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Susan Holmes-McKagan Headshot

Feminism and Fashion, From Across the Pond and Elsewhere

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I've just returned from the always invigorating and energetic world of all things art, fashion, music and culture in glorious London. There's never a dull moment to be found in what is arguably one of the world's most stylish and elegant cities. Revisiting this historic locale cemented in my brain how classic, and yet modern, the Brits really do their fashion quasi-feminist thing. Yes, I really did pen "fashion" and "feminism" in the same sentence. Like leather and lace or oil and vinegar, the two terms have always had a tumultuous relationship.

It seems in today's world, people from around the globe have associated, since they were adolescents, that fashiony and "pretty" people are generally "dumb dumbs," while the stereotypical associations with, say, a mathematical engineer, are that of intelligence and an unstylish, introverted manner. I say, anyone who thinks this to be true is still living in 1955. Look at Minh-Ha T. Pham, an assistant professor at Cornell and a successful fashion blogger. She wrote, "If feminists ignore fashion, we are ceding our power to influence it." I, for one, just love that quote.

Where would we be today without women forging ahead, to speak volumes in their well-earned forms of self-expression, via fashion? Yves Saint Laurent, for one, certainly paved the way for women looking smart and glamorous in a men's suit. Stella McCartney redefined beauty and strength in designing fitted t-shirts paired with men's androgynous trousers. Jean Paul Gaultier, Yohji Yamamoto, Jil Sander, Julian Macdonald and Miuccia Prada all come to play from the international front, when it means not restraining their feminist integrity due to cultural pressure.

How one assembles and presents themselves to the world is a powerful tool -- we've witnessed this from the likes of Gaga and Marlene Dietrich. Males or females can bend minds, alike, to be more adventurous and forward-thinking, or to simply slant ones opinion towards the more creative, artistic side of life through the everyday language of what we wear. After all, it is only fashion! Think about it, fashion has been, and always will be, intertwined with current societal on-goings, such as the prevailing dress codes of multiple religions and certain parts of the world. It's been written that, "Clothing has the power to stoke the fires of revolution."

If feminism represents "brains," and fashion, "physical aesthetics," it's no surprise they are sometimes so hesitant to meet. Let's keep in mind that clothes portrayed in magazines and advertising are there to merely transcend reality as a vehicle for the utmost form of escapism. Editorial shoots do not attempt to convey reality. I say, let's all be thankful for the myriad variety for the freedom of choices we women do have in our lifetimes now. And on that note, let's all try and be less judgmental and unite together, so that we women can have an equal voice, and paycheck, too, for that matter. Whether your style icon is Joan Jett or Michelle Obama, feminism comes from within and never goes out of style!