A Change of Clothes
Back in 1993, the Library held an exhibition called “A Change of Clothes: Femininity, Fashion and Feminism.” I was looking at the brochure the other day, and found something written there that piqued my curiosity.
“Three important concepts—femininity, fashion, and feminism—can help us understand the origins of modern dress. First, there is a historical relationship between a woman’s outward appearance and her essential femininity. Second, western society promotes fashion as a worthy pursuit for women, drawing them into a world of self-imposed rules and regulations based on imitation, conformity, and consumerism. However, current clothing modes and styles have been radically affected by 20th-century changes in women’s status, employment, and social mobility. Third, in recent years, feminism (a misunderstood and maligned concept even today) has challenged long-held assumptions that women and their apparel have a subordinate role in society.”
Fifteen years later, do these words still ring true? We’ve just had the first woman candidate for American president campaign long and, ultimately, fruitlessly wearing pants more often than skirts. Yet fashion is seen as a support to many women’s dreams—just look at the success of “Sex and The City.” At the same time, however, feminism also seems to have become more of an ambivalent option for many young women. What do these developments, seen from the perspective of 2008, say about how far women have come in society?
And what about the “18 million cracks” in the glass ceiling that Hilary Clinton referred to in her concession speech?