My job title is publisher, but sometimes I feel like it should be changed to lobbyist. I am really a lobbyist for the “fashion is important” agenda. The “fashion is feminist” agenda. I am staunchly pro-clothes.
I’m not going to pretend like I’m some sort of feminist hero because I believe that clothes deserve the same sort of recognition we give to other forms of creative expression—please, put your crown away, I could never take something so bejeweled—but I will share with you that I feel very, very strongly that fashion and clothing deserve way more respect in the general culture. I can talk about it for hours. Believe me, I do talk about it for hours.
Luckily for me, 2012 had some of the very best fashion writing I’ve ever seen. I’ve rounded up a few of my favourite pieces by some of the most intelligent fashion writers working today, people who share my conviction and lobbying tendencies.
Maybe a better term for my unofficial position would be fashion evangelist. Even with all the flaws, fashion and clothing are things that I believe in—I have faith that they matter. They matter in the ways we know (as ways to cover our bodies) and they matter in some pretty shitty ways (excess consumption, materialism, and greed) and then they matter in some really important ways (as evidence of our beliefs, our values, our choices, sartorial or otherwise). Here are just a few of my favorite articles from people who share my holy love of fashion. PREACH.
New York Fashion Week by the Numbers: More Models Of Color Are Working
by Jenna Sauers
In the fashion industry, I think hard data is especially important. It’s the best way to really, honestly see where the trends are—and the best way to identify where the problems are. It’s hard to deny that a designer has a problem with diversity when a chart exists that details exactly how white a runway show was.
Jenna has been tracking diversity on the runway since the Fall-Winter 2008 New York Fashion Week season, and the results are showing signs of improvement:
“This season proved to be the most racially diverse that we have ever counted. For the second time ever (and the second season in a row), white models actually comprised just less than 80% of the total model pool. Contrast that with the 87% of all runway spots that were give to white models in Fall-Winter 2008, when we began keeping track of models and race at NYFW.”
That said, this data can only accomplish so much. As Jenna pointed out in her 2010 roundup, “race is a social construct, not a fact,” and representations of beauty don’t fall into neat black or white categories.
The important thing is: “Fashion still has a long way to go before all forms of beauty are truly given equal consideration—but this season is another small step in the right direction.”
Passions Burn After Bangladesh Factory Fire
by Max Mosher
The tragedy in Bangladesh was much too familiar—as Max Wornette pointed out in his regular style column in the Toronto Standard, the devastating incident was reminiscent of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. In 1911, the horror was enough to create a union that fought to protect workers’ rights and higher safety standards; will the same happen in Tazreen?
Your Brain on Fashion
by Minh-Ha T. Pham
Suzy Menkes told AnOTher Magazine that: “I think there’s too much mixing fashion and intellect. Fashion ultimately is designed to cover the human body, to give you joy, to make you feel better. I don’t think it has to have a great intellectual meaning… to intellectualize fashion too much, to me, is just going the wrong way.” I respectfully disagree, and so does Minh-Ha T. Pham.
Pham cues up her “usual spiel,” as she puts it, to explain how “anti-intellectual discourses about fashion are so often covers for sexist assumptions about the meaninglessness of all things feminine and/or related to femininity.” I want her to say this again, and again, and then I want to shout it from a rooftop. A perfect summation of why fashion—and more importantly, why clothing—matters.
What The Fuck Is Nail Art?
by Rachel Seville
It’s no secret that I love my nail art. And I’m hardly an early adapter—I came to the trend late, after years of never painting my nails. I wrote about why I love nail art here (and here!), but I also love to point people to Rachel Seville’s handy guide for people who just want to know what the fuck is nail art?
Why Everyone Suddenly Cares About Nail Art
by Hillary Reinsberg
On Buzzfeed Shift, Hillary Reinsberg wonders about the origins of nail art—the trend of outlandish designs and 3D bedazzled elements has been popular in black communities for quite awhile, but now that the trend has gone mainstream (and now that the Times is ON IT), that seems to be a key fact that’s missing from all the coverage. There’s also a class element involved here—nail polishes are easy ways to allow people who can’t afford a hula hoop bag to participate in a brand. Reinsberg speaks with editors from Allure, New York Magazine, and Robin Givhans to get an alternative perspective on the trendiest trend of 2012.
Who Needs Halloween? Girl, 8, dresses as historic figures all year
by Jennifer Carlile
Ugh, ugh, my ovaries: an eight-year-old girl in Nebraska wears a different historical costume every day of the school year, drawing inspiration from the book “100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century.”
Reddit Users Attempt To Shame Sikh Woman, Get Righteously Schooled
by Lindy West
There has been a LOT of talk about the evils of the Internet this year (and in readings unrelated to fashion, I would highly recommend Adrian Chen’s article on Violentacrez and Patrick McGuire’s ongoing series on what really happened to Amanda Todd), but I do believe the Internet is just an extension of the real world. Sometimes, the real world is so sad and mean and horrible you just want to shut it down forever, but sometimes, someone who was publicly shamed for her facial hair on Reddit writes an eloquent explanation for why she is not ashamed and why her faith is more important to her than conventional ideas of beauty, and the person who did the shaming listens and responds with a real heartfelt apology, and as Lindy West says, on those days, our hearts grow three sizes.
What’s So Bad About A Boy Who Wants To Wear A Dress?
by Ruth Padawar
Seriously, though: what IS so bad about a boy who wants to wear a dress? Ruth Padawar interviews several families with children who identify as gender-fluid or gender-variant and looks into the history of people who challenged traditional gender norms. Padawar writes:
“The parents of boys in that middle space argue that gender is a spectrum rather than two opposing categories, neither of which any real man or woman precisely fits…. It might make your world more tidy to have two neat and separate gender possibilities,” one North Carolina mother wrote last year on her blog, “but when you squish out the space between, you do not accurately represent lived reality. More than that, you’re trying to ‘squish out’ my kid.”’
Boy With Down Syndrome Becoming An Unlikely Ad Star
by Tim Nudd
Early in 2012, Ryan, a child model with Down Syndrome, was featured in catalogs by Target and Nordstrom, featured exactly where he should be: modeling clothes right beside his neurotypical peers. As the father of another child with Down syndrome and the author of the blog Noah’s Dad says: “This wasn’t a ‘Special Clothing For Special People’ catalog,” he writes. “There wasn’t a call out somewhere on the page proudly proclaiming that ‘Target’s proud to feature a model with Down syndrome in this week’s ad!’…. In other words, they didn’t make a big deal out of it. I like that.” To read more on clothes, fashion, and Down Syndrome, read our interview with the owner of Downs’ Designs.
What Fashion’s “Ethnic” Prints Are Really Called
by Connie Wang
“Ethnic” and “tribal” prints are high up on the list of useless, nonsensical, and offensively bad, yet ubiquitous, fashion copy. Connie Wang of Refinery29 correctly points out that “Lumping all similar prints into one group or referring to them by a descriptor rather than their real names is just as silly as calling jeans “blue pants,” and helpfully provides a comprehensive vocabulary lesson so that we can all learn the difference between ikat and batik prints. Slate also detailed the history and the contemporary problems facing manufacturers today here.
Authenticity at Jane and Finch: African Dutch Wax Fabrics
by Adwoa Afful
On the Ethnic Aisle, Adwoa Afful explains how learning about Dutch Wax prints became part of learning about her family, herself as a Ghanian-Canadian, and how “Dutch wax prints have come to represent one way West Africans express themselves sartorially.”
by Autumn Whitefield-Madrano
One of my favorite blog discoveries of 2012 was The Beheld, a collection of thoughtful essays on beauty and all that it can mean. The articles are also cross-posted on The New Inquiry (another favourite). I loved and related to her honest admission in Girl Talk: sometimes, she feels awkward around women, and she uses compliments on their shoes or their hair or some element of their appearance as a way to fight that awkwardness. I know I definitely use this as a way to superficially connect with new friends, and I’ve been the recipient of it as well. I think Autumn is exactly right when she says that “something frivolous can come out of my mouth and I’m fairly certain it doesn’t make me seem frivolous. It simply lightens me, desirably so.”
Cindy Sherman’s Superstar Strategy
by Sarah Nicole Prickett
SNP writes about the retrospectives for Francesca Woodman at the Guggenheim and Cindy Sherman at the Met: “And so Sherman has survived where Woodman did not: In assuming the whole lot of female and feminine (and sometimes masculine) identity, she’s given away precious little of herself. Her work is fashion. It is facade. It’s defence.” Every word of this article is perfect and beautiful: read it for yourself and see.
Is there an article about fashion from 2012 that you’d like to share? Tweet it at @wornjournal and use the #clothesmatter tag, or leave it in the comments.