Why is it so wrong to talk about fashion
On the wear and tear of talking about fashion in public, outside of historically feminized forums.
It happened a few days ago, the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, visited the students in their last year of journalism at Pompeu Fabra University. A student asked her a question that made her feel bad and she let him know. There was a bit of trouble, but it’s not the first time that the dimension of anecdotes like this one has been distorted when Ada Colau stars in it. The question was about fashion. Specifically, about clothing as a vehicle for expressing the evolution of political identity. Colau apologized publicly and privately to the student for her somewhat harsh reaction.
In the case of one of the political personalities who has experienced the weight of public opinion on his body the most, talking about an element as closely linked to him as clothing could be as violent as the response the student received. But this text isn’t really about Ada Colau, it’s about the girl who raised her hand thinking that she could talk about fashion anywhere, with anyone. And she also goes on to thank you for asking . Of course, she is also going to ask us why the hell it would be so ill-considered to put fashion at the center of the conversation for a second.
Thanks for asking in public. Sorry, for paying for the wear and tear that talking about fashion still means outside of strictly feminized forums. Your question did not annul the right to repeat the outfit on a regular basis, nor to dress one day more formal and another more comfortable, to be able to wear a stain from time to time (much less to deny the material consequences of upbringing), nor to change the heels for the slippers. Above all, your question did not judge anyone in their professional performance , although it seems that, when asking it, there was a prejudice about yours. Also about your quality as a feminist , something that should not have been questioned.
Talking about fashion is not entirely free. Depending on the forum, it can cost a bit of authority to those who dare to do it. Fashion is associated with numerous faults: from the frivolity of stopping to discuss appearances ( with everything that is happening in the world! ) to being suspected of tripping up the feminist struggle. However, talking about fashion is still a pressing conversation, and still pending, that we have to keep in public.
In the first place, because the current fashion industry is one of those largely responsible for the climate crisis, and talking about other patterns of consumption, use and disposal of garments has been urgent for a long time . Last, but actually even more obvious, because we continue to go out dressed on the street and, each time we do, we express an iota of our identity. We tell others, in some way, something about the place we would like to occupy in the world.
Actually, it’s not that you can’t talk about fashion, some of us do it all the time, but it depends a lot on where. The moment the conversation jumps from a forum considered feminine, things change. Masculinized environments, linked to power, are hostile spaces for any interest historically categorized as feminine.
Clothing is taboo
Clothing is taboo in this type of environment. At least it is if you want to maintain a certain authority in your positions, in how the world conceives you. The anecdote of the mayor and the student is just the umpteenth example that fashion is the only frivolity that is not allowed in spaces of political power.
With football this problem does not usually occur, you can ask and answer without further wear and tear. Actually, it is normal for a woman in Colau’s situation not to want to answer a question about clothes, the cost to her political image could have been just as atrocious if she had dared to answer. Because it is the price that comes with ruling on fashion if other skills are expected of you.
At the dawn of capitalism, fashion went from being a male concern to a female obligation. Psychologist John Flügel addressed the issue in his Psychology of Dress , calling this turn of events the Great Male Resignation , a term that has come to establish itself in fashion historiography
“My appearance is the most political thing I have,” said the writer Alana Portero in an article published in S Moda . It will be understood by those who have the audacity to link themselves in public to historically feminized aspects and demand that their right to be able to occupy spaces be respected .
It will be understood by those who find in fashion, in the inspiration to dress, in the desire to talk about it, a subtle, intelligent and infinite channel of information . But above all, a reason for joy. And the reasons for joy, in the times we are going through, could be considered fuel material to ignite revolutions.