Tag: fashion

September 12, 2008 / / cultural appropriation
July 31, 2008 / / Uncategorized
July 28, 2008 / / Uncategorized

by Guest Contributor Mimi, originally published at Threadbared

While the Gossip isn’t in my regular rotation (there’s always something about the production value of their albums that throws me), Beth Ditto’s ascension as a fearlessly fat and femme style icon is on my radar for sure. There’s much to be said about Beth Ditto, fat and fashion, but the above photograph from Ditto’s eight-page editorial in NYLON’s recent music issue is about none of these things for me.

It’s about the woman who may or may not be a real housekeeper at the motel at which this editorial was photographed, sitting on the edge of the bed with a handful of cards and gazing at Ditto with a weary but guarded expression. In the story that coalesces for me, studying this photograph, she has just been forced to play cards with a guest — not because she wants to, but because she could lose her job if she doesn’t. Nor does the game even feel like a break from her domestic labor; this sort of affective labor is no less taxing. In her mind (in the story I imagine about this editorial), she calculates how much longer she’ll have to stay and clean in order to meet her day’s quota.

But none of this is supposed to be visible (or even viable) in the photograph. We are not meant to consider her story. (And I’m made uncomfortable by my own attempt to “give” her an interior life.) Instead, the woman of color in her drab housekeeper’s uniform is simply another part of the furnishing in this bland motel room. She is banished as mere and muted background, the better to illuminate Ditto’s extraordinary excess of shine and glamor. For that reason, this editorial photograph both angers and saddens me.

Much has been written about the uses of people of color as part of the landscape in fashion editorials. (See, for just a small sample, Make Fetch Happen‘s disgust for colonial chic, Racialicious’ archive on fashion, or bell hooks’ canonical essay “Eating the Other”). This cliché includes “exotic” locales and touristic images of the “natives,” who wear clothes and other adornment that are imagined as traditional and time-bound. (In Viet Nam, a frequent setting, these might be so-called pajamas and conical hats; in the often-undifferentiated Africa, also a regular landscape, loincloths and face paint). The deliberate contrast between these figures (native and model) is arranged along a spectrum of race, but also time and space. The Vietnamese, the African, the Peruvian, are imagined to live at a temporal and geographic distance from the modern, and implicitly Western, woman who might wear these fashionable clothes. The compulsion to return to this scene, through which the natives in their deindividuating garb serve to highlight the cosmopolitanism, the expressive and unique sense of self, of the woman who wears (or at least covets) Prada, reveals much about the continuing investments of fashionable discourses to an inheritance of colonial regimes of power and knowledge. It is a fantasy, yes, but no less powerful for being so.

What is happening here is no less committed to this uneven distribution. Read the Post Background Color

June 27, 2008 / / Uncategorized

by Guest Contributor Brigitte, originally published at Make Fetch Happen

“Are we still talking about this in 2008?” asks Iman in an irate voice kicking off the “Is Fashion Racist?” article in the July issue of Vogue. I’ve certainly pondered that question myself over the past few years and I am sure that many other fashion enthusiasts have as well.

Really, why is it that an industry such as this one known for embracing a variety of outlandish personalities and ideas is so blind when it comes to putting new faces in its clothes, on its runways or in its magazines? For example, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen designer Philip Lim glorified on the pages of fashion tomes but I struggle to remember when I last saw and Asian model featured in a multi-page editorial. In spite of the fact that Pat McGrath, Andre Leon Talley, photographer Mark Baptist and designers like Tracey Reese are influential enough to sit at the proverbial table, that diversity hasn’t tricked down to model employment office. This seems to suggest that people of other races are welcome to provide the glitz for a shoot but must never be the one to wear the accessories.

I think about this topic often and it’s become the main focus of my blog because it wasn’t like this when I was growing up and first became enamored with fashion. I still remember the day my English teacher brought in a stack of old ELLE magazines to give away and I got my first taste of it. I spent hours pouring over those images back then. It was superficial and I knew but I didn’t care. It still meant something to me. Seeing the Beverly Peele on the cover of Seventeen when I was in high school back then made me feel good. It made me feel included in that fabulous something even though my bi-level two toned jheri curl was decidedly not happening. Side note: I still haven’t forgiven my mother for making get a jheri curl. I honestly think of it as child abuse.

My fashion jones followed me to college where I always had the latest pictures of Naomi Campbell tacked to my mirror for fierce make up inspiration. But then it seemed, things started to reverse themselves. Instead of marching forward and including larger cross section of ethnicities, fashion started marching backwards. The change was slow but deliberate. Black models became less visible as lighter skinned, more racially ambiguous Brazilian beauties hit the scene. They started dropping off too, save Gisele, in favor of Eastern European models, each new batch even more nondescript than the previous seasons.

Nowadays, when I talk about how it used to be I feel like an old woman rocking on my porch talking about the good ole’ days when they let us colored folk take pretty pictures. Read the Post Vogue Asks “Is Fashion Racist?”

May 12, 2008 / / Uncategorized
April 10, 2008 / / Uncategorized

by Guest Contributor Alex Alvarez, originally published at Guanabee

Associate Editor Alex Alvarez, befuddled to find that her boobs and hips, or lack thereof, seem to fall in and out fashion like leggings and stirrup pants and poppers, takes a look at the American women’s magazine industry in an attempt to decipher just how, exactly, they can get away with telling women their bodies are ok – if only they’d look more like white girls. (Take The Quiz On Page 62!)

My name is Alex Alvarez. And I hate women’s magazines.

Don’t get me wrong: I like fashion and I’ve worked at several magazines over the past couple of years. I can talk about Courrèges and Two Girls, One Cup in the same breath. But so many women’s magazines, both “fashion” mags like Glamour and Vogue and “sexy” mags like Cosmo and Horse & Hound do women so much more harm than good.

Women’s magazines have long been accused of creating a standard of beauty that will forever be just out of the grasp of most women – prompting them, of course, to wait until next month’s issue for more advice on how to be perfect. (Hint! Transplant your face with this other face.) Selling women this promise not only keeps magazines on newsstands and subscriptions in the mail, it also helps appease the real driving force behind all magazines — advertisers and Satan. And what women end up purchasing is cosmetic “whiteness.” You know you’ve made it, baby, when you wake up looking like you faceplanted on Plymouth Rock.

In this feature, I’ll take a look at women from four, over-simplified ethnic or racial backgrounds and see just how, exactly, magazines are fucking them all up. Then, after a few dozen sex quizzes and several minutes of trying to figure out how you can both “Love Your Body!” and orient yourself on the latest “Plastic Surgery Tips Every Woman Should Know!” without wanting to gag yourself on an exclamation point, I’ll give the magazine industry a few tips on how to talk to women.

Latina

Brief Overview: Latinas are portrayed as being sultry and seductive. They can get away with playing the “bad girl,” possibly because they are allowed – and even encouraged – to have more overtly sexual bodies, with an emphasis on curves, dark eyes and bright, plump, shiny, slick, wet lips shown in loving close-ups, usually while the face to which they’re attached is growling or purring or doing something else that’s totally fierce. They also give better head. Oh. There goes my attempt at subtlety.

The ideal: Jennifer Lopez

Hair: Often enough, Latinas have “big hair” with lots of volume, possibly as a middle ground among the various hair textures found among Latinas of different races.

Skin: Latinas are often depicted as having an olive complexion, with lighter or darker generally ignored or unmentioned by mainstream media.

Ass: Big, round. Makes a “ka-ching ka-ching” sound when bouncing in time to a song about cars and beach houses.

Breasts: While Latinas are generally depicted with large backsides, breast size is allowed to vary. As long as they’re big.

How magazines fucked up: “Latina” is not a race. It’s a diverse group made of many racial, ethnic and religious groups. Some who don’t even look like J-Lo. Additionally, women can’t have it both ways. While Latinas have been “en vogue” for a period of time, certain celebrated icons of “Latina beauty,” such as Jennifer Lopez and Salma Hayek, have whittled down their once-celebrated curvy figures as the years have gone by. Wait until Jennifer loses all that baby weight. She’ll look so much better without Marc.

Read the Post Model Minority: How Women’s Magazines Whitewash Different Ethnicities

March 20, 2008 / / Uncategorized
March 17, 2008 / / Uncategorized