Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Fashion Hates Ethnicity, Immigrants, and Your Mom

Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, and fashion has decided that it hates my ass.
As I think we've established through the course of our blog-relationship, I am a short, white, Jewish chick of Russian-Polish extraction. I have a not unusual body type for my ethnicity, one that has kindly been described as a "pocket Venus" (which translates into: short and curvy). The practical implications of my measurements are that, invariably, very few fashion-forward pieces fit me, but usually I can find something with which to clothe my body. That is, until this season, when fashion decided to attempt to sell me what I can only describe as a series of ill-fitting shift and boob-smooshing babydoll dresses. I am neither a baby nor a doll and my ample bosom (about which poetry has been written-- albeit, by me) cannot fit under the band of a bandeau top.

Given that I've been this size and shape for the last decade, I've come to accept that my body is hard to fit; but to find nothing to wear from an entire season's collection? That's going too far.

Then it occurred to me (as it often does): does fashion's sudden emphasis on clothing that really, truly looks good only on tall skinny women only imply its inadvertent inability to see the profit of marketing to curvier women OR is something more insidiously evil occurring right under my nose?Shock of all shocks, I smell conspiracy and it smells faintly of nativism.

Without making too many controversial, crass over-generalizations, I think it's safe to say that fashion privileges tall, thin women. It is also safe to generalize that certain groups tend to produce tall thin women and certain groups do not. The effect of fashion favoring tall, thin women is not only to cause short, curvy women to develop body image issues, a problem not nearly benign, but also to promote one beauty standard as "perfect," a beauty standard generally found among white, Anglo women. What are the implications of that statement? Fashion isn't just misogynist, it's racist, too.

Before the floodgates open, I know I'm over-stating my point. I'm not arguing, necessarily, that all people who promote these fashions are consciously making a statement about race. I am arguing that when the beauty standard is unflaggingly found in one group and not others, that sends a very clear message about what's acceptable and what's unacceptable.

Fashion doesn't occur in a vacuum; it's not dictated by magical fairies on a far away moon who send their designs to us meager earthlings. Fashion is created in a decidedly American social context and, as such, is privy and pray to American sensibilities, particularly those shaped by the current social, cultural, and political climates. The types of clothing that are being marketed in the past two seasons-- the shapeless shifts, the leggings, the skinny jeans-- are all types of clothing that have appeared before: in the 1920s, late 1970s, and early 1980s, during which times anti-immigration, pro-nativist sentiments were at their peak, historically. Is it possible that as conservative American opinion turns against people from foreign cultures, fashion produces clothing that only flatters a stereotypically WASPy, American, body type?
Look at these clothes! Where would my ass and thighs even fit? Not one thing in the line-up, above, would not make me look preggers. I am not suggesting that tall, thin women do not need to be clothed. Far be it from me to suggest that something is wrong with their shapes. But I don't think I'm far off in suggesting that a society that routinely refuses to dress women of different sizes and shapes, not only through a dearth of sizing, but also by the very nature of what it promotes as attractive and trendy from season to season, is a society that needs to take a serious look at its own implicit racism.

ScarJo is a pocket Venus, just like I.


Jacob Da Jew said...

"Pocket Venus"

I like the sound of that ;)

The Autodidact said...


This piece displays precisely why I love you.

The Autodidact

Sherbs said...

Here here! I think that leggings are stupid for anyone who remotely enjoys cake. Or other solid foods. And this whole new empire waist thing - is that just an excuse for women with an actual figure to look pregers?

What I personally dislike is the concept of how short is short. Petite clothes tend to be too narrow for my curves (and cake addiction) but Old Navy and the Gap's "short" line is still long! WTF?! I think they still think 5'4" is short, not average, leaving those of us in the short category spending more on hemming.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I can comment too. I am 6'2", 215 lbs. I don't think my size and shape are so unusual, but it is difficult for me to find pants. It seems that pants are either long and skinny or short and roomy, but not long and roomy. Also, I am a size 14 shoe. Don't get me started on buying shoes. Luckily for me, I am content in ripped jeans and a Pantera t-shirt. I keep it real like that. -TR

The Pedant said...

Relief may be coming to Massachusetts: http://www.suntimes.com/lifestyles/fashion/391792,CST-NWS-size18.article

Anonymous said...

I am so grateful for this season's fashions. As a tall slender woman, I find it difficult to find flattering pants. This season, I have my pick.

Anonymous said...

Yes, fashion is politics. Look at the correlations between skirt length and war.
Question is: why not follow parallel fashions? There are always about 3 very disticnt fashion types for any year since we've been keeping records. It does seem a little odd to dress as a flower power chick or a 60s mod depending not on your personality, ethics or social group but rather because your ass looks fat in that ...but maybe we should consider it.

Me, I can never find anything that looks good on me because I have a literal hour-glass figure: 5'6" 95/66/100cm = 37/26/39" approx. I'm a blonde and have a smallish waist but that's all that fashion ever seems to like about me.

I think you just need to pick something timeless (as if that were easy - but at least it's a good goal) with a nod to twiggy's taste in fabric or colour each season.

Truth&Freedom said...

I hear u, feel u, see u... I am u. Soon we will launch a line embracing all. Fb Valdavia Ellis photos...by the way, I am 5'2 3/4 and about a size 4.