Fashion & Feminism From Leith Clark and Tavi Gevinson

Tavi Gevinson, founder of Rookie, recently sat down with founder and editor-in-chief of Lula magazine, Leith Clark, for Nowness.com to discuss a little bit of everything from fashion and magazines to feminism and Miranda July. Nowness.com cuts off quite a bit of the hour and a half conversation between these two fascinating ladies, but Tavi posted the rest of the conversational interview on StyleRookie.com. I'm really glad she posted the interview in its entirety since their thoughts on fashion and feminism about halfway through is what I found the most interesting to read. I thought I would share some of my favorite tidbits with you stylish feminist readers. The first line below is a great place to start considering it's pretty much my life goal. I will always believe and encourage the idea that feminism and fashion, or girly things in general, can go hand in hand if we let them. Whether sparkles or pantsuits, nothing can make you less of a feminist. They also bring up some really interesting points on how the people who discount and avoid fashion don't realize how much thought they're actually putting into how fashion could make them seem. I was having Devil Wears Prada flashbacks when Anne Hathaway scoffs at fashion and then gets schooled on how and why she's wearing what she's wearing. Read on for fashion and feminism tidbits from two of my favorite fashion gals.
Leith: Fashion and feminism don’t have to be so separate. They really don’t have to be. I hope that we do that [with Lula] anyway.
Tavi: I think so.
Leith: I just don’t think that it makes any sense. Gloria Steinem was criticized in the sixties because she was wearing a miniskirt. What’s that have to do with what she was talking about? How is that relevant in any way to her voice? Was she supposed to be like wearing frumpy clothes to have it mean more? What does that mean about women? You have to look a certain way to be smart? I think it’s so weird, and then women’s magazines separate that, too.
I remember when I was a teenager, I volunteered at a rape crisis center, in a women’s group after school every day. And like I told you I was modeling, like the equivalent of J. C. Penney,kind of standing-there-in-a-jogging-suit kind of modeling. Like, ridiculous, but really funny. And I would come from a shoot, in cheesy girl makeup to this table of women who were, like, 50 plus. Some of them were quite militant feminists, not just feminists. I don’t wear makeup often, I don’t like how it feels on my face, and I didn’t then either, but I loved sitting down at that table and having them, you know, "You can’t sit here with us organizing this feminist rally if you have just been . . ." And I’d be like, "But why? What does it have to do with anything? Feminism is about opportunity and being able to do whatever you want." I loved arguing about it. I never got bored of that discussion.
Tavi: Many people can remember some dogmatic, political person at their school, and this guy at mine came to my lunch table and he was like, "I saw you wore a sweater that said, 'Feminist' on it. Do you even know what that means? Is everyone at Fashion Week a bigidiot?" And I’m like, "You know that fashion probably has such a bad rap among people like you because you -- maybe on some subconscious level because you’re so political externally -- you probably dumb it down because it’s one of the only industries dominated by women or gay men."
Leith: And artists. It’s a way for artists to make a commercial living.
Tavi: Right, so people think that then it must be silly. But like, you realize that by jumping to that conclusion you’re probably being not as feminist as you think by just arguing against fashion entirely?
Leith: If you’re wearing clothes that tell everyone you’re political, then you’re actually using fashion for your politics.
Leith: The other thing that I try to do with Lula…sort of the only way you can exude strength is to do it in a masculine way. I find that so, so sad. To wear stupid sparkly clothes doesn’t have anything to do with your strength or your character or your whatever. It’s really interesting watching women in politics and how they [dress.] You know, Michelle Obama’s been so graceful and so feminine, and she has such a strong voice, but she’s never tried to act like a man to do it.
Tavi: And that shows also the power and influence of fashion. And how even people who would call it silly or say they don’t care, they do pay attention. People think about it, whether they want to or not.
Tavi: You notice that people are quick to call Zooey [Deschanel] or Miranda [July] annoying or something, but you also notice that they’re women who do so many different things and are so successful and good at them all, which might be what makes people uncomfortable. They also do it in a way where they’re not acting like a man. They have a more feminine style. And I know there are people who feel like, "Oh that’s too dainty. I don’t like this idea of femininity that doesn’t accurately represent female culture." But that’s why you have to change the culture. It’s not like that aesthetic has to be the defining one, there should just be more aesthetics, more voices. And then there are options for people, which is one reason why I like the Internet. You don’t have to feel totally represented by a magazine because you have a blog you read instead. Or even just on a smaller scale, when it comes to feminist sites, you don’t have to feel represented by Jezebel. There’s Hello Giggles, and vice versa.

[Also on BUST.com]

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