Fashion can create trends, but it can also pick up existing trends from the ground, reflecting and echoing them back. Feminism has become a clothing trend because it responds to how women are feeling today. Why do we choose to wear the things we do today? The best way to explain it is that, as women, we are literally wearing our anger on our sleeves. And we are right to do so. According to the World Economic Forum, we are over two hundred years away from achieving gender equality, and we are still paid less than men everywhere in the world. In addition, we live in an era in which we have witnessed that our rights can be taken away from us. If you look on Google Trends, you will see that more people searched for the words “a Feminist t-shirt” in January 2017 than ever before. What happened in January 2017? It was the first month of Trump’s presidency – with all the anger it provoked among women, motivating hundreds of thousands of them to hit the streets in protest for the first of many women’s marches.
So, is making feminism fashionable a positive thing? We faced the same struggles ten years ago, but we were not as vocal and united as a group as we are today. In the meantime, feminism has moved from the fringes to the masses. I believe that the emerging fashion trend is extremely positive. The fact that it is more than just one woman here or there wearing the message on her sleeve is a sign that women, wherever they are and whomever they are around the world, are embracing a new sisterhood. We finally understood that we all need to be in this together for our place in the world to change. It is a sign that we live in an unprecedented moment in time in which women have harnessed their power through the #metoo movement, the Women’s March, and many more events that show that they will no longer tolerate not having their fair share of this world in the way they deserve. More women than ever are also willing to step to the forefront to claim this place. Fashion brands are seeing it more and more, and they are responding to it, nourishing our #girlpower.
In a way, this mass mobilization (both in clothing and in real life) has not happened since the days that the suffragettes fought for our voting rights over a hundred years ago. Back then women demonstrated their belonging to the movement by wearing purple (loyalty and dignity), white (purity), and green (hope) on their clothes or in the trimmings of hats, belt ribbons, and shoulder sashes. We are much less accessorized and much more direct today, so we simply write it on our clothes. We are also not just fighting for a single right, but for a variety of rights that have become categorized under the umbrella of “feminism.” Clothing is not only a way of demonstrating that we belong to and support the movement, but also a way of opening up the conversation. Wearing pro-women slogans on my clothes sparks more conversations than anything else I have ever worn. What an opportunity to connect to other sisters and convert others to the cause!
In conclusion, is fashion becoming more feminist?
Arguably yes, but so are women. For my 33rd birthday I wore a t-shirt, a (hopefully) ethically-made one from L.A., emblazoned with the slogan “Women Will Save the World.” Over the last ten years, I have been working to help women find their voice and their place in a world that will be much improved once our voices are heard. I believe, and have always believed, that women represent the single greatest answer to our future. We are half of the population, so envision the huge opportunity for the world if our talents and potential were fully seized. Ten years ago, the problems were the same but there were no t-shirts to buy, at least not with the availability and variety that exists today. I believe that this demonstrates the level of urgency and magnitude this cause has reached.
So yes, maybe fashion is using feminism as a trend that sells right now more than ever, but feminists are also using fashion to send their message, louder and clearer than ever before. It is one trend that I hope will not go out of style any time soon.
(And by the way, when choosing our own wardrobes – as much as possible – we should think about all women, even the significant percentage of women today working in other parts of the world in garment factories, and make sure that feminist articles are ethically sourced. All the better if the profits generated from your t-shirt are destined to support the work of fellow activists.)
About the Author
Chiara is an expert on female entrepreneurship, gender equality, and the future of the workplace. She consults corporations based on launching her nonprofit, LedByHER, in women's entrepreneurship, innovation and rights. Chiara regularly appears in the media, conferences, and has been awarded the Woman of Influence award in France.