On fa(t)shion blogging, dead conversations, and the potential for transformation

Window display at my favorite jewelry store in Boston, So Good.

I recently came across a great piece by Arij Riahi at The Closet Feminist, Fashion blogging is not dead: our conversations are.

Arij analyzes the critiques of fa(t)shion blogging, which fall into two camps: elitists who look back fondly on the days when fashion was less accessible, and those who are dismayed by the increasing commercialization and depoliticization of the fashion blogging world. (See Natalie Perkins’ critique of fatshion blogging and the conversations it started.)

They note a similar evolution in the world of DIY blogs, including bloggers who sell DIY kits that cost as much as the item itself, and make an important point:

I question…how an idea that grew out of a rejection of mainstream capitalist consumerism could turn so easily into mainstream capitalist consumerism.

Capitalism co-opts everything it touches.

Including resistance to itself.

It’s pervasive and insidious, and incredibly hard to fight.

Arij continues:

I do find that there are a lot of larger, political issues in fashion– I like your camouflage coat, but I’d also like a conversation about the ethics of wearing military apparel. I don’t mind your luxury items, but I want to find out if it is craft(hu)manship or branding. I prefer a full tutorial, because I enjoy the agency that comes with wearing my own skirt. I have questions about second-hand clothing and the effect it has on African textile markets. I want to have these conversations, but I can’t find many spaces for them online.

I think that by narrowing down our fashion conversations, we miss the opportunity of reclaiming the body -the individual and the collective one- and highlighting how its presence, movement, and adornment is as an act of political resistance– not a commodity.

I agree 200%. I’ve found a few blogs that take on the ethics and politics of fashion, but not enough. I want more of these conversations. I’m thankful Arij is starting one.

I also I wonder if the commercialization of blogging is partly a symptom of our post-employment economy: people are trying to make ends meet however they can, including monetizing things like blogs that used to be non-commercial. And professional blogging can seem like a glamorous alternative to dead-end jobs, although it’s ultimately unsustainable for all but a small minority.

Of course, this commercialization is driven by corporations–but maybe they’d be less successful at co-opting everything if people had better job options. Maybe more people would be content to use their blogs for personal reflections if they could rely on well-paying, secure jobs to pay their rent.

And so the system replicates itself.

How do we break the cycle? How do we keep these important conversations going in a system that wants to co-opt and neutralize them? How can we, as fa(t)shion bloggers, get back to our radical roots?

I don’t know exactly how we can do it, but I hope we are on the brink of a transformation, a tiny part of the Great Turning that’s gathering steam throughout the world.

I’ll be right here, waving my sparkly pom-poms for the revolution.

The complex ethics of fa(t)shion blogging

Fatshion: the intersection of revolution and glitter.

Through another one of Sal’s link round-ups, I found this thoughtful post on the ethics of fashion blogging.

RK makes really good points, but I have some thoughts that complicate the matter–especially when it comes to fatshion.

1.) Fatshion is radical. It’s about taking up space, showing the world that fat women (and men) can have fun with fashion too. That we don’t have to wear muumuus, unless we want to. That we won’t put up with shitty clothing options from major retailers like Lane Bryant. That we don’t believe the right to self-expression should end at a size 14.

Fatshion is about inspiring people never thought they could dress themselves in a fun and creative way. It’s about inspiring people who used to think they were only allowed to wear black, or vertical stripes, or small prints. It’s a way of building community, both in the blog-o-sphere and in physical spaces like plus size boutiques, pop up stores, and clothing swaps.

Fatshion, for many people, contributes to the process of loving their bodies–although there are many other ways to do so, and neither fatshion nor loving your body should be mandatory.

2.) Enjoying compliments on your style is not an inherently bad thing, especially if you’re also complimenting others. Sure, it can get out of hand if it becomes your sole motivation, and then it’s a good idea to step back a bit.

But for fat people, compliments aren’t just good selfish fun. They’re an antidote to the ridiculous amount of negative messages we receive every day.

I’m lucky in that I’ve never gotten fat-related insults from strangers. I’ve never been mooed at, or called a fat ugly bitch from a moving car, or judged on my shopping cart contents. But these are all things that have happened to other women in the fat-o-sphere. And despite my luck at dodging such explicit insults–and in fact getting regular compliments from strangers on everything from my glitter bows to my dark purple skinny corduroys–I still have to deal with something like 386,170 fat-negative messages a year from the media.
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