Fashion & Feminism
Posted on 08 March 2016
Mary Wollstonecraft was an English writer, philosopher and tireless advocate of equality and women’s rights. Much of her work was published posthumously and became popular with the emergence of the feminist movement at the turn of the twentieth century.
The fashion in the 1700s was charcterised by abundance; large skirts, full sleeves, and intricate details such a embroidery. The newer elaborate styles of the time gave women a new avenue through which to express themselves and their individuality. Throughout history fashion has been typically embraced by women and as women have achieved increasing equality fashion has continued to offer a form of self expression.
Wollstonecraft highlighted education and upbringing as the reason women of time fashioned themselves and their identity based on an image entirely dictated by the male gaze. Back then there was an emphasis on narrow, conical waists (achieved with boned corsets) and full skirts to give the illusion of bigger hips, which is still considered today as the ideal ‘hourglass’ silhouette for a woman and is the frame many clothes are designed around. The focus on the hourglass shape is no longer necessarily directed towards men. Women are increasingly setting out to impress other women, which can be seen fashion blogs and magazines that are written by women for women.
Chanel and Dior during Haute Couture Fashion Week Paris 2014 debuted small waists, full, outlandish skirts, low necklines, corsets, pastel colours and embroidery - drawing inspiration from the popular styles of Wollsonecraft’s time.
Elaborate head dresses, wigs and extreme coifed hair also became popular in 1770s with tall head dresses becoming somewhat indicative of the time. Wigs are becoming increasingly popular now amongst stage performers and it could also be argued that the popularity of wigs in 1700s is where the desire to add to your natural hair through hair extensions originated.
Wollstonecraft stated on many an occasion that both women and men require education in order to reach equality and to change social attitudes. Emma Watson’s work on the recent He for She campaign embodied this philosophy as the campaign sort to include men in the fight for equality rather than exclude them. Today Wollstonecraft is still regarded as one of the original, founding feminist philosophers and her work and life are often cited as major influences by todays feminists.