“Do you ever worry that you’re perpetuating stereotypes by covering fashion and beauty events?”
This was the question my husband posed to me as I recounted to him my highs and lows from attending this season’s New York Fashion Week (NYFW). It was a good question and one that I’ve asked myself several times before. My blog is called, Not Just A Girl In A Dress but I have wondered if some readers miss the nuance that my site is about more than just pretty clothes and famous people.
I write about all the things I am passionate about which often includes the latest lipstick and leg-lengthening heel as well as cutting-edge tech and up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Basically, if I think the person, brand or product, will motivate my readers to find their own version of success – I write about it.
So most weeks, I would have been quick to respond to the question with a resounding “no.” I normally would state that by covering events like Fashion Week, I’m able to spotlight diverse women and men breaking down stereotypes in the industry. Most weeks, I would highlight that fashion is more than custom colors and sleek silhouettes, it’s about creativity and empowerment.
But this Fashion Week was different. On the plus side, it proved to be one of the most diverse Fashion Weeks in recent history. Everywhere you turned multicultural models were proudly slaying the runways.
Designer Christian Siriano even raised the bar of fashion inclusively when he had five stunning plus-size models strut their stuff in his show.
But it all felt like false wins and reverse progress the more I heard about Patrice Brown – AKA #TeacherBae.
Brown – a teacher’s aide in Atlanta – was dragged, dogged and disparaged all over social media (and in the news) because some felt that the pics she posted to Instagram of her work outfits were unprofessional. The main complaint was that she simply dressed “too sexy” for her bombshell body, which when you flip it on its head, essentially means no one would care if someone less curvy wore it.
Through good genes and what I understand is a regular regime of exercise, Brown has been blessed with a body that some women pray (and pay hard earn money) for, so she wears clothes that make her feel comfortable and confident. That people would criticize and try to belittle her for it is absolutely shameful.
True every outfit is not appropriate for every situation, but this outrage is rooted in the fact that she – with her curvy body and Black skin – had the audacity not to camouflage her shape and to smile proudly in her pics.
How can we expect the fashion and beauty industry to be more inclusive of real and diverse women when we digitally attack women in the real world for daring to love how they are naturally built?
Design educator and Project Runway co-host, Tim Gunn recently tore into the fashion industry a Washington Post op-ed story. In it, he writes that designers refuse to make clothes for average-sized American women because “she won’t look the way that I want her to look.”
Huh. Why does that sound so familiar?
Oh yeah, because that is the same not so subtle message that was flung at real woman Patrice Brown when all she did was try to shine.
So, yes. This week I am more aware of my duty to not perpetuate stereotypes and my responsibility to empower those who are just trying to live in their joy.
Apparently, from the catwalk to the sidewalk, there is a lot more work to be done .