with the be-suited, expensively dressed “grown woman” lounging critically at the top of this pyramid. The knock-on effect of this is a sectional approach to feminism, which means that often only women fitting a certain mould are granted visibility, and thus a voice to speak out for woman’s rights. If only a certain type of woman is granted the privilege of being a spokesperson for women’s rights, then that probably means that holistic female equality is not being ensured or sought after. Grown Women vs. “Sexy Babies” directly perpetuates this in stating that a woman will not be taken seriously if she both appears young and exhibits her body in a provocative manner. Within the context of social media referenced in the article, it is suggested that promoting a feminist message alongside curating a “sexy baby” image online seems contradictory. My response to this is: Stop trying to construct a neat image as a spokesperson for feminism.

 

 Feminism is about giving all women the power of choice. It is not about belittling each other’s fashion choices, or excluding them from proactive action because of them. It is about building each other up and creating a supportive community, because frankly we all have bigger issues.

And let this be clear: we should not be judging anyone’s intellect and abilities by their clothing. The way we women dress should no longer be held against us. We should regard all female testimony as meaningful, whether it comes from woman dressed revealingly or a woman dressed in a suit.  

 

 This linkage between a certain style of clothing and “grown womanhood” is intensely problematic. I suggest that what needs to be changed is not the way women dress but the ideology that if one does not dress maturely, then they do not warrant attention or responsibility. When it comes to being politically active and speaking out for women’s rights, it is natural that one would seek to curate a wardrobe in which they feel most comfortable and dynamic. Sleek suiting should very much exist in our sartorial vocabulary if it is the kind of clothing that personally makes you feel this way.  However, one does not need to physically don trousers in order to “wear the pants” as the saying would have it. While this gesture may be personally freeing or empowering to many women, this isn’t our only currency of authority. Androgynous clothing, frequently termed the ‘power suit’, should not be the only form of power dressing available to us.

 

 What needs to be changed is the systematic and hierarchical displacement of women who do not fit a certain mould. Women who perhaps want to dress like sexy babies but who are still worthy to act as representative of other women when fighting for women’s rights and other such integral issues. We must challenge ideals that dictate that modesty and restraint in clothing equate to level-headedness and seriousness in terms of political approach.  It no longer stands that in order to assume a position of power, one must vacate expressions of extreme femininity. Let’s reclaim our choices in fashion. Because, at the end of the day, the way we dress is an important form of self expression.

 

  To answer the question posed through my title, there is no feminist way of dressing, despite what Grown Women vs. Sexy Babies attempts to suggest. Here’s what we can all personally do: we can stand up for people and however they want to dress. If you come across any articles, novels, series, social media posts like the one published by Vogue, use the platform available to you leave a comment, or write an article like I have done, to express your opinion.

I don’t want this article to be perceived as a barrage of rage or personal attack to the author, because it is not. It is a call for deep rooted change. Not simply of an outfit, but of the language which dictates what kind of women are allowed to speak for others and which peddles sexist and outdated strictures on dress.  

 

 Enough with the sartorial snobbery. It’s time to grow up. 

 Eliza