Category Archives: fashion

Caitlyn Jenner: Fashion Critique of a Celebrity … As Herself

Laurie and Debbie say:

With all the swirling controversy around Caitlyn Jenner, much of which is nasty, inappropriate, and transphobic, we found Tom+Lorenzo’s take at the fashion blog Fabulous & Opinionated (not a blog we expected to be quoting!) to be a breath of fresh air.

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Fashion critique, since long before the days of fashion blogging, has been a vast playground of bitchiness, a place where the critics can say whatever they please, and the snarkier they get, the more audience they will attract.

Tom and Lorenzo are no exception — when they are talking about fashion. When they are talking about gender politics, they keep the tone and save the bitchiness for the folks who deserve it:

When Laverne Cox hit the scene and we found ourselves regularly writing about the style choices of a transgender woman, we assessed our approach to make sure we weren’t bringing any preconceptions or prejudicial thinking to our writing and found that there was one simple way to keep our thoughts true. All we had to say – and we only had to say it once or twice before it stuck – is, “She’s a woman.”

Not a transgender woman, although that’s what she and Caitlyn are. But for style purposes and for this site in particular, it’s important to us that we write about women like Laverne and Caitlyn in exactly the same manner we’d write about their contemporaries like Beyonce and Helen Mirren. We’d be doing them a disservice if we treated them any differently, frankly. We don’t say this to erase their trans identities and we sure as hell don’t say it to pat ourselves on the backs, but Caitlyn’s clearly on the poledance at the moment and her decades as a Kardashian family member have rendered her WORLD CLASS in that regard. There’s no need to treat her like a saint. She’s sporting tons of free designer clothes (WAY more than Laverne gets, we’ll note), dressing like a Real Housewife on an AmEx bender and working the press and the paps like the Olympic level attention whore she is. Like everyone else in her extended clan, she WANTS you talking about her.

So let’s get to work and JUDGE, kittens. Because that’s the other thing: girlfriend needs a stylist badly.

Here’s proof: you can be a bitchy, opinionated fashion critic (you can be two bitchy opinionated fashion critics) and you can still have good trans politics and express them well.  And, they’re absolutely right: Jenner is hanging out on reality shows, sporting Diane von Furstenberg clothes, and “working the press and the paps.” Writing about her clothes any differently than they write about any  other woman’s would be wrong.

Note the difference in attitude when they talk about Jenner’s style …

The dress works really well for her, although it’s another instance of a sleeve length that isn’t quite working for her. She looks pretty damned toned to us and she certainly has no problem showing off her legs, so we’re curious as to why she seems reluctant to uncover more of her arms.

The accessorizing isn’t good. She clearly loves those slingbacks, and while we’re sure the range of shoe options are limited for her size (although she’s crazy wealthy, so that shouldn’t be too much of an issue), she needs to open things up a bit more. The black accessories don’t read as daytime and the dress needs something to keep it a little on the playful side. A pair of wedge heels would’ve been our choice. And a brown or white bag.

A mainstream fashion blog with good trans politics? If it wasn’t for the work of all the trans people who have preceded Jenner over the last sixty years, who faced constant oppression and never got any equality, she could never be on this level a playing field now. Here’s hoping Jenner will find ways to make the world safer and better for trans people who don’t have her money and privilege.

Thanks to Kerry Ellis for the pointer.

The Wrong Kind of Fat Body

Laurie and Debbie say:

“I was doing research. No, really.” Amanda Czerniawski, assistant professor of sociology at Temple University, spent more than two years as a plus-sized model when she was researching her new book, Fashioning Fat: Inside Plus-Size Modeling.
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Writing about Czerniawski’s book for TakePart, Jessica Dollin says:

The beauty trend du jour in the plus-size industry is a thin face and a curvy body. Typically, people with a thin face will also have a slim body, but society looks to these models to achieve something that’s biologically rare. “Sometimes it goes a little bit further, where they use padding to boost their bust or hip measurements,” Czerniawski said. “Some go and put on basically full-body padding to boost a whole size.”

At Refinery29, Ben Reininga is writing about the same subject from a different perspective, with a 12-slide set of visuals (each with quotes from working plus size models) to prove his point.

Sabina, the model in the photo above, says,

I would prefer us to not have to wear pads. When I was straight-sized, I wasn’t skinny enough, and now I’m plus-sized, and I’m not curvy enough. It would be nice to be like: I’m this model, and this is me. For society to know that curvy models don’t have the same sizes…you can be curvy and a size 12.

Here’s the infuriating part: the fashion industry claims that the very existence of plus size models proves their commitment to helping us all appreciate our bodies exactly as we are. And that’s a bare-faced, padded-assed lie.

Thin is still in; we all know that. A small minority of us have come to fat acceptance, and for most of us that means most days, most ways. Everyone else is still on the “you can never be too thin” bandwagon. So plus size models are, at best, a nod to a better world that doesn’t exist yet. But what we learn from Czerniawski, and Sabina, and the other women in the Refinery29 slideshow, is that to the extent that fat is in, the rules are very, well, confining.

Most “plus size models” range from size 6 (!) to size 12. Most plus size women range from size 16 up about as far as you can imagine. So the first thing missing from plus size models is size.

The second thing missing is variety. Part of Laurie’s aesthetic inspiration that became Women En Large was her discovery that there’s so much more variation in the way fat women’s bodies are shaped than in the way thin women’s bodies are shaped.
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The fashion industry wants to erase that. After all, how can they keep each and every one of us feeling insufficient, unsuccessful and ugly if they show true diversity? And how much money would their interlocking interests in diet companies, weight loss surgeries, body sculpting, etc. lose if we actually liked ourselves as we are?

The fashion industry is never going to be a body acceptance ally; whenever its minions start claiming that it is, raise your alert level. The best allies in loving how your body looks–if that’s your goal–are your mirror and the people who love you.

ETA: Thanks to Lisa Hirsch for the link to the Ben Reininga article.