International Women’s Day is back again in full swing with the 2018 theme being #PressforProgress in response to the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Pay Gap Report findings telling us that ‘gender parity is over 200 years away’ (https://www.internationalwomensday.com/Theme).
We have seen many incredible campaigns over the last few months with the #TimesUp and the #MeToo movements. Despite the controversy and various issues taken, these campaigns have ultimately shown the world that the fight for gender equality is becoming stronger and is hardly backing down.
The fashion industry is not one to hide away from showing a flair for activism. Fashion is a political statement in itself. ‘Simply put. Dress style that challenges – or is perceived as challenging, or offering an alternative to the status quo – spontaneously acquires political meaning’ (http://theconversation.com/fashions-potential-to-influence-politics-and-culture-90077). The New York Times published an article which mentioned the colour white as a symbolic political fashion statement. When the historic moment was announced that Mrs. Clinton was the first woman to be a ‘major party nominee for president’, she wore a white suit by Ralph Lauren. White is also a colour worn by the suffragists in 1913, as ‘one of their signature colors’, and by women’s rights activists ‘Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan in 1978 […] to the women’s march on Washington’ (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/13/fashion/the-year-in-style-politics-dressing.html).
Maria Grazia Chiuri, the creative director of Dior, is not hiding her political views either. For the women’s autumn/winter 2018 collection, she embraced a brilliant balance between masculinity and femininity. This symbolises a bigger social, political and economic conversation about gender inequality which fashion has always been part of. The masculine aesthetic comes from the tailored suits. The feminine can be seen in the beautiful dresses which are each unique. There were sleeveless, mid-length dresses with bold prints and intricate patchwork. They were strikingly paired with a biker jacket. Crochet dresses also made an appearance. Texture seems to be something Chiuri is interested in playing with. There was one dress in particular which was styled in various ways and colours. The dress was made of sheer, delicate material which fell elegantly into loose mid-length ruffles. The most interesting aspect came from the bralet which can be seen through the sheer material and was the same colour as the dress but of a darker shade. Chiuri appears to have created a collection which encompasses and places emphasis on the pieces we associate with masculinity and femininity, however she intertwines them within the same outfit through ways which do not clash but are perfectly balanced. Chirui has created an incredible image of gender equality through fashion. Lauren Indvik reinforces this view as she argues that ‘Under Chiuri, the catwalk has become a platform for an ongoing conversation about feminism and the arts’ (http://www.vogue.co.uk/article/maria-grazia-chiuri-vogue-interview).
The contributing editor for Vogue, Adwoa Aboah, interviewed Chiuri for Vogue at her autumn/winter 2018 show (http://www.vogue.co.uk/article/adwoa-aboah-maria-grazia-chiuri-dior-aw18-backstage). Aboah asked the ultimate question which relates to all women in positions of authority: “As a woman, what is it like to be an artistic director?.” Chiuri replied, “For women, everything is just a little bit more harder…”
In every part of society from young girls being told football is a ‘boy’s game’, to the lack of female leaders in politics, a woman’s ability is questioned and scrutinized. Individual ability does not always come into the scrutiny, only the mere fact of being a woman. With strong women like the ones mentioned I would have thought we would have proven the injustice of gender inequality by now.
Aboah also asks “What do I need to know about the events of 1968?”. Chiuri argues that “It was an incredible moment because it changed in some way the world; the women started to become more independent.” In 1968 there was a social revolution in France. The youth rose up with ‘a revulsion against stifling social rules of class, education and sexual behaviour’ (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/29/world/europe/29iht-france.4.12440504.html). According to the Independent, ‘[…]one could have the impression that the May student revolt alone created the post-1970s world of tolerance and individualism, free-thinking and consumerism’ (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/egalit-libert-sexualit-paris-may-1968-784703.html). Chiuri goes on to mention a photograph “with women in front of the Dior store”. They were protesting that “there were not enough short skirts in Dior” which demonstrates the desire for tolerance and individualism. Aboah interjected with a happily shocked “really” and Chiuri laughingly and joyfully responded “yeah”.
For centuries, fashion has allowed women to express themselves in spite of the patriarchal oppression they have endured, some groups more than others. But what makes fashion so great is that is has always been interconnected with politics. “Women may be the one group that grows more radical with age” (Gloria Steinem), and we can say the same for fashion.