Recently I posted a comment raising reservations about anachronistic 50s fashion on Gertie's blog that brought forth an avalanche of comments making me feel like the judgemental and humourless boiler suit feminists of my university days. The jist of my comment was that I am concerned about the return to 50s fashion because it was not a great time for women and why would we want to go back there. While these fashions are extremely glamourous (and presented so in the equally ambiguous Mad Men TV show), they are also physically restricting and convey messages about women as frivolous, decorative and perhaps submissive. A theme among the retorts was that women still experience discrimination today so why focus on 50s fashion.
My instinctive response is why make it worse for ourselves? Virtually all of the women who wear these frocks in Mad Men are wives, secretaries, models, or waitresses. The one professional woman in the piece, Peggy, is at the bottom of Sterling Cooper’s white-collar hierarchy and knows it. Today's professional woman didn’t merely reject this world. She burned it to the ground and danced on its ashes. But there are many who would welcome 1950s values and discriminations to rise phoenix like from these ashes.
Then there are those who took the view that whatever feels good is ok. But is it? I've been mulling over this last point for a week now and have concluded that it is not. I'm not confining my thoughts to vintage fashion. Rather than doing any more 'tub thumping', I just want to put forward some questions that I've been discussing with my daughters and my friends.
- How can we enjoy fashion and glamour without being overtly sexualised in what we wear?
- Are stratispheric stilleto heels or wedges the modern equivalent of foot binding?
- Should we consider not just what a store bought garment looks like and costs , but where it is made and by whom?
- If we make garments, what should we know about the environmental and social impacts of the fabrics that we buy?
- How many clothes do we really need? Just because we make them ourselves is it ok to be so acquisitive?
Well that's enough for one day from the old boilersuit. And if you don't agree, don't kick too hard...It hurts.