Women´s empowerment in the fashion world
by Leandro Valle @_valleandro
Talking about women´s empowerment in the fashion world, requires a historical look and an attentive and honest construction, after all, the very important role of women in this market is what makes it one of the most successful and multi-millionaire on the planet.
As much as this universe is seen from the outside as frivolous, somewhat banal and purely commercial, today, it is absolutely necessary to have a humanist, and at the same time, political position of the main authorities in the field, and most of them are women.
Fashion is the birthplace of beauty, but why?
Fashion is present in our lives in different ways, often going unnoticed in details such as the types of fabrics we wear, the styles of clothes we wear, or other more obvious ways, such as the impact that a piece of clothing causes on the catwalks, on red carpets or in the constant digital presence on social networks.
But it is a fact that it essentially brings our habits and customs.
Speaking of which, how about stopping by our Instagram to have one more look at this universe of fashion so intense and interesting?
Sociologist Alecilda Oliveira reveals that this phenomenon of fashion is a very important issue to be discussed, after all, it is interesting to realize and understand that fashion is not merely an exclusivity of everyday life.
But rather, a consequence of the identity construction of our civilization, having its rise with the greater force since the 19th century with the strengthening of capitalism and the development of the means of communication. Placing human thought in an analysis area about what it was like “to be or not to be” within the “fashion”.
Shakespeare should know it? That’s THE AUDACIOUS question!
But, after all, where does this “women´s empowerment” come from?
The word “empowerment” is derived from power and is defined as a process by which people strengthen their capacities as trust, vision, leadership, and freedom within a social group to promote positive changes against the situations they live in or are forced to live. “Inspiring women”, “they are the ones who are strong”, “the future is feminine”, “we can together” are some examples of commercial phrases that illustrate international women’s day.
But all these expressions carry a common link, and it is called FEMINISM.
Traditionally, fashion and feminism have always been considered opposite poles.
However, Feminism is the notion that men and women are equal, and there is no reason why fashion should or should conflict with equality or the struggle to achieve it. On the contrary, fashion has promoted certain moments in the history of feminism, starring and strengthening the role of women.
For example, some historical events contributed to the strengthening of the feminist movement, and consequently, the empowerment of women in society, and in the world of fashion. Below, we highlight the main ones for you to be inspired and empower yourself even more! Go Girrrls!
The first relief:
The year is 1909 when the French designer Paul Poiret came up with a new figure in which the woman frees herself from the corset and has a cylindrical shape without strings and tight ribbons, removing the torturous figure from their S-shaped bodies, and making them much more natural and free.
This was already a major change for women who were since the Renaissance forced to keep their bodies extremely shapely, yet physically “tortured”.
The battle is out of the kitchen: Working Girls
With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, men go to the front and women take over the industry. In this way, they take an active role in society, which requires a radical change in their dress. Lace and elaborate pieces are replaced by pants and jackets, typical elements of the male wardrobe.
Functionality and comfort prevail over aesthetics and seduction, giving rise to the appearance of the female jacket, for example.
With this, there is also a total break with the concept prior to feminism, that of femininity, rejecting curves and seeking the simplicity of straight lines. The skirts are also shortened up to the middle of the calf in search of that longed-for comfort.
However, one of the biggest changes was the appearance of short hair, as their long manes became entangled in the machines and made work difficult. This haircut would be maintained throughout the postwar period, and would become a symbol of the newly acquired role of women.
From this moment on, women assume a different and more prominent role than they were used to, starting with a greater awareness of equality and the urgent need to recognize “women’s rights”.
For this reason, in 1911, the suffragettes, women who sought political participation, think strategically and totally collide with the concept of a feminine/fragile woman who can be harmful to achieve her goal; instead, they continued with their role as delicate women, but who had a strong objective for fashion to help them by popularizing the colors with which they used their fighter voice.
All women who supported the notion of equality were dressed in green, purple and white.
The “subtle” strength of flappers
At the end of World War I, new female figures appeared in society as a new sociocultural phenomenon: the flappers. Known as garçonnes in French or as melindrosas em Portuguese, these girls were modern, independent, and challenging, already born in the midst of a new social situation where women started to have a more relevant and intense political participation in the labor market and in the economic sphere.
This translates into newfound freedom that fashion should facilitate, since the post-war period had devastated the social imaginary of men and women, and a certain “lightness” was necessary and urgent, but that brought women´s empowerment as a form of social resurrection, and again the protagonism was of women!
The looks of that time (20’s, 30’s) sought to create a “unisex” figure that avoided differences in relation to men, with loose pieces that did not mark the hips or the chest.
These flappers young women customized their costumes with masculine elements, such as walking sticks, hats, eyeglasses, or long cigarette holders to smoke in public, something totally unprecedented for the time and seen with boldness by the conservative part of society. They cut their hair and imposed the Chanel style as it is known to this day.
The legs get “wings”
With the outbreak of World War II, ration cards came, which also affected fashion. Wool was necessary for the army, so women’s clothing was made from technological fabrics such as rayon or nylon, invented in the middle of this decade. The nylon stockings allowed women to get rid of uncomfortable garters, replacing them with the panties still known today.
If the triangle is from Bermuda, the Revolution is from bikinis
Following the step of history, the French mechanical engineer Louis Réard was responsible for creating the first modern bikini, observing women on the beach who pulled up the hem of their bathing suits to obtain a better and more accentuated tan. It was the first time that a garment uncovered the navel and showed the woman’s body, but it was not well received!
Unfortunately, the Church condemned him and many countries vetoed him, including Spain.
The controversy continued for a long time. In 1951, Miss World was crowned in a bikini, but the reaction was so great that the contest prohibited the use of bikinis. The scandals continued with Briggite Bardot in Cannes in 1953, wearing a bikini, leading her to be adopted as a resistance garment.
Thus, the women´s empowerment movements of the late 1960s took it as a symbol of women’s emancipation and the freedom of their bodies.
Burn the patriarchy status? Yes. Our bras, no!
On September 7, 1968, there was a demonstration of women’s empowerment in fashion in Atlantic City, United States, in favor of the liberation of women and against the Miss America contest, for being sexist.
On the occasion, they placed a “can of freedom”, a trash´s can, where the assistants threw the so-called “instruments of torture”, such as heels and bras. They later asked for permission to burn its contents and the authorities denied it.
However, the next day, the Washington Post, one of the largest newspapers in the United States, wrote that feminists burned their bras. This media myth that never happened went around the world and became a symbol of liberation and the strength of women’s empowerment.
In fact, it never appeared in a bra, but the fictitious burning of that garment gave Feminism more visibility than it had ever achieved. Another victory through the struggle of women and fashion. Fire in the patriarchy!
1980: Power Dress: Women´s empowerment wins the job market
In the 1980s, women were already accessing universities, thus the term businesswomen. They have educated women who held positions previously reserved only for men, passed from grandfather to father, from father to son. But how did they break this paternalistic and meritocratic barrier? Thanks to his attitude, intelligence, training, and also the style of the time called the power dress.
The Power Dress is a reframing of men’s work clothes, being for the time a symbol of success and confidence.
In it, women wear tailored suits, shoulder pads, and button-down shirts to create an image of seriousness and authority. It was the great moment of Armani, for example, with simple jackets adapted to the body of women, and that went down in history known as the power suit.
1983: The democratization of technological fabrics
Sexual liberation and increasingly present access to the world of work, give women much more autonomy and self-esteem.
Now, with women´s empowerment increasingly present in their lives, women are more aware of their own body and strength, so sport becomes an essential part of their daily lives.
In this context, more comfortable fabrics are needed, that do not spoil after several washes and that can be used over and over again to go to the gym and play sports.
Some technological fabrics, such as lycra® or nylon, had already appeared in recent years during World War II, but had not become popular due to the lack of technology.
Over the decades, technical advances have made it possible to create new synthetic fabrics such as spandex or polyester, which are better adapted to the female body.
his fit to the female body was such that he soon escaped the sports field and went out into the street, where women wore their curves with pride and confidence.
1990: The Riot Grrrl movement and its revolutionary aesthetic
This was a feminist punk movement that was born in the United States. They spoke of taboo subjects such as rape, oppression of patriarchy, or women´s empowerment due to the “need to talk to each other”.
Communication and inclusion are fundamental to breaking the code of silence. It is necessary to create a space for women to open their eyes and approach without feeling threatened by a sexist and historically patriarchal society.
This group sought to send a message of diversity, that not only beautiful women are women. But all women are women! Another example of women´s empowerment.
To this end, they joined the ideology and image of hardcore punk, with a very extreme and provocative wardrobe that renounced the image of an attractive and well-cared-for woman and broke all social norms associated with the female gender.
Irregular haircuts, lips with strong and striking colors, fabrics with bright colors like red or black and many chains were some of its marks.
2006: Appropriation and reframing of transparent fabrics:
Transparent garments have been around since the 18th century, but it was in the last 15 years that they became popular and increasingly coveted.
Lace, tulle, and plastic materials completely exposed the woman’s body, which no longer hides its attributes, but now shows them in a proud and natural way.
The autonomy, independence, and position of women live their most critical moments to date. This is the moment of maximum splendor in the liberation of the female body when the tissues are no longer used to hide it, hide it, or cover it, but rather show it as it is, without fear of prejudice or reactions.
2016: unisex fashion and the fusion of genres
The barriers between men and women have been completely merged. In this moment of fashion, black and white no longer exist, in the same way, that there is not only the binary genre, or the cisgender.
Even Facebook itself allows the option of a personalized genre! And in this context of the rejection of the norms of heteronormativity, unisex clothing emerges, which serves to dress anyone regardless of who they are, giving the possibility for each one to self-define and self-recognize as they wish!
Neutral clothes now no longer establish these boundaries, depending on who you are or condition the way you dress, completely freeing women and the roles associated with them.
There are no more differences, at least with regard to fashion, and this is something that must be celebrated and respected!
Fashion has been an essential tool in women’s struggle for equality over the years. And it will continue to be, until the day when phrases like the one on the Dior shirt:
“Sisterhood is Powerful, Sisterhood is Global” and “Sisterhood is Forever” become a reality.
Because yes, really, we need the women´s empowerment in the world, and we must be all feminists!