In one of her stand-up routines Margaret Cho made a comment about how fashion should be so much more than what it is. She went on to say that the so-called "worst dressed" on the red carpet are so often who she considers to be the best dressed by a long shot. I love Margaret Cho, and of equal importance, I love fashion. And yes, I agree that the fashion industry needs a giant kick in the gonads.
I'm going to put a few things out there that I hope to explore on an ongoing basis (perhaps not all within the scope of this first blog). First, fashion IS political, even (and especially) when it pretends not to be. "I don't give a shit about what I wear," "I don't have time to worry about clothes," "I just throw something on and run out the door." These statements are rooted in a certain kind of politic. What, for instance, are these claims saying about choice, privilege, necessity, time, convention…? A lot. There is a bucket load of unpacking we can do here.
Next up, I firmly believe that fashion can be so much more than the clothes we wear, our cute or functional accessories, our aesthetic inclinations, or a white, gendered, elitist, fat phobic industry represented on the TV. Fashion is fucked up just as often as it can fuck shit up. And I think it’s important to think about the politics of fashion in transformative ways toward transformative ends. Whatever that means.
Three, as radical fashionistas (oh I think I hate the word fashionista. maybe i won’t use it again.) we can do more than just critique and reflect on class, gender, size, marketplace, religion, region, etc. informing the fashion world. There’s much more work to be done! Of course these sites of investigation are important; we can’t talk enough about sweatshops, labour, animal rights, fat acceptance, recycling, (im)migration and economics but there’s gotta be more. Give me a minute to figure out what I mean by this—I’m not sure, but I want to investigate. I think I’m mostly interested in something to do with choice and/or lack thereof. And maybe something with consent… I’ll come back to these. For now, bookmark “choice” and “consent” or tell me if you have anything to say about these things because that might give me a jump start.
And an anecdote: I was buying avocados at the Pick 'n Save some time in 2006 and, like always, had one eye on the ladies. That's when it struck me on a conscious level that there's a Milwaukee mullet mom mystique that smacks of a certain lesbian aesthetic. Maybe lesbian isn't the right word. It's a dyke-chic that came out of, I believe, a dyke bar culture reminiscent of Stone Butch Blues. I just made that up and passed it off like an official piece of LGBTQ history. How do you like that?
Well this moment of realization led to many more just like it, which led eventually to my reappropriation of the song “Is it a child or an animal” by the Dreamland Faces (they are amazing you should totally check them out if you don’t know them and go see them in concert in Minneapolis, I think). I began a theme song for such grocery store moments: Is it a mom or a lesbian? Which was then followed by many months of self-critique, questioning why, if, and how my desire to classify and essentialize, even if only in jokey terms might be the result of some deeper ageism or classism or gendered ways of thinking and being in the world. Woh. I’m ok. I love moms and lesbians so I can make fun of them both right?
The mullet thing: I just don’t know what to make of it. Someone once told me there’s no such thing as a FASHION mullet. Is this true? You tell me. I grew up in Canada with so much hockey hair that I feel at once overly judgmental and incapable of judging at all.
Stay tuned for hijabs, hijras, and hound dogs.