Fashion has been, and always will remain to be, a way in which an individual is able to express themselves. Additionally, fashion can also be used as a way of bringing certain political issues to light, for example, women’s fashion and feminism.
In the current climate, women arguably have never been in a better position to communicate issues surrounding feminism and gender inequality. This is being achieved across the globe in the form of conferences, and various movements, including the Women of the World festival.
Although, there is still work to be done to achieve true equality, where we are now, in comparison to our past, is a massive step in the right direction. It wasn’t a million years ago, where it was viewed, in a largely patriarchal society, that women were individuals who were best to be seen and not heard. Resultantly, this made it extremely difficult for women to challenge any inequality.
So, to go about achieving this, women looked toward something that they could control to make sure they were both seen and heard, in their fashion choices. Through the decades, women have been able to promote feminism, and defy gender inequality through bold fashion statements, which went against what was traditionally expected of them.
Here's some of the boldest fashion statements that show how impactful they were in helping us into the position we are now in today.
Before the introduction of the 20th century, most women chose to keep their hair long, and for practical tasks, tamed it through pulling it back into a bun or braid. This was mostly because longer hair was a symbol of femininity and youth, and thus was more attractive to the male gaze.
Cut to the beginning of the 1920s and this all started to change. Young women wanted to feel liberated during this time and social rebellion, in the form of short hair, was their way of achieving this. This hairstyle was also able to provide women with an androgynous appearance, which further helped to lessen the hold the male gender had on them.
This new fashion trend also came at a time where women’s positions in society were changing too, as women had just been granted the right to vote.
The second transformative fashion trend that helped the feminist movement was the two-piece suit. Coming off the back of WWII, women had had the experience of being in a working environment, instead of being at home, and from this, began to realise they had a rightful place in the working world.
From this, designers like Coco Chanel began to create suits that emulated ones seen on men, but with a touch of femininity. The purpose of this creation was to provide women with something that was still elegant, however, was comfortable and practical for them to wear.
This trend continued into decades like the '80s in the form of the power suit. Although met with some criticism, this was a time where women were beginning to enter top-level job roles, and the power suit allowed women to enter a meeting room on a level playing field to their male peers, as they could no longer be initially judged on their fashion choices.
The Mini Skirt
The introduction of the mini skirt was not a trend that looked to create an androgynous look, but to appear more masculine. It was used as a way of challenging what was deemed socially acceptable for women and allowed women to reclaim their sexuality. Alternatively, to the traditional housewife look that included more conservative clothing, the mini skirt created a modern, cosmopolitan appearance for them.
It allowed women to have freedom over what they wore and gave them choice about how much of their body they allowed others to see, rather than being dictated by what was deemed desirable by the male gaze.
A Time For Reflection
Although feminist fashion now comes in a more direct form such as statements t-shirts, it wasn’t always as simple as this, and it is important to acknowledge those that defied an unequal society.
Without the implementation of these bold fashion statements, today’s generation of women may not have felt as liberated, and on their way to equality as they do.