Coffee Rhetoric: Fashion
Showing posts with label Fashion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fashion. Show all posts

September 27, 2012

The Racial Stir Behind Dolce and Gabbana's 'Blackamoor' Earrings



The fashion industry is the harbinger of cutting-edge, influential, and distinctive trends. The people at the helm of the industry are notoriously fastidious and unabashedly contemptuous of anything or anybody that doesn’t fit within the guidelines of their realm, and a lot of times their world has excluded the use of Black models, unless they happen to be ‘in-season’,  already established, or serve as human background props in offensive photo spreads. And while Black models aren’t always en-vogue in the fashion industry, the utilization of tropes and exploitative images often depicted by their White counter-parts that most Black women are often belittled for, always seem to be the look de rigueur on runways.  

April 20, 2008

Hair Raising Tale

Recently, while browsing in a store at the mall, an attractive, young Black woman and sales associate (she worked at the store) around my age approached me. "Excuse me, are you from around here?" she asked me. A bit perplexed I answered, "Yes. I am."
She said, "Like reaally from around here or from somewhere else?" "I dont' know how you mean," I answered. "Do you want to know if I'm from this particular town, or if I'm from this state??" "Well, I'm asking you, because I think your hair is BEAUTIFUL and I love it!" she exclaimed. "Wow, thank you!" I answered sheepishly. "No really!" she said. "I think your hair looks great. See, I'm not from around here. I just relocated from Minnesota. I live in Middletown, CT. I've been here for six months, and the towns I've frequented so far haven't been that receptive to my hair." Confused, my gazed found the top of her head... "Oh, I'm wearing a wig." She said, shyly. "My hair is natural underneath here, and I usually wear it in a style similar to yours. Since I've moved here, I haven't worn it that way though." "Oh why??" I asked her. "I don't know," she started. "but I get this weird feeling when I'm out shopping at organic food markets or if I'm out and about running errands, people stare at me disapprovingly. Like they don't like my hair! And the job interviews I've gone on since moving here... I since that they find my hair inappropriate... plus I'm a full-figured woman so I feel..." At this juncture in the conversation, an older White sales associate happened upon the conversation and listened with interest. "Well what towns are you going to? I know Middletown is known as a relatively artsy town." I conversed. "Well, towns like Glastonbury..." she started. I rolled my eyes knowingly, as did the White sales associate. "Firstly, Glastonbury??" I smirked. "Look girl, I think you should not hide your hair underneath that wig. I get nothing but positive feedback from people. I've been on numerous job interviews with my hair just like this! Perhaps it's my attitude and demeanor. But I've never had that issues. And if someone doesn't like it, I could care less. My hair is neat, I keep it combed and it's not unruly and unkempt when I venture out in public. I completely understand that 'feeling' you get, however. And it's certainly valid. I don't understand why someone would demand that we wear our hair a certain way that isn't natural to who we are ethnically!" She nodded appreciatively. The white sales associate (who's hair was dark, somewhat course, and curly) opined that she doesn't understand why someone would discriminate against the texture of someone's hair. She also pointed out that people in the major cities and towns (in Connecticut) could care less! I agreed and told her the black hair issue is a complicated and multilayered situation. And that it'd be hard to explain and chop up in just fifteen minutes. "Look, wear your natural hair." I told the young sales associate. "Don't hide behind the wig." "I just want to thank you!" she said. "You've inspired me to do just that! You really have. I'd like for you to return so that you can see it! Perhaps we can become friends and you can suggest other places and towns I can roam freely, without feeling insecure!" I told her it was a done deal. And that I'd return to the store, when time permitted me to.
The issue of Black hair is indeed a touchy one for the Black community. Many of us have a difficult enough time coming to terms with specific aspects of our ethnicity, but when you have White people weighing it, it makes it all the more difficult to navigate! While the situation is a little more tolerable now, Corporate America has, for years, made it taboo and uncomfortable for Black professionals (especially women) to sport braids, dreadlocks, and naturals to work. Preferring that we chemically process our hair or sport hair extensions to properly "fit in" with what 'the majority' considers to be the norm. I highly doubt White-American women would be asked to tan and perm their hair, to add texture if they want to be hired or considered as a candidate for employment. So why are Black women, Black people expected to change those parts of ourselves, we can't help being. Natural hair dictates just that! Something that's natural to our ethnicity and race. Glamour Magazine came under fire last year when an editor accepted an invitation from a New York law firm, to present a slide show on the "Do's and Don'ts of Corporate Fashion."
The first slide allegedly featured a Black woman wearing a stylish afro. "A real no-no" scoffed the Glamour editor. Who followed up by stating that dreadlocks were "truly dreadful!" She continued that it was ’shocking’ that some people still think it ‘appropriate’ to wear those hairstyles at the office. ‘No offense,’ she sniffed, but those ‘political’ hairstyles really have to go. I'd be willing to wager that the offending editor pissed off several African-American lawyers, who were undoubtedly present during her presentation.
Glamour Magazine found itself doing major damage control, by hosting a panel discussion in November, dedicated to Women, Race, and Beauty. The March issue featured a transcript of said discussion. Not good enough, because the fashion industry and society, no matter how many panel discussions (a seemingly common solution to flagrant bigotry)- are hastily thrown together, Black beauty will forever come under fire. And quite frankly, I'm sick to death of it. Period. I find it appalling that a woman who makes no apologies for her "blackness" is accused of trying to make a "political statement." Or is described as a "nappy-headed ho' "
Perhaps if I bleached my skin along with over processing, beweaving, and damaging my hair, I can avoid offending racist and self-hating zealots who refuse to acknowledge that blond, skinny, and spray-tanned is not the sole criteria for beauty. I'm sorry (not) if my brown self and kinky hair offends. But then again, that's not MY problem. It's White and Corporate America's hurdle to get over. Black people... Black women specifically need to get over it and stop allowing society, people, Black men, other Black women, White men, purported White "fashion mavens" and the media dictate and define how our beauty should register, just so they can feel comfortable.

October 01, 2007

Where I Converse with Myself

Dear Self,
You drink massive amounts of coffee and water. And you have somewhat of an overactive bladder, particularly during those pre-menstrual days where ten times on the hour, every hour seems pretty typical. Par for the course, especially this past week and then today. You are aware of this, self. So why? WHY did you think it was a wise idea to wear your black, pin-striped high-waisted, nautical pants?? 12-plus buttons to fiddle with. Self, your fingers seem awkward and big, when you're making that mad dash into the loo, to get to the bog pan in time to avoid an embarrassing situation that'd send you home early. Fingers don't seem to want to cooperate and you're tempted to just yank down the flap of your trousers, sacrificing all 12 plus buttons. But you clench those kegels-- along with all the other muscles south of the border tightly, to keep from regressing back to your years as a toddler. Sometimes it just isn't practical for one to enslave her (or his) to fashion.

July 28, 2007

Good "Bad" Hair Day

I'm having a particularly good "afro puff" day this afternoon (must be the new hair bands I bought a couple of weeks ago), so I figured I'd commemorate it with a scene from one of my FAVORITE movies. This film, School Daze written and directed by Spike Lee, and this scene in particular serves as an excellent illustration of Colorism which occurs most often in African-American communities (refer to rap and R&B music videos as one contemporary example), Latin-American communities, and especially abroad in countries such as Nigeria, Brazil, India, the Caribbean, and in Spanish speaking countries. Black sororities and fraternities at historically black colleges were once notorious for this form of inter-discrimination.
**Read: Don't Play in the Sun authored by Marita Golden.**
P.S. Don't call anybody a jiggaboo, unless you want to get dough-blowed in the neck.
Have a great weekend.

January 18, 2007

Fashion Rocks

Today, I read an interesting article about Miuccia Prada in the Personal Journal section of the Wall Street Journal. It detailed the shy designer’s aversion to being in the public eye, and touched on why so many women are reluctant to embrace fashion as an extension of their personalities. Alessandra Galloni writes:

“Closet fashionistas love their Jimmy Choo shoes just as much as the next woman, but many of us can’t seem to get over the bias that equates a love of fashion with a low I.Q. Must we admit to being hooked by the irrational allure that makes a Louis Vuitton handbag of cotton and polyurethane worth $1,500? Isn’t the pursuit of fleeting clothing trends a frivolous one?”

I can’t afford many of the high-end fashion pieces, shoes, and luxury bags I salivate over in the fashion glossies, but I take pride in the cheaper alternatives I find as well as in my appearance. I enjoy reading Essence, Marie Claire, Vanity Fair, and Vogue and I make no apologies for it. I love cosmetics; glosses, flattering lipsticks that pop, black liquid liner, mascara and the like, and I luxuriate with toiletries; lotions, creams, perfume oils, nail polishes, scrubs, soaps, etc. But I notice that I get a lot of flack for my glossy lips and affinity for fashion, from other women.

This has always been the case, particularly throughout high school. I used to feel guilty, for expressing my taste for a classic look. In high school, I was a chameleon. I experimented with different hairstyles and cuts, funky hats, and preppy skirts, blazers, and jeans. I deviated from the norm, taking my mother’s advice into account, about not following minute long fashion ideals. It was always quality and longevity over trends, and I apply those principles to my wardrobe, till this day. I wear a lot of black and go for clothes that transcend all seasons, as opposed to rocking the look of the moment. I’ve never been one to go along with the grain. I go against it, and wear the looks that best complement me, my figure, and my personality… with successful results I might add.

Sometimes, I refer to magazines and style programs as a point of reference, to make sure I’m dressing to accentuate my best parts and to hide the flaws. I try to look my best, and was always seemed to be crucified for that… accused of being high maintenance and fussy, when I'm not. So what if I like to lubricate my lips or play up my eyes... I like to look presentable. That is not a crime, but I used to feel as if I were a felon when it came to these matters. I indulge in a certain level of vanity, but never to a degree, where it should serve as a threat to anyone else.

In the article, Prada explains that "what you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language."

After graduating from college in Milan, Miuccia rebelled against working for her grandfather's luggage and leather goods business. "I thought fashion was stupid because I thought there were more intelligent and noble professions, like politics, medicine, or science," she explains in Galloni's article. Prada would later exercise her ambivalence towards the fashion industry, by purposely designing unattractive and unflattering clothes, particularly in the late 1990s.

“I brought women back to the very basics, to the lowest ugliest point… I’ve recently re-evaluated my job… I’ve realized that fashion is a very powerful instrument that… allows you to transmit ideas and shape opinion."

Miuccia Prada also posed this question to those who won’t admit to the joys of fashion and looking their best;

“Why aren’t people embarrassed to buy beautiful furniture or art for your house? What you wear says more about you than what you put in your home.”

Prada also opines, “Buying a $5,000 handbag just because it’s a status symbol is a sign of weakness… Daring to wear something different takes effort. And being elegant isn’t easy. You have to study it, like cuisine, music, and art.”

Prada also opines,

“Buying a $5,000 handbag just because it’s a status symbol is a sign of weakness… Daring to wear something different takes effort. And being elegant isn’t easy. You have to study it, like cuisine, music, and art.”

And I agree, wholeheartedly! I’ve always been opposed to sporting visible labels, and found that the same hypocritical people, women, who antagonized my elegant and painstaking fashion sense, were the same women whose t-shirts or skirts shouted their labels at me, like a loud marquee o’er top a theater!

I’m glad that Miuccia Prada has reconciled her feelings of feminism with her newfound appreciation for her chosen art. Her 2007 collection for spring/summer features bright colors, beauty, and form.

There is absolutely nothing wrong or high maintenance about a woman wanting to present herself at her best.

To the nay-saying, closet fashion magazine readers (because I know you love it), get some well roundedness and some fashion sense that genuinely defines you, rather than what your ideals and pop-culture dictates to you... perhaps then, you can stop turning your noses up at women who enjoy and appreciate the concept of fashion, structure, form, and femininity. A woman wearing a Chanel suit doesn’t make her any less intelligent or productive than a woman wearing Birkenstocks, a t-shirt, a bare face, and jeans. I think there’s something to be learned from French and Italian women (and men for that matter), who make no apologies for looking great, and presentable while out and about in the world.