Fashion is Political!

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Whereas men in business think nothing of discussion the football/rugby/cricket results, it would be a brave woman who started a discussion on Milan Fashion week, Sarah Burton’s design aesthetic or the Orla Kiely for Clarks collection.

green and black Orla Keily shoe
Orla Kiely for Clarks

The topic of fashion is often seen as lightweight, vain, affected or dull. And yet, like most things, fashion – specifically the clothes that we wear – is full of meaning, relevance and political significance.

Don’t you think that what these people are wearing is important?

Many of the more thoughtful fashion  blogs and women’s magazines will rail against

  • the cheap labour regimes that mass produce clothes
  • the disposable clothes culture (“Fashion!”) and rampant consumerism
  • size zero and “body fascism”
  • animal cruelty allegedly associated with fur, (but generally not worrying about leather)

For me the politics of fashion is much more subtle and affects all aspects of life. So far I have written about the following political subjects.

  1. women in politics and the way they are required to dress
  2. male politicians and what their clothes mean
  3. politicians from ethnic minority or nationalist backgrounds and how they could dress better
  4. the “appropriation” of ethnic dress
  5. diversity of appearance
  6. sexuality and cross dressing
  7. children’s clothes
  8. why this is an equal opportunities blog
  9. natural hair for older women and black women

I am to some extent affected by being a senior woman in a male dominated field. There is an old adage; “if you can’t beat them, join them”. This means studying the sports pages before meetings, so you can intelligently discuss Mourinho’s options.

Man talk
Man talk

But there is also another way. One or two female chief executives and I have a little game.  In meetings where the men start with football chit-chat, and pepper their contributions with sporting analogies , she and I work hard to “weave in” phrases of a feminine nature, such as knitting, stitching, ironed, polished, patchwork/tapestry (but never rich, please), tidied, crocheted, woven, gathered and swept up. It even gets a bit silly, and it is hard to say this stuff with a straight face, it does lighten a dull meeting. I have always felt that humour is more powerful than self-righteousness.

Oh gosh, Stephen really dropped a stitch, didn’t he?

It’s just like making an omelette –  a nice snack then half an hour of cleaning the kitchen!

Shall we just baste the pocket on, and then see how it looks, Keith?

Susie, have  you ever found, when you are dusting, that you have a great idea for creating a Garden City in Essex?









4 Responses

  1. Stephanie

    So clever, Kate. Do you know what I do? I tend to draw analogies from great literature, including “women’s” fiction. You’d be surprised how few people in my field read anything other than the finance pages and/or non-fiction biographies of great leaders. Zzzzz. I also use lots of arcane idioms. I have never read the sports pages and can’t retain any details about hockey. I suppose I don’t care enough about my career to follow the NHL, which I find to be depressing and violent.

  2. Tim Morton

    I recognise these conversation patterns, and they can be just as stifling for men. As football was so violent in the seventies, I was far more interested in music, and now football dominates popular culture and television schedules I avoid it as much as I can.
    Meeting lots of different people in different places as a trainer, it is others who tend to comment first on how “my team” is doing, so it helps to have a rough idea of what’s going on, but I’ve always worked alongside women and there are other analogies to use.
    In team training I will use the choir as a metaphor for the idea of blending different skillsets, bass through to soprano, or the players in an orchestra or band. Music would be pretty boring if we all played the same note on the same instrument all the time.

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