Power in Feminine Creativity

Power in Feminine Creativity

Creating your own clothing seems daunting when we subscribe to the idea that how others perceive us is more important than how we feel about ourselves. It’s an easy trap to fall into, feeling the need to be viewed in an appealing light. The desire to be liked and appreciated isn’t abnormal or toxic in and of itself, but when it begins to consume aspects of your life that you should have total control over, it can become unhealthy. Dressing in ways that I thought would appeal to boys my age was a high priority in my earlier high school years and is a pattern that I continue to fall into on occasion. Internalized misogyny has been fed to women in every aspect of our lives, in ways that are both invisible and clear as day. Misogyny leads women to believe that they won’t find success unless they conduct themselves in ways conducive to the patriarchy. Creating your own clothing is a powerful move away from this toxic culture, wherein you are able to decide how you want to look without any outer influence. 

The environmental and social advantages of sustainable fashion cannot be ignored, as every dollar that gets taken away from a corporation that uses resources at an unreasonable rate and perpetrates slave labour instead goes to an individual trying to create a sustainable future. A wide range of brands, from AliExpress to Urban Outfitters, profit immensely off of the human rights violations they commit. While fast fashion often includes cheaper garments, it’s forgotten that more expensive brands, like UO, aren’t any better. Expensive fast fashion brands hide behind the idea that sustainable fashion has to be pricier, but that isn’t true. UO continues to abuse the environment, animals, and their own employees. Creating your own clothing can cost as little as a few dollars for a mini sewing kit. 

Sustainable fashion is not only beneficial to the environment, but also for the women that create it too. Making your own clothing or upcycling old pieces brings power back to the individual that made the item. For female-presenting or feminine individuals, the clothing affordably available to us was created from the point of view that the feminine clothing section works as a label for who we are: our abilities, attributes, and qualities. Our clothing is often used to measure whether we deserve respect or if our voices should be heard. We often see men in power disregarding a woman based on her clothing or hear statements that suggest revealing clothing excuses sexual assault. Creating your own clothing is a move away from listening to and, in return, conforming to the expectations of our appearance. Historically, men have always dictated how women will look and act. Though there have been great advancements for female designers in this industry, the ways in which women are able to control their own bodies continue to be limited. The jurisdiction over female bodies varies from country to country and from individual to individual in its severity and the impact it leaves. Regardless, it’s hard to find a woman that hasn’t been touched by this affliction. Now, men with no interest in the female experience, of which clothing is inexplicably part of, run the majority of large women’s clothing brands, essentially dictating how women look. Despite a female student majority in fashion schools, only 14% of all major female fashion brands are run by women. Clearly, the gender dynamic has not changed much.

The sizing of women’s clothing is notoriously a disaster. Variations from store to store in what a size 2 or a size 12 really means leads to body insecurities, eating disorders, and other body image issues. The notion of sizing holds its foundation in displaying what men think women’s bodies should look like. While the beauty standard has changed through centuries, women feel pressured to fit into sizes that they feel are more acceptable. This feeling can come from limited options in the plus-size section, lack of representation of different body types, and the idea that one shirt is supposed to fit an infinite amount of body shapes. Sizing is clearly helpful when it comes to easily finding the right item for you, as one size rarely fits all, but the fashion industry has turned it into a way to profit off of the learned behaviour of women adjusting their appearance for men. Silvio Marsan for instance, the founder of Brandy Melville, seems to have taken it upon himself to decide that all women should fit a size small. In creating your own garments, there’s less pressure to shrink yourself down or expand in certain areas to fill the item you’re trying on. It’s you that’s in charge of how you’ll make the material work for your body, instead of making your body contort to these impossible standards. 

Sewing and creating clothing are commonly known as feminine tasks, meant to solidify the domestic realm often attributed to women. Often in the path to dismantling internalized misogyny, you begin to reject traditionally gendered hobbies. It’s important to remember that femininity– or masculinity for that matter– is not unhealthy as it stands alone and that it is entirely up to you whether you embrace or reject either one. For myself, it is in the act of embracing feminine tasks on my own accord that I find power. By disregarding the messages from male-dominated clothing companies of how we are supposed to look, expressing yourself can be done in any way you feel is right. We often forget that the way we dress or present ourselves shouldn’t matter to anyone but ourselves. 

For a woman to create her own clothing, she is taking the power out of the male-dominated industry and putting it back into herself. It’s part of the much bigger system in which female bodies are priced and placed on shelves, waiting to be picked over. The men at the head of many large fast fashion brands are the same men that use clothing to imply a woman’s consent or measure intelligence. Women are constantly aware of the dangers they are in; fearing walking alone on the street or even meeting up with someone new. In response, you may feel obligated to change yourself or your appearance for your safety. While sometimes essential, it can make wearing clothing that shows more of your body than some men can handle feel wrong. Letting go of the male gaze by creating your own clothing gives you the power to present yourself to the world however you want, and there’s no better feeling than that. 

HEADER IMAGE: Ann Hard

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