(The below is a guest blog written by 4Women Research and Communications Director, Michelle Young. I thought I'd share her unique viewpoint.)
I admit it. Being called “fashionable” does not strike me as a compliment. Bizarre woman I am in this culture, I know.
Since age 15, when I realized I was tired of the superficial teenage relationships that were supposed to pass for friendship, I’ve rejected “fashionable,” realizing it was my Jordache jeans, not my personality, that brought me popularity with the “popular” girls (and sought-after boys). I wanted to be able to see through the social acts, see my peers for who they truly were rather than who they were trying to be. And since I wasn’t interested in bonding over sports, French club or the Bible either, I was left with no social images to mirror (or friends). What a relief! Imagine that, a teenager forced to think for herself. I am forever grateful.
Rather than look to my mom’s stack of Cosmopolitan, to the popular girls at school, or to the media for instructions on how to dress, I looked inward. It was a beginning, a new path.
Fast forward X number of years (I know, the Jordache jeans give it away). Much about my present-day “style” (or lack thereof) and the way I carry myself comes from others, just not the profit-maximizing, brain-washing varieties. Having been deeply priveleged to live in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, I’ve assimilated what appeals to me from each culture, be it in fashion or food recipes and yes, at core.
So sorry Vogue, I could not care less what colors or styles are parading the runways during New York Fashion Week. They’re there to profit from me (and you) by convincing us to exchange our old wardrobe for new at 3-month intervals so that their profits never cease. Sorry for the blatant honesty, but while fashion advice is prolific, blatant honesty is rare.
No, I’d rather emulate a woman in Ghana, who despite having to parade the streets of Accra with a 50-lb tray of mangoes balanced on her head, beams colors, patterns, elegance, and self-respect. I want to emulate Rastafarian women, who do not dress to showcase their bodies, preferring not to be reduced to slabs of sexual meat or eye candy by the eyes of both male and female onlookers. I want to emulate the women of India, who adorn themselves in colors, patterns, creativity, without appearing desperate for attention. I want to emulate the women of Ambavatany, Madagascar, who despite living on the very edge of survival, adorn themselves in silver bangles defiantly reconfigured from the melted remains of colonial French francs.
And yet I am apparently fashionable, or so I am often told. I’m always stunned by the compliments (?) because if my knee length organic hemp jackets (see marigoldfairtradeclothing.com for your own), my long colorful skirts, my very roomy and always wide legged, vaginal health preserving pants are so appealing to on-lookers, why aren’t my complimenteers dressing likewise?
Maybe it’s because real fashion isn’t about mimicking the runway models or following the princesses of pop culture, or me for that matter. Maybe using clothes to demonstrate your depth, your personality, your experience, while preserving self-respect, creativity, and an independent mind are high-fashion ideas. Maybe most women would rather be told what to wear, would rather have to renew their wardrobes at 3-month intervals, would rather not think for themselves or simply do not trust themselves to do so and come out the other end looking “acceptable”. And therein lies the point.
If it’s about pleasing others, it’s simply copycat fashion. Who are You without the clothes?
Step 1 - Peel off one-by-one those layers of seasonally socially indoctrinated fashion. Step 2 - Now get to know yourself minus your socially constructed identity, the real you. See and feel how precious and divine you are, not because you look good, but simply because you are part of this miraculous sphere of Life. Step 3 - Now get dressed.
Now, I LOVE your style.
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