I recently had to produce my first ever double page spread for my application for Fashion Journalism at London College of Fashion, of which I handed it in today. (I will let you all know when I know of the results) And so I thought I would share with you the article of which I poured a lot of my energy into. Hope you enjoy.
My Mother was a radical punk in the eighties, marching for equality across genders, across ethnicities and animal rights. Therefore, being born and bred a liberal lady, the emancipation of women is a matter of importance that I am reminded of through my Mother and what she, and so many other women and men have achieved this past century.
The 1920s was a time of jazz, parties and new found freedom for women. This freedom was granted to us in the form of three things: the vote, the automobile and the washing machine. No longer did we have to sit by as our husbands voted; no longer did we have to walk to the market or to dinner parties; no longer did we have to hand wash the laundry.
Development of technology led to more time, more time led to a better social calendar for women and a better social calendar led to women drinking, smoking and dancing in front of men; ultimately, enjoying themselves without the restraint of husbands. The lady’s liberation led to a change in style in which Coco Chanel emerged as the star. Chanel was one of the first women in the eye of the media to bob her hair; which was one small step for a woman, one giant leap for womankind. Paul Poiret, a rival of Chanel’s, called her revolutionary designs ‘poverty deluxe’, obviously unhappy with the direction womenswear was taking. The western world disagreed. Removing corsets and almost the waistline altogether, Chanel dressed the fashionable women of the time in loose, swinging dresses, allowing women to dance and live more freely.
The fashion house of Chanel declined between 1930 and 1954 and women of the mode followed the word of Christian Dior, the man who created the ‘New Look’ in a time for excess. This term was coined by Harper’s Bazaar’s then editor-in-chief Carmel Snow (who was originally to be Vogue’s editor-in-chief after Edna Woolman Chase) naming the style in an article on the Spring/Summer 1947 collection. This style presented women with a new silhouette, one that emphasised all the feminine curves with corsetry and padding around the breasts and hips. British Vogue wrote at the time, ‘There are moments when fashion changes fundamentally, this is one of those moments.’
This was probably one of the first and most significant times of the 20th century when women were divided with their fashions. Many women protested against Dior’s ‘New Look’, tearing down his mannequins and rallying against the boned corsets and padded bras; fashion seemed to be going backwards to them, no longer embracing an androgynous silhouette or even loose fitted dresses.
At the age of 71 in 1954, Chanel managed to fashion the unfashionable and enticed the richer radicals again with her boxy silhouettes and collarless tweed jackets with braided trim and understated style.
The late 70s to the 80s saw the punk era, with Margaret Thatcher as the first female Prime Minister in 1979, women again had more reason to celebrate their ever-growing sense of equality with men. Shoulder pads were added to jackets to bulk out shoulders, trousers were adorned and skirts got shorter. Post-Feminism was born and women were feeling more empowered. With an influx of protests for women’s rights and gay pride, the UK was changing for the good and the punks made sure everyone knew it was changing by wearing the most radical attire possible. The aim was to shock. Vivienne Westwood was a pioneer in punk fashion for women in the 70s and 80s, first opening her bondage-style shop “Sex” with Malcolm McLaren and eventually turning it into a high-fashion store selling coveted pieces by females across the globe, dubbed “World’s End”.
But Vivienne Westwood is not the only woman we have to thank for the rapid movement of the liberation of women this past century. The women owed thanks are our mothers, aunts, great-aunts and grandmothers who stood at the forefront of freeing women from the chains of gender discrimination. The women who fought for their ability to be proud in who they are and to aspire to be whoever they wanted to be, regardless of their sex. These women are the protagonists of the century.