Sunday, 13 April 2014

Sunday April 13th, 2014 Feminism and Fashion in the Library

How do you define feminism, or femininity for that matter? Do you believe the element of fashion helps or hinders a woman’s path in life? For some it is a very personal matter and for others it is more theoretical or academic. No matter which side of the debate you favour, the fact remains it has been a hot topic of research, policy making, and social construction for many years.

In fact, a quick search of library databases for the term “feminism” provides close to 25,000 results ranging in topics from women to equality, history, social media, and power. Then there are the books, blogs, and scores of other outlets for feminist theory and thought. The Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things was published in 2013 as a spin off from the popular blog and combines media moguls, pop icons, fashion trends, athletes and more into an encyclopedic mix of all things lady-like (and many considered not so lady-like).
A strong theme across all the years of feminist debate is the role of fashion in shaping the role of women in the world. Vintage Fashion: Classic 20th Century Styles and Designs (2013) presents a look back at women’s fashion from the 1920s to the 1980s. The photography is exquisite, with a full description of the time, place, and people in each shot. More modern discussions often lead into a blending of the terms “fashion” and “style”, with a matching boom in the publication of guides on finding your personal style despite the newest trends in fashion.

Two big names with recent book releases and multiple other media credits under their belts are Stacy London and Tim Gunn. In The Truth About Style (2012), London takes the spirit of a television makeover show and puts it to print. The book showcases the style development of nine women of different ages and lifestyles. The goal, in my opinion, is simple – fashion can be used as a tool of self-expression no matter your age, weight, or comfort level. Throughout the book you will find reminders that the women you see in magazines and in movies are not a true representation of what you should expect to see in the mirror. They are not you, nor should they be.

Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible: The Fascinating History of Everything In Your Closet (2012) wraps up the history of western fashion in twenty chapters. Those chapters cover jeans to dresses, ties, shoes, and accessories. Gunn presents an interesting blend of fashion world experience, academic research, and imagery in this book.

In addition to these titles, you can find many other books, ebooks, and sources of information on topics to do with feminism, women and the world at the Thunder Bay Public Library.

Flappers, Fashion, and Femininity in the 1920s is the title of a free public lecture happening at the Mary J.L. Black Branch Library from 2-4pm on Saturday April 19. Dr. Jane Nicholas, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies with Lakehead University, is writing a book on the cultural history of Canada entitled The Modern Girl: Feminine Modernities, The Body, and Commodities in the 1920s. Join her in conversation as she explores facets of consumerism, appearance, the making of the modern body, popular culture, and the creation of modern feminine subjectivity.

Jesse Roberts

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