We talk about fashion and race and gender in very broad terms, I think — even on The Style Con, even in our own homes. We talk about fashion and casting, we talk about cultural appropriation, we talk about how the industry at large stigmatizes and sexualizes bodies and cultures. But I think one of the reasons this conversation has been moving very slowly — painfully slowly, even — is because we’re afraid to bring up these topics in the context of our own lives. We’re afraid to bring up these topics in the contexts of our own blogs. I’m speaking right now straight up as a fashion blogger: or as one may flatter themselves, a “fashion anthropologist.” I guess I am that, in the context of my own closet, in the context of my own favorite labels. Ask me anything about the history of the leather jackets I own. Ask me about my method of sniping scooter dresses on Ebay: this is my history class, I learned through desire. But I digress, because I’m scared and I want you to know it.
It comes to this: fashion bloggers, a lot of us, are a bunch of sell-outs. This not because we’re not aware of implications of race and class and fashion in our own lives, but because internet culture is such that if fashion bloggers implicitly talk about race and politics on their blogs, they’re definitely going to lose money over it. Blogging is a business, and that money pays the rent more and more often. The fashion blogosphere as a democracy? Hardly: there are pied pipers and they’ve rolled out the contracts. Note the predominance of white, thin bloggers gaining the most traction with brand collaborations. Note, even, the number of them with legitimate modeling contracts as a result of their blogs. Fashion as a democracy is funny, because even if it started off very punk, very d.i.y, readership habits have valorized blogs that mimic and adopt the framework of the fashion system that kept bloggers at bay for years. Bloggers are on the industry payroll now, and it benefits us to keep quiet about things. I’d like to hope this is common knowledge, but perhaps it’s not.
Regardless, anyone who visits a prominent fashion blog nowadays doesn’t need to consider themselves a cultural anthropologist to recognize key moments: the most successful fashion blogs look like fashion magazines. They’ve got money, honey. And money keeps you mum. The feminist blogosphere and the fashion blogosphere are pretty neatly separated, maybe because the risks involved. Fashion bloggers might get hate comments for being inaccessible because they were gifted a nice, expensive handbag. Feminist bloggers get rape threats because they point out misogyny. You don’t want to sign up for that kind of environment when you really want to frolic in nice clothes. I get it. I’ve been on both sides. The thing is though, not talking about fashion and body politics in a real, tangible context doesn’t help us solve the bigger problems that we’re obsessing over. We need to see more discussion about body politics on fashion blogs. I’d love to see the reasons why someone decided to wear an outfit that day, instead of just an outfit. We can see that sponsored bag on a dozen other girls. I want to know what you have to say to yourself to walk the streets at night alone, I want to know how you survive and feel strong and awesome in your clothes. I want to see someone call out the fact that Lookbook.nu’s most hyped looks look like living mannequins of thin white people in plaid shirts from 2008, every day, all the time. You don’t think that’s a little bit to do with race and body politics? It sure doesn’t have to do with edgy, innovative looks.
Straight up: we can point fingers (and well deserved) to designers and casting directors that perpetuate white runways. But how do we relate fashion to racial politics in our own lives? We’re constantly calling out brands and the industry at large to talk more about race, about class, in their fashion: but what about us? How are we approaching the subject in our own communities and our own economic decisions? Fashion is a big, big thing — but it also comes down to a blog, a reader, and your own credit card, your own vote on Lookbook (do people still even use that)? Fashion is a process we’re all complicit in, and we need to recognize our part in the process. We point a lot of fingers, and rightly so. But tell me: how can we change things from our own homes?