Gertie, The look is fabulous but I've got to say I'm uncomfortable about the return to 50s fashion. This was a terrible time for women and the wiggle skirt is a symbol of just how unemanicipated women were. Why do women want to wear a symbol of our oppression. Are you like my daughter - born in the post feminist era and thinking I should just "get over it!"I think this is an excellent point, and one that I wanted to address.
First of all, let me establish than I am a feminist. Not a "post feminist," but a regular old feminist. I'm proud to live in a time where I have certain choices and freedoms, and I know that I owe my current liberties to feminists past who paved the way. So. I am a modern feminist gal who likes fashions from the fifties, a time period which, as Gail pointed out, is not exactly known for being woman-friendly. How do I reconcile these contradictions?
Well, thinking this over brought up more questions than answers for me. For example:
- Is wearing a fashion from an oppressive time period indeed a symbol of that oppression?
- Is there such a thing as "reclaiming" these fashions so that they are symbols of power rather than domination?
- Should we only make patterns from the eras that were the least oppressive to women?
- If wiggle skirts and the like are offensive to those with feminist sensibilities, what is the alternative? I mean, what could we possibly wear that would establish us as feminists to those who view us?
- Are 50’s wiggle skirts really that different from modern pencil skirts?
- What about current fashions that are restrictive? Stilettos, Spanx, etc? Skinny jeans? Are these symbols of oppression towards women?
But why do I like these looks? I hope it’s not some sort of self-loathing that makes me want to wear a symbol of women’s oppression. I simply prefer the silhouette of vintage fashions as opposed to the current styles offered by pattern companies. I think the design is better and the lines are more flattering. If you want to oppress me, try to make me wear a pair of skinny jeans!
I should also note that I like vintage patterns because I’m interested in the historical and archival aspect of it. I think that sewing my way through Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing is connecting me to women of the past. Doing this project, and researching the evolution of home sewing (women's work, no doubt), is a way for me to honor the lives of women past (however painful) rather than pretending they didn't exist.
So that's where I'm coming from on this topic. While I agree that the 50's were not our most liberated decade and that many of the fashions were oppressive and uncomfortable, I find that I am leaning towards respectfully disagreeing with Gail that bringing back 50's styles is in some way symbolizing the oppression of women. I think there are ways to incorporate 50’s looks into your wardrobe as a feminist. There's something to be said for refashioning these styles to suit yourself, as opposed to refashioning yourself to suit a style, whatever decade it might be from.
Whew. I've exhausted myself on this topic. Now, please chime in with your thoughts!
P.S. Thanks, Gail, for raising the level of discourse in this joint! I appreciate any feedback like this that others might have.